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FTMA Grad Takes Award for Short Film

Liberman praises personal, compelling story

A still from the film Salvation

Ryan Hess, a 2014 graduate of Sacred Heart University’s film and television master’s program (FTMA), recently won the Santa Fe Film Festival’s LGBTQ+ Best Short Film Award for his film, Salvation.

Hess said having his thesis film recognized at the festival “was an incredible and entirely unexpected honor. Salvation was my first serious attempt at directing and, naturally, there are a lot of things on every front I’d do differently the second time around. But to endure its growing pains and still somehow manage to receive outside recognition for it has been nothing short of a motivator to keep improving.”

Justin Liberman, co-director and visiting assistant professor for the FTMA, described Hess as “an incredible student who has since become a true-blooded filmmaker.

“His film represents everything we strive for here at FTMA,” Liberman said. “We encourage our students to tell personal and compelling stories that speak to universal themes. We are so proud of him and hope his success is only the first for our alumni.

Sacred Heart University’s FTMA program is Connecticut’s only graduate film school, located in SHU’s satellite campus in Stamford. A conservatory focused on cinematic storytelling, FTMA is now in its third year. It has graduated more than 50 students and hosts an annual film festival that has honored Sir Peter Shaffer, Michael Hausman, Brian Koppelman, Richard Kind, Kevin Nealon and Allen Coulter.

“I think one of the best things about the program is its accessibility to students like me,” Hess said. “FTMA struck what I’d say is a pretty perfect balance between being understanding of the novice mistakes while always pushing for and expecting more of its students. And having professors like Damon Maulucci and Justin Liberman, both extremely talented filmmakers with their own distinct philosophies and approaches, made it so your own understanding of film—as both an art and craft—was constantly challenged and expanded.”

Salvation, which Hess called a “very personal project,” focuses on the discredited practice of reparative therapy that seeks to “cure” gays and lesbians of their homosexuality. “In spite of the overwhelming amount of anecdotal and scientific evidence illustrating the lasting psychological—and sometimes physical—harm it causes, it’s a practice that is still legally inflicted on minors in 46 states, including Connecticut,” Hess said.

Hess is working on his next film, Moonlight, about a private investigator.

For more information about the FTMA program, visit or call 203-365- 7619.