“The thrill of a lifetime” — that’s how Noah DeBonis described seeing his short film, Posthumous, screened last week at the Paramount Theatre in Hollywood, California at the 17th Annual Canes Film Showcase. DeBonis and 15 other School of Communication film students showed seven films at the event, toured studios and got a master class from professionals in the entertainment industry during their three-day trip to Los Angeles.

“The audience was so receptive to the film,” said DeBonis, whose film tells the story of a young girl trying to save her family’s small-town bed & breakfast from foreclosure. “I was able to mingle with them after the screening and discuss their reactions to the movie which as a director is always special.” More than 500 alumni, parents, donors, friends, and industry professionals registered for the event, and for some students, it was the first time their work was shown to such a diverse audience.

The Showcase is a vital resource for filmmakers working to make the leap from students to professionals, said Ed Talavera, chair of the Department of Cinema and Interactive Media. “This is a unique event that allows students to hobnob with the best and brightest in the entertainment and film industry.” 

The films were reviewed by seven of those leading professionals: 

  • Carlos Coto, B.S.C. ’88, Executive Producer/Showrunner, From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series
  • John Hegeman, P. ’17, President, Worldwide Marketing & Acquisitions, QED International
  • John Herzfeld, alumnus, Director, Producer, Screenwriter, Actor
  • Anne Parducci, B.B.A. ’82, Executive Vice President, Marketing, Home Entertainment, Lionsgate
  • Matthew Stein, B.S.C. ’99, President, MES Productions
  • Barry Waldman, A.B. ’85, Freelance Executive Producer
  • Douglas Weiser, A.B. ’78, J.D. ’82, Managing Partner, Cloud 9 Film Partners

Three of the judges, Hegeman, Herzfeld, and Parducci, along with director Howard McCain, who will join the Department of Cinema and Interactive Media faculty as a professor of practice this fall, also gave the UM filmmakers critical feedback on their work and advice for their futures in a master class.

“The master class was very helpful for a young filmmaker like me,” said Zilong Liu, who directed the short film Tourist. “They answered so many questions about how to have a successful career.” Liu was advised on how to edit his film, Tourist, for submission into short film festivals. Other students were advised on submitting their films for prizes, developing them into a series and pitching them to media companies for distribution.

The students also toured studios, including the Lightstorm Entertainment studio where Avatar was filmed. Legendary director Jon Landau, who produced Avatar and Titanic, led the students behind the scenes, offering insight about the latest technology and trends in filmmaking. Richard Baneham, who developed performance capture for Avatar and helped create Golem for Lord of the Rings, demonstrated the latest Performance Capture Virtual Reality camera. Stephen E. Rivkin, editor of Avatar and the Pirates of the Caribbean series, discussed 3-D editing and answered students’ questions. 

“The guys at that studio are revolutionaries. They are actually changing the paradigm for how films are made,” DeBonis said. “Getting a first hand account of that from the head of the studio was just too cool.  I got to stare into the camera James Cameron used while filming Avatar. I was geeking out.”

Students also toured the Raleigh Studio sets of Major Crimes and The Closer, a decade-long prize-winning TV series produced and directed by UM graduate Michael Robin, with Robin’s Director/Producer/Editor, UM graduate Paul Orehovec.  They discussed Robin’s other current hits, Dallas and Longmire

Watch the Showcase films online at http://canesfilmfest.moonfruit.com/folio/4584586339