With new campus, Emerson LA film festival expands


Photo: Iwan Baan

The Emerson Los Angeles campus.

For 13 years, Emerson’s Los Angeles program has offered students a chance to show their work at an annual showcase. This year, however, organizers hope to reinvent the film screening experience with the first-ever Emerson LA Film Festival. 

Founded by alumni relations associate Barbara Rutberg, the annual showcase consisted solely of screenings and was held in a rented-out space. With a new campus and top-of-the-line facilities to show off, the Emerson LA faculty is now integrating educational lectures and workshops to create a festival out of the long-established showcase. The event will stretch from the evening of Friday, Oct. 10 through Saturday, Oct. 11.

 Amy Grill, director of creative services at Emerson LA and the director of this year’s film festival, said that the showcase has always been the college’s most successful event connecting alumni to Emerson students. 

Kevin Bright, the LA campus’ founding director, agreed.

“Now I think we have something that’s really going to bring the Emerson community together, as well as the local entertainment industry,” Bright said in a telephone interview.

On Saturday, Emerson will introduce two “Best Of” competitions: one for students and one for alumni. The student competition is comprised of five entries chosen by a panel of faculty and alumni at the Emerson Boston Film Festival last spring. The alumni competition features three films submitted through an open call hosted by Alumni Relations. 

Contestants in both categories have already been judged by a panel comprised of faculty and alumni in LA. All eight films will be screened at the festival, the winners will be announced, and a cash prize of $2,000 will be presented to the winner in each group. The Marcia Robbins-Wilf ’71 Women in Film Production Award will also be presented to one female competitor.

 The college will be flying junior visual and media arts major Pamela Mora from Boston to Los Angeles for the festival. Disorder, a short film that she wrote and produced for the Frames Per Second freshman narrative project in 2013, will be part of the “Best Of” student competition, giving her the opportunity to show her work to an audience of new alumni and faculty.

 “I’m really excited to see not only the Emerson students that are in the LA program, but also a lot of the alumni that have already moved to the West,” she said. “I’ll get to see a lot of the people that Emerson has made connections with that aren’t necessarily still in Boston.”

 Quinn Marcus, an Emerson alumna who currently resides in Los Angeles, graduated in 2013 with an interdisciplinary major. She will be attending the festival to screen Alone with People, a short film that she wrote and acted in, as part of the “Best Of” alumni competition.

 “It’s cool to have worked so hard at Emerson and to be able to come back and show what we’ve done,” said Marcus. “It’s nice to keep it in the family.”

But senior visual and media arts major Matt Tompkins said that many students currently studying at the LA campus were turned off by the fact that they could not submit new work to compete for these awards.

 “The Emerson student body isn’t really interested,” he said in a telephone interview. “A lot of students were asking how they could submit, then decided against attending [the festival] once they found out they couldn’t submit anything.”

 The festival plans to supplement the screenings with new workshops and lectures hosted by faculty and alumni. These include an animation workshop run by animators of the Netflix web series Bojack Horseman, a panel discussion about diversity and inclusion in film led by Emerson’s Black Organization with Natural Interests, a lecture by Academy Award winning editor Jeff Consiglio, and a lecture by Micah Wright, the author of the video game Call of Duty and a visual and media arts professor at Emerson LA.

 “This year,” Grill said in a telephone interview, “it’s much more like a traditional film festival would be rather than the experience of a screening. We’re utilizing the whole building and there’s a big focus on engaging all of the Southern California alumni.”

According to Grill, the Emerson LA Film Festival was allotted the same budget as the Emerson LA Showcase was in past years.

 Though students could not submit new material to the festival this semester, Bright said this year’s festival is only laying the groundwork for future improvements.

 “This is the very beginning and this is going to grow,” he said. “We’re going to take our community and make a statement with this festival going forward.”