This past weekend, April 1-3, the Lawrence University Film Studies Department hosted the first Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) Film Festival and Conference. Featuring screenings, workshops and master classes, the festivals brought together student filmmakers and scholars from fellow ACM schools.
According to Jill Beck Director of Film Studies Amy Ongiri, the festival is “to bring different schools together around the question of filmmaking and film studies, and to bring filmmakers and film scholars together.” The initial idea for the film festival started with Lawrence graduate and Artist-in-Residence Catherine Tatge ’72. The festival was a collaborative effort within the department, as Ongiri wrote a grant to make this event possible while Visiting Assistant Professor of Film Studies Anne Haydock helped to create the structure.
“This year, there were judges giving workshops,” said Ongiri. “For example, we have an actor from the movie “Kick Ass” talking about being an actor, a casting agent who represents A-list stars talking about what it means to be in the film industry and a documentary film maker talking about what it means to work independently.”
However, Ongiri emphasizes that the ultimate focus of the festival is on the students. “We have student filmmakers showing their films and we also have people presenting papers about film. The goal is to bring Hollywood to Appleton by bringing in professionals.”
Alexander Babbitt ‘15 also assisted with organizing this year’s festival. “I’m interested in film because there’s so much creative space to move around in, both as an audience member and a filmmaker,” said Babbitt. “As an audience member the interpretations of one film are inexhaustible—especially when you learn some film theory. As a filmmaker the possibilities of storytelling are endless, especially now with the advancement of technology.”
The festival is the product of six to eight months of work and preparation. However, according to Ongiri, it was “time well spent in the grand scheme of things.” As the festival continues to grow in future years, they hope for 100 percent participation from all ACM schools.
Talking about the importance of film studies as a subject, Ongiri shared “We live in a visual world where people understand their reality through images and so for me as a film scholar, it is important that I understand how those images work and how they work on people and why it has become the way why we talk to each other and the way that we understand our history and our culture and ourselves as people.”
On the subject of giving advice to future filmmakers, Babbitt said, “I don’t feel comfortable giving advice because that would assume I know more than them; I try to assume the opposite. Maybe that’s my advice?” Ongiri disagreed, “Make work seen and shown to get people to really know you as a film maker and for you to develop your voice in response to what people tell you through feedback. It’s a chance for people to develop that voice and share that voice.”