Halloween is a memory, but the bump-in-the-night season isn’t over in Ithaca.
Several teams of Ithaca College students spent last weekend producing short films that will screen this weekend during Ithaca Fantastik, a film festival dedicated to horror, sci-fi, fantasy, thrillers and the generally absurd.
“Werewolf” was the guiding theme of the films, which were shot and edited as part of the 48-Hour Challenge put on by IC’s The Studio, a co-curricular organization that allows students to produce and distribute media across different platforms. The entries have been judged, and the winning short “Midnight Snack” will premiere Sunday, Nov. 13 at Cinemopolis prior to the final movie of the festival at 8 p.m.
The others entries will screen Saturday at 6 p.m. in The Studio’s location in Center Ithaca.
Selecting the winner made for a tough decision, said Anna Gardner, the special events coordinator for The Studio and a sophomore majoring in film, photography and visual arts, as well as art history. She was one of the judges in the contest.
“Both [the first-place and second-place] films took an extremely unique approach to the prompt, one focusing on gore, the other on suspense,” Gardner said. “In the end it was two points that separated the winner, but the overall consensus from the judges was that it was shocking, funny and an interesting story.”
The challenges of being a werewolf
Jack Warner and Kevin Fermini, two members of the six-person team behind “Midnight Snack,” admit they were stumped by the theme when it was first announced. Having participated in last year’s 48-Hour Challenge, they knew it was important to have a solid concept that could be filmed and edited in the allotted time, and a strategy to pull it off. It wasn’t until a week before the competition that ideas gelled and Warner – who also directed the film – penned a script.
That didn’t leave them much time to plan, which necessitated some improvisation to pull the shoot off. “We did have to spend a night walking around downtown trying to find the best place to shoot, that kind of looked like a street but was a little isolated from everything that would be happening on a Friday night,” Warner said.
But a script and filming locations were only part of the equation, and the team had to make sure the short film had the necessary visual punch, as well. Fermini said the team was ambitious with their special effects. “But when you're dealing with werewolves, it's kind of a necessity,” he added.
Fermini is excited to participate in the festival this way. “Ithaca Fantastik is one of my favorite things about living in Ithaca. I love genre films: horror, sci-fi, comedy – all that kind of crazy stuff that gets sent to the festival. It's what I want to be part of when I move into the filmmaking scene in the future,” he said.
The other members of the team behind “Midnight Snack” are: Rachel Huley, Christian Kozlowski, James Manton and Rosario McGowan.
A fantastic partnership
This is the second iteration of the 48-Hour Challenge, which started last year when Ithaca Fantastik reached out to The Studio to try and get more students involved in the festival, then in its fourth year.
“Due to the busy schedule of college students, we decided on a time-sensitive competition that could change themes each year in coordination with a theme from the festival,” Gardner said.
This year’s werewolf prompt was chosen because it coincided with some of the films and retrospectives screening during the festival.
“It was just the right amount of scary with an opportunity for creative makeup or plot lines,” Gardner said.