Emerson alumni rely on decades of film making experience to create new festival

Photo+credit%3A+Courtesy+Alyssa+Devine

Photo credit: Courtesy Alyssa Devine

By Casey Bernhard, Staff Reporter

Griffin and Alyssa Devine ’10 were directing a play in late 2017 at the Marilyn Monroe Theatre in West Hollywood when the theatre’s staff expressed interest in hosting a film festival—the opportunity was too good to pass up for the Emerson alumni.

Less than three years later, the duo is set to launch Picture’s Up!, a film festival that will give people the chance to showcase their work to industry professionals in the hopes of furthering their careers. The festival is set to take place from April 3-5 at the Marilyn Monroe Theater in the Lee Strasberg Creative Center in West Hollywood.

“A lot of festivals tout networking opportunities, and there are a lot of [them], but it’s [with] other filmmakers,” Alyssa said in a skype interview from LA. “You know, it’s great to meet [them] and be inspired, but you want to gain some traction, some upward mobility.”

After graduating, the pair made their rounds at festivals by writing, directing, and producing shorts, but they often left disappointed. Poor attendance at screenings and a lack of recognition beyond awards ceremonies often meant nothing more ever came of the experience.

The last-minute submission deadline is March 1 via a submission portal. The submission fee is $35 for the public and $30 for students, but Emerson students can use the code EMERSON30 for an additional 30 percent off.

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By the time staff at the Marilyn Monroe Theatre came to them with the idea, the pair had nearly a decade of experience in the entertainment industry—developing a network of managers, producers, and studio executives.

“We had gotten to a place where we knew a lot of people in the industry,” Griffin said in a skype interview from LA. “We [wanted] to put work in front of people that could move someone’s career forward in some kind of tangible way.”

Over the next year, the couple worked out an agreement with the Marilyn Monroe Theatre to co-sponsor the event. The theatre agreed to provide a space for the screenings, and the pair set to work on organizing the kind of film festival that their younger selves dreamed of. Now, almost three years later, they’re accomplishing what they strived for.

The free event will include screenings, mixers, Q&A sessions, parties, and an awards ceremony.

The categories for short films under 35 minutes are comedy, drama, sci-fi/horror, and animation. In addition, a competition for TV pilots under one hour will take place. Student submissions are judged in a separate category and not considered for the grand prize.

The winners in each of these five categories will compete for the “Best of Festival” award, which comes with a $500 cash prize.

Other awards available are for best director, screenplay, actor, actress, and cinematography. Each winner in these categories will receive a one-on-one consultation with an industry professional in their field.

“A director’s going to get to talk to a director, a writer’s going to get to talk to a writer, an actor’s going to get to talk to a casting director,” Griffin said. “They’re going to get to find out how this process works, and basically it’s all about giving [those] who do well at this festival the opportunity to meet people who can actually help them.”

On the judge’s panel, actor Vincent D’Onofrio, known for his roles in Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Men in Black, will serve as the honorary judge alongside Michael Imperioli of The Sopranos.

Other judges include Amanda Richards ‘11, director of talent and casting at Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Jordan VanDina ‘10, a TV and film writer whose comedy The Binge is set to release on Hulu later this year.

Richards, who met Mr. and Mrs. Devine during college, said she jumped at the opportunity to get involved once she heard that the couple wants to help younger talent.

“They [said], ‘We want to help people by making sure that they have a way to be seen by top-tier talent in Hollywood,’” Richards said in a phone interview from L.A., “I thought that was such a genuine reason to want to [start a film festival], and I found that to be really inspiring.”

VanDina met the couple during his time at Emerson. He said he would also like to use his past experience to support the careers of industry newcomers.

“It’s fun to see stuff from people that are trying to make it because I remember [what it’s like],” VanDina said in a phone interview from L.A. “It’s so hard when you’re young to get anyone to look at anything you’re doing.”

Mr. and Mrs. Devine hope that Picture’s Up! will help create brighter futures for young filmmakers.

“We definitely want to be a film festival for newer filmmakers because I think that’s where festivals are the most helpful,” Alyssa said. “We want to be able to provide a service by shining a light on them.”