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This week, those of us at Columbia have been able to experience a real honor and a treat: the Chicago International Film Festival is unfolding right in front of our very campus.
For two weeks, all day every day, there are screenings of excellent short and feature films from around the world, often followed by opportunities to meet the director and others who made them. There have been panel discussions on activism in art, social media, and the changing landscape of movie distribution, among others. There have been networking opportunities galore. And as Columbia students, we are given access that allows us to jump right into the mix.
As Creative Producing students, we received several free passes to the festival, as well as admittance to Columbia Night, which featured a screening of two films directed by Columbia alums: a short entitled Lenny Morris vs. the Universe, and a feature that was shot in Chicago by former Chicagoan Sam Auster.
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His film was a modern day mafia flick called The Return of Joe Rich, and as a lifetime Chicagoan myself, it was pretty incredible to see a movie that captured the ins and outs of Chicago so well, that was infused not only with a gripping story but with a rich feel of this magnificent city.
A week after the screening, Sam Auster visited our Acquisitions and Development class to speak with us individually about his film and the art of producing. This made the experience much deeper and much more meaningful for us, as we all had the opportunity to ask him questions about the movie, about how he went about making it, and about his perspective on filmmaking in general.
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I especially enjoyed talking with Sam about a choice he made that, for me, truly broke new ground: against the advice of all of his colleagues and confidantes, Sam chose to infuse real documentary interviews with former mafia members into his fictional story. The result was spectacular, and I enjoyed learning more from him about how that decision unfolded and the impact that it made on the film.
After having gone for so long outside of the movie arena before coming to Columbia, it feels wonderful to have opportunities like this presented so readily. And, for me, it serves as a silent reminder of where my own next steps will take me: that someday not so far in the distance, it will be me standing in front of an audience, talking about the movie I’ve just made.