Photo Courtesy of Reel Loud Festival 2011
High up in the ranks of UCSB’s best and most anticipated exhibitions of student skills, the Reel Loud Film Festival on May 27 at Campbell Hall is sure to offer an unforgettable evening of vibrant talent from start to finish.
Reel Loud fuses live music, dance and acrobatic acts with fourteen short, original silent films to create “the greatest show on Earth.” Department staff and students proclaim it the biggest night of the year for the UCSB film department, with a theme this year that highlights that aspect, as well as one of the festival’s core purposes: immersing audiences and student filmmakers in the challenge and magic that is film’s beginning as silent pictures.
“This year’s theme of vintage circus combines the elements of spectacle and antiquity that are also found in the tradition of Reel Loud,” said Nadia Ismail, director of the festival and fourth-year English and Film and Media Studies double-major. “There’s a certain novelty to the concept of the vintage circus just as there are with silent films, and this year we’re trying to resurrect both.”
While this theme provides subject matter for the overall atmosphere and framework for entertainment, the filmmakers were not required to include it in their submitted work.
“[Reel Loud] is one of the only platforms for [film] students to showcase their work on campus, and they’re spending so much time and money that we want them to do something that they’re passionate about,” explained Ismail.
This year, Reel Loud celebrates its twentieth birthday. In honor of this milestone, as well as to pay homage to Film Professor Jackie Apodaca in her last year at UCSB, the closing film of the show will be one from the very first Reel Loud: “Oeddy Bear,” featuring a violently envious teddy bear as well as Apodaca as the lead actress.
Since its 1991 conception, Reel Loud has featured strictly silent films.
“It’s important to keep the history of silent cinema alive,” said Tim Wall, the festival’s coordinator and fourth-year English and film and media studies double-major. Wall also worked on “The Girl Who Kicked the Bicycle Basket.” “This festival helps to keep the idea of silent cinema in the cultural sphere.”
Additional restrictions imposed on Reel Loud filmmakers include a time limit of exactly seven minutes and the mandatory use of 16 mm film. Addison Smith, director of “Elixir” and a fourth-year film and media studies major, explained the economic and temporal obstacles that accompany these constraints.
“Getting it down from ten and a half minutes to seven was like strangling babies,” said Smith. “Working on anything 16 mm is always challenging. You can only have so many takes before you start breaking the bank and you have no idea what any of it looks like until it’s been developed about a week later.
While these restrictions proved taxing to the filmmakers, 16 groups of students pushed through to complete and submit their films, resulting in the ultimate selection of 14 films created by the students who took advantage of this excellent opportunity to reveal the fruits of their labors to their community.
“We want to pick as many [films] as possible, but there’s just not enough time in the show,” said Sahar Vahedi, the festival’s producer and second-year film and media studies major. Vahedi also added that any student, no matter his or her major, was permitted to submit a film to Reel Loud.
Several of the filmmakers expressed the inevitable difficulty of creating their films, yet that the eventual product makes the trouble worth it.
“In a student film, you have to build the entire production from the ground up, make-shift and grassroots. No one gets paid, you work long hours, and everyone’s expected to do the best work that they can possibly do,” said Fred Russell, director of “The Three Seasons,” adding that the struggles that come with it are worth it because filmmaking allows him to be able to “bend space, time, reality, perception, and culture”.
“I make movies because it’s hard. It’s extremely challenging, the fact that any movie gets made is a miracle in itself, so when you finish a project it’s incredibly satisfying,” said Aaron LaRue, a fourth-year film and media studies major, who directed, wrote, and produced “California!”
“California!” brings audiences along on a unique and carefree road trip to various sights around the state. LaRue does a fantastic job translating the bliss of the open road and the distinctive beauty of some gorgeous CA locales to the screen, pairing these colorful sights with smiling faces and a joyously folksy accompaniment.
“It was nice because we had complete freedom; we didn’t have a script we had to stick to, we just shot what fascinated us,” said LaRue of his “California!” experience. “Our road trip was a blast and making the film just added to it. People look at you funny when you are walking around with a film camera from the 1960s and I got a kick out of that.”
Similar in spirit and aftereffect to “California!” the uplifting festival opener “Bicycle Day” is sure to strike relatable chords with Isla Vista residents. Assisted by an infectious, merry accompaniment supplied by graduating student band Finger Folk, “Bicycle Day” was shot entirely from the point of view of a biker cruising through IV, visiting various friends.
“I think the locations we chose epitomize the Isla Vista that I experience every day,” said Tony Blahd, the writer and director of “Bicycle Day.” “I wanted to make something that would help me remember my lifestyle in Isla Vista.”
The simplicity of “Bicycle Day” presents a pleasant, blissful depiction of IV life: beach, friends, laughs, music and a six-pack of beer.
The filmmakers also mentioned that figuring a title for the film was a struggle, but after googling “Bicycle Day” it “makes a lot more sense”— Google’s top result? History of LSD Wikipedia page.
The Reel Loud submissions of 2011 aren’t all about paying homage to the California sunshine, though—the overall tones were quite diverse. The mood of “The Three Seasons” probably lies on the opposite side of “California!” and “Bicycle Day” on the spectrum.
“The Three Seasons” is a spin-off of a full-length horror screenplay written by producer Cora Hirashiki, a fourth-year College of Creative Studies Literature major, about a girl named April, who is haunted by Autumn, an art student who vanished 20 years prior to present day.
“There’s no moral or anything, I just want people to enjoy the (hopefully) beautiful—equally creepy aesthetic and follow a really neat four minute tale,” said director Fred Russell.
“It’s a true fairy tale. No Disney sugar-coating,” added Hirashiki.
“The Three Seasons” is visually stunning and achieves the level of a haunting that the filmmakers aimed for.