Wednesday, April 6, 2011

BYU Final Cut

I didn't plan on bringing up film festivals in my first post here, but I'd feel pretty stupid if I didn't take this opportunity to talk about one of the biggest things I've had the opportunity to work on since I became a film student.

Final Cut is BYU's film festival. It started all the way back in 1993, and ran all the way through 2008, when it died at the hands of insufficiently attentive film students in BYU's film program. The pain of the loss was felt pretty immediately, but it took a couple of years to get a group of students together who could handle really bringing it back in a big way (and take enough responsibility to keep it going.) Enter the Student Film Association, who's been working themselves to death to get it going again.

That's maybe a little more history than you wanted or needed. But there you have it. 

Over the past couple of years, I've been astonished by the lack of enthusiasm student filmmakers have for getting their work seen by more than just their close friends and family. Films need an audience, or what's the point? If a student filmmaker refuses to take the initiative to get his or her work seen by as many people as possible, that student will never improve or succeed as a filmmaker. 

Filmmaking is about conversation, and without an audience, there is no conversation. It's like a visual diary, which is neat...sort of. But really, no one should waste their time making movies if they don't try to get an audience for them. This medium of art demands dialog, and the communication between practitioner and spectator is a holy thing.

Thankfully, the Final Cut fever caught enough of BYU's film students to supply a pretty admirable set of films to screen this year. It'll be a great program. 

But it was a tough process. Getting these students to submit their work took constant begging, and I just kept thinking, "What's the matter with you?" Don't they know that films need an audience to really matter? To allow the filmmakers an opportunity to learn and improve? 

I've decided the problem must be that film students simply don't think enough about it. They're anxiously engaged in the process, and that's a beautiful thing that can be all-consuming. I know it because I'm a filmmaker. But the difference between the filmmakers who improve and find work later on, and the ones who end up working at Office Depot, is the realization that this art demands an audience. The filmmakers (students or no) who work hard to get their work seen are the ones who end up successful. And guess what that means? They get to keep doing what they love AND not be homeless. It's a pretty good deal.

I'll post more on the subject of film festivals (and in more specific detail) in the future. For now, here are some pertinent links for Final Cut:

Get your tickets here (or at the HFAC ticket office)


Do you have suggestions for other things you'd like me to post about? Thoughts about Final Cut? Opinions about the need for films to get an audience? Put it in the comments, and I promise to respond. 


  1. This is after the fact, but for those of us who were able to attend last weekend, well, we feel sorry for those of you who didn't!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. This is also after the fact, but I'm just now reading these thoughts and feel that what I want to contribute is a conversation very much worth mentioning.

    First, I am interested in knowing why the festival was stopped. You attribute the cause here to "insufficiently attentive film students in BYU's film program." For reasons of clarity are you saying the festival was run solely by a particular group of students and that at some point that group of students stopped being interested with the execution of the festival?

    Secondly, I wanted to perhaps shed some light on why so many students seemed to be, as you put it, unenthusiastic about screening their films.

    I graduated from BYU's Theater/Media Arts program over a year ago. I applied and was accepted to all the upper division writing/directing classes and was allowed to make my Capstone project. Let me just get it out of the way up front, and believe me when I say it, I am grateful. I met some pretty amazing teachers who helped me a lot. I met even more students who are amazing individuals and friends who I continue to work with professionally today. I, like you, have had an overwhelming amount of personal and meaningful conversations with these students.

    The reason I wanted to chime in is to suggest that they were not "unenthusiastic" about submitting to the festival - though that might be the first closest misconception. They are frustrated. They also, as you suggest, seem to be the majority. The questions is, why?

    When questioned in casual conversation by family and friends about their alma mater, experiences, even recommending their program to other hopeful filmmakers, these students feel conflicted, because "make films" they did not. Or at least the opportunities for them to work on a production they could really feel apart of were so minimal. That's putting it way too simply. They all have their own stories and experiences that contribute to their frustration. Their comments are those you would expect from an ungrateful student who felt like he or she deserved something. In fact, a lot of the time they were made to feel that way. But that never made sense to me, first of all because of the sheer number of students who feel that way, and secondly because of how hard working, smart, and talented they are.

    That said, many students submitted well made films to the festival in the past and they weren't accepted. Films get rejected all the time. Fine. The issue was that enough obviously great films were denied that it had a negative effect on student filmmakers. I remember those feelings being obvious and widely known, which begs the question, why wasn't some sort of prudent reasoning given?

    One of the biggest issues for the supposed dragging of the feet by students to submit this time around is simply this: many felt so snubbed by their program - regardless of whether or not they got to make films - that they naturally wanted nothing to do with the festival. It was one way for them to sort of "stick it" if you will. Was the festival the major cause of their frustrations to begin with. Absolutely not. Was the festival perceived by students as an appendage to the major cause of their frustrations. Of course. Therefore the student's attitude of, "touch not" has been misinterpreted as a lack of enthusiasm. This may not have been every student's reason for resisting submitting, but that's where I put my money.

    I feel it is misguided and unfair to say that because students don't submit their films to BYU's Final Cut festival that they aren't doing a lot of unseen work and spending behind the scenes in attempts to find an audience elsewhere.


Follow by Email