For the 12th year, Nissan USA and Eastman Kodak lavished new cars, cash and praise Tuesday night on 24 winners of the FOCUS Awards for collegiate film makers.
Students from the much-lauded film schools at USC and UCLA took home the executive producer's share of kudos at a ceremony held at the Directors Guild of America in West Hollywood. The CineTrojans bagged 12 awards, while three FOCUS trophies went to UCLA students.
But this year, students from less film-conscious universities and arts schools took most of the first-place prizes, which the sponsors award in several categories, including narrative film, documentary film, screenwriting, editing, sound and cinematography.
Robert Katz--a Columbia University grad student who traded in a Washington law degree for a New York MFA in film--took first prize (a new Nissan Sentra) in the narrative film category for his 10-minute elegy to growing up nerdy and dreamy, "Where or When." But USC students took the remaining narrative film prizes (all cash awards): Beverlyn Fray, second for "The Long Walk Home"; Stephen Woloszczuk, third for "Three Piece"; and Stephen Sommers, fourth for "Perfect Alibi."
Meg Partridge's "Portrait of Imogen"--a somber, reverential look from San Francisco State University into the life of pioneering photographer Imogen Cunningham--won first place among documentaries. In the runner-up slots were "Gang Cops," by USC's Thomas B. Fleming and Daniel Marks; "Jazz in the Classroom," by UC Santa Barbara's Mitchell Braff; and "Miles From the Border," by USC's Ellen Frankenstein.
A product of UCLA's screenwriting program, Jeanne Lusignan's script for "Eyeshine"--a tale of love and lycanthropy in the Yukon--scored the top screenwriting prize (she also won a car, as did all first-prize winners). USC's John Cork won second prize for "The Long Walk Home," Carnegie-Mellon University quarterback/screenwriter Stanley J. Younger took third for his "My Corner in the Sky," and Ithaca (N.Y.) College's Edgar Squair nabbed fourth with "Squids on Broadway."
From Chicago's Columbia College, James Richardson's quirky, inventive "Cat and Rat" was awarded the top animation prize. The short-short film also won an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences student prize earlier this year. After Richardson came UCLA's Richard Quade, for "Artistic Vision," and two winners from the animation school at CalArts in Valencia: John Adamczy (third) for "Recurrents"; and Suzanne Dimant (fourth) for "Why."
Other winners: Women in Film Foundation Award: Stefani Ames, New York University; Renee Valente Producers Award and Sound Achievement Award: Pat Verducci, UCLA;. Cinematography Award: Glenn Cote and Robert Jeffers, USC; Narrative Editing Award: Burt Barba and Cynthia Kaplan, USC; Documentary Editing Award: John Loll and Bonita Winer, USC.
Besides Nissan and Eastman Kodak, sponsors of the FOCUS awards included Amblin Entertainment, Dolby Laboratories, Lorimar Film Entertainment, Universal Pictures and Columbia Pictures.