Student filmmakers roll the tape for campus film festival


Photo courtesy of UIUC Film Fest Livestream

Elizabeth-Ruiz Goranson stars in “Tint of Red” which was showcased at the UIUC Student Film Festival on Saturday. The film was directed by Joanna Raimo, senior in Media, and Gio Giles-Sanchez.

By Matt Troher and Izzy Perpich

On Saturday, students filed into the Spurlock Museum’s Knight Auditorium — a tall room that felt more like a movie theater than a lecture hall or performance space. The smell of popcorn lingered in the room’s air.

After a two-year virtual-only stint due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the UIUC Student Film Festival returned for its first in-person edition since 2019. 

The day-long event is put on as part of MACS 464: Film Festivals. The class, which focuses on the history and significance of film festivals to the film industry, culminates with the production of the student film fest. Students in the class serve as organizers, judges and sponsors for the festival.

John Knipp, the professor for MACS 464, said the film festival’s lineup represented a wide array of student filmmakers at the University.

“We have a tremendous representational cross-section of movies,” Knipp said. “Diverse filmmakers, diverse content … it’s important that the University has some platform where student filmmakers can share their work with the rest of the campus.”

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Although a majority of the films screened at the festival were created by Media and Cinema Studies students, a number were produced by non-MACS majors as well, according to Knipp.

“One of the nice things I’ve discovered about this campus is that there are filmmakers in any number of different disciplines around campus,” Knipp said. “So, we’ve got engineering students, we got fine arts majors and we have a film from an acting major.”

Nineteen short films — ranging from under a minute to over twenty minutes in length — were screened across two programs. The films varied just as much in genre as they did in length, jumping from comedies to dramas to horrors and to music videos. 

Additionally, the festival accepted TikToks as part of the program. This highlighted a new medium that’s still figuring out its place within the film community.

In between the two programs was a brief intermission followed by a panel discussion with three student filmmakers whose films were being screened at the festival. 

Joanna Raimo, senior in Media, was one of the student filmmakers on the panel. Raimo said she was prepared for the amount of work her presentation in the festival would require. 

“I’ve been a MACS student since my freshman year, so I’ve been making films for a long time, and I thought going into this that I’d know how much work and time it requires,” Raimo said. 

Raimo’s film, “Tint of Red,” which she co-wrote and co-directed with Gio Giles-Sanchez, is a psychological horror short that follows an art student whose recent inspiration hails from a dark, ghastly source. During the panel, Raimo said the film was her first time working in the horror genre.

“I’m really inspired by how dramatic horror is,” Raimo said. “The lighting, effects and the acting — I think that’s what attracts me to horror, being able to be drawn in and can’t look away. That’s what I wanted to try, and I wanted to try something new.”

Raimo said directing her film took a lot of trial and error, but was ultimately a great learning experience.

“When you’re directing, it’s a different ballgame, and I learned a ton,” Raimo said. “I think you learn from your mistakes and when you have a bad shooting day, you figure out how not to do that again, and when you have a good shooting day, you figure out what went right.”

Raimo and Giles-Sanchez’s film resonated with the audience, as they vocally reacted to every twist and sharp moment on screen. Patrick Jackson, freshman in FAA, starred in Raimo’s film as Gordon, the protagonist’s therapist who doesn’t have the most ethical relationship with his patient. 

Jackson said there were challenges associated with playing an unlikeable character, but he took joy in the audience’s reactions to his character’s moments.

“My character’s supposed to be a really scummy dude, and it was a little uncomfortable playing someone like that at times, but I had fun with the production nonetheless,” Jackson said. “It was good to know that my work was well received and the parts where I was supposed to be scummy, the audience shriveled up and didn’t like me.”

Other standout films included Lincoln Rodger’s “The Goji Project,” a science fiction short about a young computer programmer who devised a way to simulate reality, and Ryan Leshock’s “Bodies of Water,” a horror short about a post-funeral conversation gone dramatically wrong. 

Among the TikToks screened at the program were a compilation of Ryan Leshock’s popular “what song are you listening to” series, as well as an original short produced by Leshock entitled “Loop.”

All of the films screened at the festival are available to livestream on the festival’s YouTube channel. Voting for the festival’s awards remains open to all students, who can vote in three categories — the Audience Award for the best overall film, the TikTok award for best TikTok and the Worldbuilding award for the best film with a social justice theme. 


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