By Phillip Milano
One Jacksonville University film team used humor to broach the topic of sex, while the other got deadly serious about the subject of fire. Both wound up getting invited to show their student short subjects during the upcoming Cannes Film Festival.
Theater major Janae LaFleur directed and co-wrote “Sexual Education: The Touchy Subject” with student and fellow writer Roy Matos. The five-minute, ‘50s-style satirical PSA about sex education captured the Campus Best Picture award as part of Campus MovieFest, billed as “The World’s Largest Student Film Festival.”
Meanwhile, “Duality” by David Bradley Howard and Steven Schotola focuses on a politician hiring a hit man to off a woman with whom he had an affair. The house fire that results has shattering consequences. While the film did not take awards during the January fest on campus, it later was picked for the Staff Choice Award by Campus MovieFest nationally – and the makers received an invite to Cannes as well.
Other winners included film majors Nora Shychuk and Jairid Pacileo, Campus Best Drama, for “Lie With Me,” and film major Brian Trumble, Campus Best Comedy, for “The Talk.”
The film contest put on at locales nationally by the Atlanta-based Campus MovieFest gives college students equipment and resources to make a quick subject in a week’s time.
“It’s a good activity that builds a sense of community across campus,” said Carolina Conte, assistant professor of film at JU. “You get to see Swisher Auditorium [on campus] filled with excited students cheering for their friends.”
The winners now move to the national finale of the Campus MovieFest in Los Angeles in June, where participants will get a chance to talk with movie professionals at Warner Bros. Studios as well.
But before that, “Sexual Education” and “Duality” are two of 30 films from the MovieFest nationwide selected to be shown during the Cannes Film Festival May 16-27, as part of the “Marche du Film” film market in the Cannes Marketplace. About 1,400 movies are promoted at booths there each year, as producers and directors walk through and select films they like for purchase or distribution.
“It’s definitely exciting to have won,” said LaFleur, a senior whose team plans to go to L.A. but is unsure about Cannes because of the cost. “When you’re finished you feel you accomplished something, taking it from an idea on paper and then seeing a real-life version of it.”
LaFleur’s favorite moment in the PSA involves the funny contrast between giving advice to males vs. females.
“The announcer has a long monologue where he tells the girl to save herself for marriage, but then tells the boy ‘Go for it!’ It shows the hypocritical nature of the advice sometimes given to males and females.
“Duality,” on the other hand, is a meditation on decisions and their repercussions, using fire symbolically and literally.
“The movie goes from a bar where the hit is discussed, and forwards through to the consequences,” said Howard. “The idea is to make you think about your decisions before you act rashly.”
Getting picked for Cannes is “the biggest thing that’s ever happened to me … somebody said it’s once in a lifetime, and it really is,” said Howard.
To attend Cannes, Howard and Schotola need to raise about $6,300 for 12 nights in a hotel, meals and more. Of that, they need $2,000 by mid-March for their first deposit on their hotel, which will secure their film in the marketplace, too.
“Right now we’re talking to people in the community, different businesses, to see if they can donate, or let us promote our trip,” Howard said. The pair has also started an Indiegogo.com donation account to help raise money.
For Howard, it means a lot to represent Jacksonville.
“I want to show that Jacksonville can make movies and hang with the L.A.s and the New Yorks,” he said. “We have amazing filmmakers here, and this is one of the best places to get your start in film. People are understanding, and businesses like the Fox Diner in Avondale and even a local hotel let us use their locations. … There’s no place else like this that is willing to take someone on and help them -- give them their first shot.”
JU’s Bachelor of Arts degree in film, offered through the College of Fine Arts, gives students a chance to explore film history, theory and criticism. It also affords them hands-on production experience. The theory and real-world activity provide an understanding of film’s ability to create meaning. Film students also may specialize in Screenwriting or Directing.