Next generation of filmmakers get shot at recognition

Having a movie shown at a film festival is no small feat, but imagine being a fledgling filmmaker still in college — or even younger.

The Newport Beach Film Festival gives the next generation's Woody Allens or Francis Ford Coppolas their start with dedicated screening time during the festival's week-long celebration. The festival hosts a youth film showcase that screens short films made by students 18 or younger, a "teen screen" for filmmakers older than 14 and a collegiate showcase featuring student shorts.

The last category included submissions by Orange Coast College called OCC Shorts, featuring seven films by 11 students.

"It's very awe-inspiring to have it happen already," said Matthew Harreld, 27, a film and video major at OCC.

Inclusion in the festival gives students the chance to hobnob with famous actors, directors and cinematographers, network and put the achievement on their résumés, said Bob Lazarus, chairman of OCC's film and video department.

"The students find that [having it on their résumés] really puts them at a different level," he said.

The college has had a long relationship with the festival, whose chief executive, Gregg Schwenk, is a former OCC student, as is the programming director, Erik Forssell, who is also a part-time instructor.

The students create their shorts in class — many of the films all final projects, Lazarus said, adding that the department submits the best films to the festival's committee to choose which shorts will be included.

"We don't teach to the festival, if you will," he said. "Everything you see comes out of curriculum."

Freshman Nathan Schneekluth's film, with his friend Zach Zombeck, 19, came out of his psychology class. "Rorschach" follows a man in the 1950s who goes to a psychologist and takes a Rorschach test, which allows the audience to piece together his story through his answers.

Schneekluth, though, intentionally kept the answers vague.

"We are really interested in perception and how everyone sees the world different," he said.

Harreld narrated a short for the festival last year, but this is the first full film that he saw — from idea to editing with his partner Marshall Murr, 21 — make it into the festival.

Their film, "Jumping Frenchmen of Maine," is a romantic comedy that follows a man with a rare neurological disorder, Jumping Frenchmen of Maine, as he meets a woman and struggles with how to tell her about his disorder, Harreld said.

The idea came from Harreld's passion for scientific discoveries. He admits it's a little strange, but thinks people will find it interesting.

"I hope there will be a couple of laughs, at least," Harreld said.

Film major Rebekah Pantel, 37, produced the documentary "Sara's Story," after winning OCC's Film/Video Social Issues Documentary Scholarship, which gave her the subject of the short.

The film tells the story of Sara, a woman who left her career to start a nonprofit, Create ACTivity, that raises money to send plastic surgeons to Ethiopia to perform surgery on the victims of noma, an often fatal disease that causes holes in the face, Pantel said.

The subject wasn't easy considering Pantel couldn't travel to Ethiopia. She also didn't want to make the movie too graphic with pictures of people with noma, but she needed to draw the audience in.

Pantel struck a balance between showing what Sara does and showing the difficulties of running a nonprofit.

"I kind of left the whole film so the viewer can question what they do ... and ask themselves what moves them," she said.

Twitter: @britneyjbarnes

If You Go

What: Youth Film Showcase

When: noon Sunday

Where: Island Cinema, 999 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach

Cost: Free


What: OCC Shorts

When: 1 p.m. Sunday

Where: Regency Lido Theatre, 3459 Via Lido, Newport Beach

Cost: $5


What: Teen Screen

When: 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Island Cinema

Cost: Free

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