June 04, 2012 — Coral Gables — As the lights went down in the theater of the famous Paramount Studios in Los Angeles, excitement filled the air. Cinema students from the University of Miami School of Communication would be watching not an action flick from Ridley Scott or a historical epic from Steven Spielberg, but their own work on the big screen–with dozens of Hollywood’s heavy hitters sitting close by.
The 2012 Canes Film Showcaseon May 24 in Los Angeles featured six short films created by UM students. The films, which ranged from comedy to documentary, were created during the 2011-12 academic year. The films originally screened at the Canes Film Festival, held earlier in the month. A panel of UM alumni working in the industry chose the top festival films for the L.A. showcase. The winners of the Canes Film Festival’s first Feature Screenplay Competition were also invited to Paramount.
“I am in between fainting and jumping up and down,” said graduate student Sara Werner, the director and screenwriter of Aurora, a poignant drama about human trafficking. “This is the most incredible experience of my life. Getting these positive reactions from people after seeing my film really fuels the fire to keep making films.”
After the screening, students had the opportunity to meet and network with 400 alumni and friends of the school working in Hollywood. Graduate student Noah Debonis, the director, screenwriter, cinematographer, and editor of Do Tell, a documentary about gay service members stationed on Misawa Airbase in Japan, was continually stopped and congratulated on his film.
“This is what we hope for as filmmakers—people seeing your work and wanting to be a part of it,” Debonis said. “It’s more than I could ask for.”
Judges said this year’s Canes Film Showcase featured outstanding work. “There was a good mix of films with every genre represented,” said Charles Vignola, B.S.C. ’88, development director at Bruckheimer Films, who was on the judging panel. “I saw real flashes of talent.”
Juan Carlos Coto, B.S.C. ’88, a producer and screenwriter for the popular TV shows “Nikita,” “24,”and“NCIS,” said he hopes to see these fellow ’Canes working in the film capital of the world. “The films were fantastic. They showed a great range of emotions,” Coto said. “Audiences all over the world crave storytelling, and here we are watching these young people take their first steps in storytelling.”
Many students said they appreciated the fanfare. “It’s really cool to screen your film in a large setting,” said graduate student Ryan Davenport, director, editor, and screenwriter of End of Days, a thriller about a couple’s final moments on Earth. “The great thing about this event is that there is a community of people here who are successful, and they come back year after year to cheer us on. That is really something.”
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