“There’s something magical that happens with a movie on a big screen,” says Vince Turner, the director of the Claremont 5 Second Film Festival, which screened at the Laemmle Theater Thursday night. “Something that draws you in. No matter how good the movie actually is.”
It's the pursuit of this magic that inspired Turner to found the festival in 2008. In its first incarnation, Turner and his co-founders were “scrambling” to find submissions. Turner chalks this up to unsuccessful advertising. “Turns out if you put a notice out in the paper, people won’t necessarily read it,” Turner laughs. However, in its second year, the festival quickly came into its own and had an impressive roster of short films to showcase at the Laemmle Theater.
“I really couldn’t imagine another festival in the area having a stronger roster of films last year,” Turner said.
The festival’s success last year largely came from Turner’s decision to solicit entries from professional filmmakers. “We sought out submissions from people who we know are good,” Turner explained. He and the other organizers followed this approach again this year.
Ethan Grossman PO ’14, one of the interns for this year's festival, was directly involved with this process.
“There are thousands of short films online,” Grossman said, adding that his job was to find “interesting, unique shorts with high production values.” However, as anyone with even minimal experience with YouTube will attest, “there are a lot of pretty bad films out there.” The trick, Grossman said, was to search “good sites that posted high quality shorts, such as thedoorpost.com,” and to research various international film festivals' short film nominations over the last two years. “Once I found a film that looked interesting, I’d watch it online and then contact the director or the producer, or both.”
Grossman’s method worked wonders for this year’s festival. The films that were shown included Mitchell Rose’s Deere John, which won first prize at the Portland International Film Festival, among other awards; Kirsten Lepore’s Bottle, which won Best Animation at the Arizona Film Fest; Rob Pearlstein’s Our Time Is Up, which was an Academy Award nominee for Best Live Action Short Film; and Luke Matheny’s God of Love, which won the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film—Matheny’s ecstatically energetic and earnest acceptance speech were arguably the highlights of this year’s ceremony.
Yet finding compelling films was only the first step in assuring a successful festival; Grossman was one of many 5C students who worked in all aspects of the festival’s organization, from planning events to social media management.
“We [did] things like write grant requests, contact corporations for sponsorships, plan educational seminars, organize other events, and sometimes just chores around the office,” said Ari Mygatt PO ’13, another festival intern.
“We’re so close to LA, the hub of the film industry. But we’re also in this sophisticated, intellectual collegiate environment, and there’s a tremendous opportunity at hand to merge the two worlds with this festival,” Turner said.
Both Turner and the interns agreed that the festival was a mutually beneficial endeavor. Turner believes that the interns were an integral part of securing the grants and sponsorships, and—as the impressive submission roster shows—the films themselves. “Students have power with these kinds of things. People want to talk to students,” he said.
As for the students themselves: “Working on a film festival a quarter of a mile from my dorm is as ideal an internship as it gets,” Mygatt said.
Grossman seconded this sentiment, saying as a film enthusiast, it was nice to incorporate this passion into his day-to-day life “without having to venture into Hollywood as a freshman without a car.”