Sacred Heart University’s film and television master of arts program (FTMA) honored filmmakers Rebecca Miller and Dominic Chianese at its third annual film festival recently.
With its continuing effort to build a rich film and television culture in Connecticut, the FTMA festival also honored student work and exposed the community to films, panel discussions and intimate conversations with filmmakers.
The festival’s Opening Night Awards Gala took place at the Avon Theater in Stamford, where Miller received this year’s Joanne Woodward Award for Excellence. Miller wrote and directed Personal Velocity: Three Portraits, The Ballad of Jack and Rose, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee and her latest film, Maggie’s Plan.
“She’s a luminary in the film world,” said Justin Liberman, co-program director of FTMA and executive director of the film festival. “She is not only one of the best female filmmakers to ever live, she is one of the most daring and exciting filmmakers working today. She is exactly what we represent here at FTMA: a hard-working artist who uses the medium to explore important issues, while paying tribute to the tradition of cinema.”
The Opening Night Gala began with a special VIP screening of Maggie’s Plan, which premiered at last year’s New York Film Festival and stars Ethan Hawke, Julianne Moore and Greta Gerwig. After the screening, Liberman moderated a discussion with Miller that explored her influences, approach to film and advice to young filmmakers.
That night’s audience also viewed four award-winning student films (best director, best screenplay, best producer and best picture). “These are the students’ thesis films, which means they are the culminating project after a year of intense artistic development,” Liberman said. “They are incredible stories, told by deeply passionate filmmakers, and I am so proud of them. They are really great films.”
The four-day celebration of film and television continued the next day at the Frank and Marisa Martire Business and Communications Center on SHU’s Fairfield campus with student screenplay readings and a tribute to stand-up comedy featuring Nick Di Paolo. Before his routine, audience members will watch episodes of Louie andInside Amy Schumer in which he appeared.
On the festival’s third day, Professor Sid Gottlieb hosted a Roberto Rossellini retrospective with a screening of Journey to Italy, starring Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders. The screening concluded with a discussion.
“People had the opportunity to start their day with a really beautiful film,” Liberman said. “Professor Gottlieb has such an infectious joy for classic cinema that he was the perfect person to kick off our third day.”
The festival continued later in the day with a discussion with ESPN’s Molly Qerim of the show First Take. Co-sponsored by the sports communication and media graduate program, the event was moderated by alumnus Terrance Williams.
The day ended with a screening of all the FTMA student films. Filmmakers, casts, crews, friends and families saw the works on the big screen in the Martire Center’s main theater.
The 2016 FTMA Film Festival closed with “A Conversation and Maverick Award Presentation” honoring Dominic Chianese, who is known for his roles in the Godfather Part II and as the iconic Uncle Junior in HBO’s The Sopranos.
“We really look for seasoned filmmakers and TV veterans who are true craftsman and have built a body of work that shows how much they really love the process of filmmaking,” Liberman said. “We like to honor the hardworking actor or actress who is more known for his or her body of work than for stardom.”
At the event, an intimate discussion followed a clip reel of Chianese’s work.
This year’s film festival theme, Expanding the Scope, derived from the FTMA’s growth and expansion into a two-year conservatory. “Filmmaking is such a complicated craft that, over the past few years, students told us they felt like they were just starting to understand the medium right when they were about to graduate,” Liberman said. “We took that comment seriously and redesigned the program to give students an extra year to marinate in what they’ve been learning.”
He said the film festival was free and open to the public, as the community was meant to be a target audience. “Film is such a big part of people’s lives,” he said. “It is a constant in our culture, and this was an opportunity for people to celebrate film and pay tribute to a universal language.”
To view additional photos from the FTMA Film Fest, click here.