By Emily Klingman
Brushing shoulders with filmmakers and going to movie premieres was just the start of the things for one Rider film student at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in Santa Barbara, California.
Senior radio, TV and film major Alexis Bonamassa participated in the festival’s program that allowed students from across the country to attend from Feb. 4 to 8. She was one of 20 people in the country to be accepted, and one out of the 100 who applied.
“I thought [the application] was going to be a little bit more in-depth, because of what we were offered by going,” Bonamassa said. “The whole trip was basically paid for.”
Bonamassa first found out about the opportunity from Film and Media Studies director Cynthia Lucia, who received an email from the film festival organizers inviting students to apply.
“Film festivals are a big attraction to film critics, filmmakers and film enthusiasts because they present cutting-edge work that has yet to be theatrically released,” Lucia said. “They present opportunities for filmmakers to discuss their work and discuss current issues in the field — whether dealing with technology, financing or the art of filmmaking.”
The entire festival lasted 10 days total and included premieres, screenings, Q & A sessions and panel discussions for writers, producers and directors. In the evenings, tribute awards were given to those in the industry.
The schedule for the film students kept them very busy. Both Friday and Saturday “featured panels and Q & A sessions with directors and film viewings, and each night was a tribute” to various industry professionals.
The last day of the trip, however, was an open schedule.
“Sunday was our ‘go around and watch what films we wanted’ type of day,” Bonamassa said. “Down the main street in Santa Barbara there’s a bunch of different theaters that are on that street that you could just walk to and pick which films you wanted at that time.”
Meeting and talking with people at the festival helped ease her mind in deciding between film school and pursuing her dream of getting involved with student affairs.
“We had a lunch one day where we could just talk to some of the writers and producers,” she said. “They were all for Oscar-nominated films like The Revenant and Straight Outta Compton. What was really interesting was how different their stories were, but how some of them were really similar in the fact that most of them got started later on in life.”
Bonamassa went on to say it’s important to remember that opportunities to do different things in life are always open.
“I think that is something I should always, and everyone else should, keep in mind if they want to get into film, that it’s not something that you have to jump right into,” she said.
Her favorite film from the festival screenings was one called Tangerine.
“I think it premiered at Sundance last year, and it was a total hit. It was the most popular film at that festival,” Bonamassa said. “I was really interested in seeing it, because ‘Tangerine’ is such a random name for it, but it’s also a random film.
What really amazed her was how the movie, Tangerine, was made. The film follows two transgender prostitutes on Christmas Eve in Los Angeles, documenting their day from start to finish.
“It’s shot all on an iPhone,” Bonamassa said. “The whole movie is shot on an iPhone. Who would think to do that?”
Being immersed in the film world proved to be a learning experience for her.
“I don’t think I learned anything super specific, but I learned so much just from speaking to people that were on the trip with me,” said Bonamassa. “They were all so intelligent and so intelligent within this field. This might be only my minor and I do enjoy talking about it, but they were so in-depth with everything.”
The diverse opportunities that film festivals provide is something that Lucia hopes will attract Rider film students to apply to and participate in the future.
“[They] give students the opportunity to meet and hear from filmmakers, film actors and other film professionals, which I hope will greatly broaden their understanding of the field,” she said. “Beyond that, they are fun — a great way of having an enjoyable experience while learning a lot and networking with other film students and professionals in the process.”
As for the future, Bonamassa wants to encourage other film students to take the opportunity to apply for the program.
“They’re thinking of doing 30 [students] next year, so I think I’m really going to push for people from Rider to apply,” she said. “It would be great to get a group to go.”
Printed in the 2/24/16 edition.