Valley College Film Department recognizes student work in year-end showcase

The Media Arts Department Student Showcase showed off the creativity of the college’s students in the face of difficult conditions.

By Soren Blomquist Eggerling, Staff Writer

“Art always reflects society, holding a mirror up to the world,” said Valley College film chair Eric Swelstad. When looking at the reflection of the films of the Media Arts Department Student Showcase, he liked what he saw.

The quality of films shown at the recently returned Student Showcase pleased Swelstad quite a bit. The 39 shorts recognized on May 22 were made in the fall of 2020 in Cinema 101, a comprehensive introductory course to filmmaking.

“I was happily surprised by the quality of films that came out despite the fact that we were under COVID restrictions,” Swelstad said. “That shows the mettle of the artist.”

Students were forced to do their filmmaking from home, relying on their own cameras and friends and family as their crew. The final cuts they were tasked with producing had a time limit of one minute, with an additional 20 seconds allowed for titles.

Swelstad put together this year’s screening with the help of fellow Valley Professors Chad Sustin and Joel Trudgeon. The three teachers were among a group of instructors that voted on five categories: best cinematography, best editing, best sound, best story and best visual effects.

When asked what his favorite film of the bunch was, Swelstad coyly responded that he could not pick a best picture because “it’s like picking your favorite child.”

The audience, or anybody with the survey link (which was posted in the description of the Vimeo upload of the reel of films), also picked four films as audience choice winners. Vincent T. Walker’s “Dear God: A Story of Black Boy Joy” was the only film to receive an audience choice award as well as a faculty pick for best cinematography.

A common theme among this year’s crop of films were references to current social issues, specifically focusing on race and the effects of the pandemic.

“Those films are a reflection of student filmmakers reacting to the world around them,” said Swelstad.

Other faculty award winners included: Paula June Cantu’s “Her” for best editing, Miguel A. Carrillo’s “A Sleepless Acquiescence” for best sound, Rachid Frihi’s “ink” for best visual effects and Marlee Forsyth’s “Ground Control” for best story.

The other three audience choice awards were given to Tanika Nicole’s “Sweet Tooth”, Jeannie Quirus’s “Love in the Time of COVID-19” and Xavier Alexandre’s “Beyond the Eye.”

This is only the showcase’s second consecutive year, after taking an approximately 20-year hiatus. Swelstad hopes it will become a long tradition that serves to recognize the hard work of Valley’s film students. Even if it is a small event, Swelstad sees a deeper meaning.

“Don’t knock the fact that you get an award at your college,” he said. “You can still call yourself an award-winning filmmaker.”