From a migrant worker in Beijing to a would-be “Marielito” in Cuba, from hacking computers to “hooking up” in college, the Canes Film Showcase offered a wide variety of subject matter and style for the 450 attendees who filled the Directors Guild of America theater on Hollywood’s famed Sunset Boulevard, Thursday evening, June 4.
The annual event, in its tenth year, showcases five student films selected by judges as the best of the Canes Film Festival, held each spring at the University of Miami. Those students then get to travel to Los Angeles to mingle with an impressive array of industry professionals and alumni.
“I swell with pride when I see the quality work our students produce,” said School of Communication Dean Gregory Shepherd after the screening. “The quality is tied to the education they receive and the amazing job our faculty are doing.”
In addition to a Hollywood who’s who that included industry veteran David Isaacs (M*A*S*H, Mad Men), A.B. ’71, actor Dawnn Lewis, B.M. ’82, and director John Herzfeld, ’69, among many others, there were a number of University trustees in attendance, along with Interim President and Provost Thomas J. LeBlanc, who called the students’ films “fabulous,” citing their “incredible professionalism” and impressive range of subject matter.
The films included Espionage 101, Home, I Want to Beat Up Clark Peters, The Mermaid, and El Mar y Él. Tony Mendez, producer and director of El Mar y Él, grew up in Miami and took his inspiration from his uncle’s tale of trying to leave Cuba in the 1980s. Mendez said HBO Latino has optioned his project in the U.S. and that it is set to be released in October.
The highlight of the showcase came when audience members had the chance to vote via Internet for their favorite film. I Want to Beat Up Clark Peters, about a college guy who seeks revenge after the woman he’s casually seeing starts seeing someone else, won both the City of Angels audience favorite award and the Best of the Fest Award from the professional panel of judges.
Accepting the awards, Joseph Picozzi, the movie’s writer, director, and producer, credited his cast and crew of fellow ’Canes, many of whom were in the audience.
“It’s great that people like it. There were some amazing films that also deserve the same recognition,” said Picozzi. “I saw a story that wasn’t being told about the hook-up culture. It’s something all of my friends were going through.”
Picozzi said he plans to move to Los Angeles in July with a fellow ’Cane to pursue his chosen career.
It’s a decision Paul Orehovec, B.S.C. ’02, encouraged as he showed a group of 20 UM film students through the inner sanctum of Raleigh Studios Hollywood, where he has worked for “one third of his life.” The tour took place prior to the showcase.
The students had ample opportunity to ask technical and detailed questions, examine advanced camera equipment, and see a working set, thanks to Orehovec, co-producer with Michael Robin, A.B. ’85, of the TV seriesMajor Crimes.
Speaking from his experience of 11 seasons with the studio, Orehovec urged UM students to get out of Miami and give L.A. a shot.
“There’s this excitement about being here, about creating. I highly recommend it. At the very minimum give it a try,” he said. “I learned more in my first year of being here about the way things actually work than can ever be taught in school. You just have to be in it, you just have to see it. It’s an adventure. It’s fun.”
But it’s also highly competitive, he noted. “Out here you’re a small fish. You have to work harder, but the reward is definitely bigger.”
Kenny Langer was one of those inspired by Orehovec’s pep talk. This year was the first time screenplays were judged at the Canes Film Festival, and Langer’s feature-length Villify was the inaugural winner. Langer, who received recognition Thursday evening, is shopping around his script about a closeted teen who agrees to sleep with his best friend’s girlfriend to help break them up. Like Picozzi and several other recent UM film grads, Langer plans to move to L.A. in the coming months. “Here I go!” he exclaimed with a smile.