For a select group of motion pictures students, a once in a lifetime opportunity to screen in Los Angeles began after winning Canes Film Festival in May 2016. 

Out of 85 entries submitted to Canes Film Festival, the School of Communication’s year-end film festival, five were selected by a jury of industry professionals to screen at the Directors Guild of America Theater in LA during the 11th annual Canes Film Showcase.

While in LA, the student filmmakers spent two intensive days touring studios, attending Q&A sessions, and participating in an intimate master class led by distinguished executives, producers, and directors. The trip culminated on June 2 with the DGA premiere and post-screening reception attended by 350 UM alumni and friends.

“This was a very informative experience,” said Stephanie Pasternak, producer of Give Me Trouble. “I had no idea I would be learning so much. Now I just want to make sure I hold on to it so I will always remember everything.”

The annual showcase, co-hosted by the School of Communication and the UM Alumni Association, is a popular networking event for film and television alumni on the West Coast, affording them the chance to stay tuned to what student filmmakers are creating on campus. 

This year’s contenders received a warm reception, with audience members saying they felt “glued to the edge of their seats” and were “brought to tears” watching the films, while others remarked on how impressed they were with the wide reach and ambition of the work. Many attendees stated they could not decide which movie they liked best.

Though it may have been difficult, audiences were asked to choose which film deserved the City of Angelsaward. In a relatively new tradition, viewers voted for their favorite film via their mobile devices. This year, it was Xinye Chen’s Finding Buddha, which also won University of Miami’s Best of the Festival award during Canes Film Festival.

Finding Buddha follows an American “average Joe” who leaves everything he knows behind before his 45th birthday and heads to China to find Buddha. While on his quest for self-discovery, he encounters a young tour guide who appears just as lost as he is and they set off on another kind of adventure. Finding Buddha was directed by Zilong Liu, and produced by Xinye Chen.

In addition to Finding Buddha, four other films and a screenplay were presented in LA.

In Give Me Trouble, directed by Isaac Mead-Long and produced by Stephanie Pasternak, a weathered blues guitarist gives his final performance, as the lines of reality become increasingly blurred.

Deer God tells the story of Old Guan, a native Orogen hunter, who goes into the woods to shoot “donkey-deer” before his family leaves for America. For Deer God, producer-director Tomorrow Mingtian traveled to the remote Chinese location of the Orogen tribe and filmed in -43 F weather.

Isaac Mead-Long’s documentary, Ballet Bus, follows two young boys, Kimani and Kelvin, who were selected to be a part of the Miami City Ballet’s new outreach program.

The narrative film Paradise, directed by Andrea Garcia-Marquez and produced by April Dobbins, traces a man’s deepening obsession with death as he learns of a strange ritual that repulses his wife.

The winning screenplay by Liam Allen-McGoran is an original television pilot called The Chafe in which the cast and crew of a 1950s sitcom fight to keep their show on the air after the death of its beloved star. The “show within a show” offers a glimpse into the seedy beginnings of American television against a backdrop of gangsters, communists, and spies.

In addition to VIP tours of Sony, Lightstorm Entertainment, and Raleigh Studios, students engaged in an intensive master class in which their films were discussed and critiqued by distinguished guests.

Participants in the master class were Kary Antholis (HBO/Cinemax); Martha Coolidge (director); John Herzfeld (director); Michael Robin (producer and director); Anne Parducci (producer); Matthew Stein (Sony). The host of the panel was John Weiser (Sony) who complimented the films overall for their impressive “scope” and “technical achievement.” 

Panelists advised students to set themselves apart by figuring out what makes them a little bit different than the person they are standing next to and, when making a movie, not to hold back.

“Make the film that only you can make,” advised Martha Coolidge. “Show us who you are when you show us the film. That’s the secret to bold, passionate, original storytelling.”

To view photos from Canes Film Showcase, please visit