The spirit of Cannes Toronto and Sundance will descend upon Pepperdine’s campus next January as passionate students have rallied to create a film festival that celebrates the power of storytelling as a means to create reality and shape society.The ReelStories FilmFest set for Jan. 222010 will be composed of two feature-length documentaries and a variety of Pepperdine student material. The one-night festival aims to bring the Pepperdine Malibu and greater Los Angeles communities together to share a collective love for the art of storytelling.
“We see our society as a product of the media that surrounds us said junior Alec Eagon, a ReelStories founder and director. We believe as creative-minded people that we have the ability to use that media to change the world for good. That’s the theme of ReelStories positive change through storytelling.”
The project began with a conversation between students from all sectors of Pepperdine’s campus who all shared a enthusiasm for the power of film. This group of seven founders met with the vision of hosting a unique festival on Pepperdine’s campus that would showcase students’ work and examine film’s potential to impact lives.
“We all wanted to defy the odds Eagon said. The odds were really against us. We had faculty members telling us that this was never going to work. Now we have faculty members not necessarily the same ones coming to us e-mailing us and begging us to [let them] help out.”
The spotlight on storytelling has appealed to those who might not otherwise be interested in a small newly established festival.
“As documentary features emerge and film programs become more popular people are realizing that it is not just Hollywood that has the power to tell stories senior and festival founder/director Katie Stjernholm wrote in an e-mail. We can tell stories and we can tell stories that shape the type of society that we envision.”
With the event still months away ReelStories FilmFest has won over experienced industry professionals such as celebrated director Ron Howard (“A Beautiful Mind”) and “The Dark Knight” writer Jonah Nolan to serve on its panel of judges. Lionsgate and a host of other entertainment companies have expressed interest in involvement according to senior JJ Starr another founder and director of the project.
Support within the Pepperdine community has been found in industry-savvy professors Craig Detweiler and Susan Salas who have agreed to provide guidance and feedback as well as in director of Student Activities Doug Hurley. The festival plans also to partner with Pepperdine’s GreenTeam in an effort to monitor the event’s sustainability.
“The wonderful thing about ReelStories is that it is an opportunity for so many groups on campus to get involved whether it is the GreenTeam helping to create a zero-waste event or the Art Club exhibiting their work wrote Stjernholm.
The festival’s directors are currently working to finalize the judge panel and acquire sponsorships within the Malibu and Los Angeles communities. The festival accepts student submissions from Nov. 30 until Jan. 4, 2010, but focuses on documentaries because of their ability to reflect real-life experience.
We want as real of a human story as possible something that people can see has happened Eagon said. If you can tell a story that is true to the human experience and is also a real documented story that is where storytelling is most profound.”
Stjernholm sees the festival as an opportunity for students to create stories of substance that will stand apart from the immense amount of meaningless media she says bombards this generation.
“We do not have categories for the film submissions so that students can be creative and make films that move them Stjernholm wrote. This is a unique opportunity for aspiring filmmakers at Pepperdine to contribute to culture in a constructive way and get feedback from professionals who are currently in that industry.”
As a film student Starr believes that ReelStories and Pepperdine’s film program will strengthen and complement each other as the festival will highlight student talent.
“As the film department grows this festival will grow Starr said. We purposely made the decision to have this festival show only Pepperdine student films because we want [ReelStories FilmFest] to eventually grow into an amazing festival that showcases the talent that is here.”
Starr believes Pepperdine has the potential to have a dramatic impact on the film world and ultimately on society. He cites the unique perspective and empathy of a Pepperdine student as an advantage for effective storytelling.
“Because of that this school is going to grow into a great film school and at the same time that that is happening this festival is going to happen and somewhere down the line people in [Los Angeles] are going to say ‘Wow we need to go to the ReelStories FilmFest this weekend.'”
While those involved are proud of their accomplishments thus far they are even more excited for what lies ahead. They look forward to a night that will celebrate the transformative power of film.
“I am most excited about people experiencing films for more than entertainment having a night to say ‘Gosh that was incredible and that spoke to me’ Starr said. “Not every film does that but eventually one film will speak to you and your life will be changed.”
Founders are confident that ReelStories FilmFest will become an annual event.
“We have gotten enough of a response from underclassmen that this thing could carry on Eagon said. Our goal from the start has been to create an event and kick it off hard to be sure that the ball keeps rolling down the road for years to come.”
Students interested in submitting material volunteering their time or attending the event are encouraged to visit reelstoriesfilmfest.com for more information.