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The show must go on ... line

The Valley College biannual Student Showcase was held online this semester amid the coronavirus pandemic.

By Gabriel Arizon, Editor-in-Chief

Goarik Akopyan, a Valley College student who's film "Dial A Spirit" won Audience Choice in the Valley Media Arts Student Showcase with a prop that was used in her film. (Photo by Ava Rosate/The Valley Star)

The coronavirus has taken its toll on the movie industries with theaters still shuttered, but the media arts department was determined that the show go on and held its biannual student screening online.

“I love telling stories,” said student director Wes Timmons. “My dad once told me, ‘If you want to shape the story, you want to be the editor.’”

On Nov. 21, the department held its Student Showcase via Zoom. The biannual event is meant to show off the work of media arts students to an in-person audience, though this time around viewers were able to watch all the films online. The movies were produced from the Cinema 101 and Media Arts 101 classes from the fall 2019 semester and the Cinema 101 class from the spring 2020 semester.

Towards the end of the night, media arts faculty presented the awards — four categories for each semester that a film could win in: cinematography, editing, sound or visual effects. The winner in each category was decided by approximately 10 cinema and media arts faculty.

For the spring 2020 semester, the winners were: “Barbara” by Marlon Rodriguez for cinematography; “The Cure” by Timmons for editing; Danil Kinziashev with “Astray” for sound; and David Flores with “The Little Bee” for visual effects.

“The Cure” is a comedic film about a woman’s numerous failed attempts to get rid of her hiccups. For Timmons, the idea behind it was simple as his wife (who stars in the film) often gets hiccups that he cures by scaring her. Timmons originally planned to rent an Airbnb and hire actors for his film, but decided to try it at home with the gear he had on hand. Thanks to the use of storyboards, he was able to film his project in one day and complete the editing in a few days.

“Working with the small space and available lighting I had on hand was the most difficult part,” said Timmons. “[However,] I really enjoyed conceptualizing the project as well as watching my ideas, the way I had envisioned them, find their way to the screen.”

For the fall semester, the winners were: Yerin Oh for cinematography with “We’ll meet again;” “Brief an Damian” by Miguel Jose Mercado for editing; Moises Yah for sound with “Savior;” and “Deception” by Kaitlyn Didi for visual effects.

Moises Yah, a Cinema 101 student, pictured with the tripod and mount used to record his film "The Savior." (Photo by Solomon Smith/The Valley Star)

According to Yah, the idea behind “Savior” — which follows a vigilante beating up thugs to save a child — originated from the Netflix show “Daredevil.” The film took about a month and a half to complete, during which Yah researched real-life vigilantes to make his film more realistic and fight choreography to ensure his actors’ safety. However, he also had to contend with unforeseen setbacks. On the day of the shoot, the original actor fractured his arm in a car accident while another was stranded on the freeway. Nonetheless, Yah managed to finish his film, which won in the sound category.

“That was one of the many things I focused on,” Yah said. “I created lots of sounds by hand, and just to be recognized for that, makes me feel extremely humbled.”

To close out the showcase, faculty members announced the Audience Choice Awards, the category in which viewers voted to decide the winner. For the fall 2019 semester, Katie Mae Peters won with her martial arts film “Fighters,” and the spring 2020 semester winner was Goarik Akopyan for her silent horror film, “Dial A Spirit.”

For Akopyan, shooting the film took an entire day, while editing took several weeks. Akopyan found the editing process particularly tedious for several reasons, such as painstakingly converting the video files from her camcorder to a format that was compatible with her editing software and adding silent film effects.

Due to the pandemic, several of Akopyan’s plans for the film were curtailed — like the size of her cast — and she found that outdoor scenes were difficult to shoot due to various restrictions. However, Akopyan was able to manage her way around them due to the low budget and guerilla-style nature of her film.

“Winning the Audience Choice Award meant so much to me as an aspiring indie film director because it was my first real completed moving art piece for school,” Akopyan said. “To receive such recognition for my work was very emotionally moving and motivating for me because I knew I was contending with many talented and creative artists in my class.”

The event was the first Student Showcase since the pandemic, as the one planned for the last spring semester had to be canceled. Although unable to host the showcase to an in-person audience, those in charge were still pleased with the results.

“We are very proud of all our students and their work, especially during this challenging and difficult time,” said Eric Swelstad, media arts chairperson. “It shows the grit and determination of Valley College students to create artwork from inception to performance in the midst of a national pandemic.”

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