Monday, April 30, 2012

The Tri-Co Film Festival's Premiere: A Q&A with Erica Cho

The first-ever Tri-Co Film Festival, which will feature films created by the students at Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore Colleges, debuts this Wednesday at BMFI. We interviewed Erica Cho, a Visiting Assistant Professor of Film Production at Bryn Mawr and Swarthmore Colleges and the festival organizer. Keep reading for her insights into this celebration of student work.

What made you decide to create the Tri-Co Film Festival? Why now?
This is an exciting moment for film production at the Tri-Colleges. We’re seeing increasing student demand for production courses, and the beginnings of formal collaborations between the colleges in course offerings and faculty hires to address this demand. Because I was hired to teach production at both Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr, I’ve gotten to see how much the students can benefit from each other across colleges. Making films is inherently collaborative, and because there is a mix of Tri-Co students in each class, they’re already working together on each others’ projects; in class, I regularly screen work from the other campus, so this festival in a way formalizes ongoing exchanges. I’m hoping this inaugural festival will start a tradition of showcasing the diversity of student projects under the tutelage of all the film teachers, including Louis Massiah at Swarthmore and Vicky Funari at Haverford. Production has traditionally been underrepresented within the Tri-Co, and I see a need to continue to support and build in this area. My aim is to foster the study and making of film—the most socially relevant art of our age—and to create more connections between film production and the fine arts. Because I’ve been an active film festival programmer outside the college context for many years, I also want to use my experience and skills to help students gain a taste of participating in a festival and give them a chance to take their work and that of their peers seriously.

Who are the judges?
I invited independent film curator Chi-hui Yang to judge the festival submissions given his experience in many different film and art contexts. He’s worked as the Director of the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, a non-profit, independent festival committed to social change, community building, and nurturing the work of young filmmakers.  He also programs for mainstream, establishment media like Comcast, as well as for the Flaherty Film Seminar and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. So he’s someone who has experience adjudicating non-traditional films, narrative, documentary—a whole range of work.

What do the winners receive?
We’ll be giving out awards in Best Senior Film, Best Coursework Film, with the possibility of Honorable Mentions.

As the organizer, what do you hope the student filmmakers get from the experience?
I hope that the festival will encourage students to improve their craft, to take pride in the excellent work they’ve already done, and to begin to think of themselves as filmmakers who have something to contribute to broader audiences—beyond their individual classrooms or campuses. A festival format can also create an atmosphere of constructive competition and of challenging students to take responsibility for the images they are making and circulating. There is of course the question of building community and audiences across colleges—to give students, faculty, staff, and folks in the community to participate and appreciate student films and the issues they address. Finally, I hope to encourage students to consider future work and careers in not only filmmaking, but in programming and curating. The Tri-Colleges have real strengths in the humanities and in film studies, through the leadership of professors like Patricia White, Homay King, Nguyen Tan Hoang, Bob Rehak, and Sunka Simon—and I think that our students have the critical training to fill a real need for smart, progressive, independent practitioners in the industry.

Can you give us a taste of the kinds of films we can look forward to seeing on Wednesday?
There will be seven senior films featured and ten short pieces by other students who have made films as part of their pre-senior coursework. The competition was stiff—only ten out of 36 undergraduate coursework submissions were chosen. This year there will be mostly documentary and narrative films, one animation, and a few experimental pieces. Among the interesting themes that have emerged in this year’s 36 coursework submissions and seven senior productions are: the question of human intimacy in a digital age; queer and transgender identity explorations; and global perspectives on environmental change and labor issues.
Thanks, Erica! For more information about the program and to buy tickets, please click here, or you can visit the official Tri-Co Film Festival Vimeo page to see some of the submitted student work.

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