Many members of Sonoma State University’s growing film community came out of hiding Thursday evening, into the spotlight as the first CineNoma film festival showcased several student films on the big screen, many for the first time.
The night, which consisted of a glamorous red carpet photo opportunity, featured eight student films that had been submitted for judging by industry professionals.
“We feel great, but I’m glad we didn’t get first place,” said Alex Bretow of Baldo-Bretow Pictures. “All of the calls were made by people in the industry with honest opinions, and that means a lot.”
Bretow and Mary-Madison Baldo’s film “Uproar” won Second Place for Best Picture. This film is the sequel to “Rampage,” one of two films the duo produced that were recently accepted into the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.
The award for Best Picture went to “Insect,” directed by Jimmy Rich, a psychological thriller that documents the aftermath of a man’s brain being infiltrated by an insect, which leads him to having an urge to kill.
Bretow teamed up with event coordinator Anna Luna of SSU-TV to assemble an event that would be a reunion for many talented and undiscovered students.
Although the dress code of the evening was almost entirely formal, there was an underlying tone of familiarity among all of the attendees, as most of those who attended were directly involved with Sonoma State’s film community.
Many joked around with poses on the red carpet, giving CineNoma an exceptionally warm atmosphere. Audience members said, “No, keep going” when emcee Bretow mentioned taking a break in watching the submitted student films, showing how much excitement and energy filled the ballroom.
“We definitely have room for improvement,” Bretow said. “It went really well, but we didn’t have as big of a turnout as we were hoping for.”
Although only about 60 people came to the event, it made for a more intimate evening of film appreciation and entertainment.
“It seems more like a party than a stuffy awards show,” said freshman Amanda Hernandez, “I like that it’s so fun. I’m glad I came, honestly.”
CineNoma was comparable to the Academy Awards, if the Academy Awards were to be thrown by a close group of college friends who shared a genuine love for film.
Student-musician Gabe Duran was booked for the intermission of the evening. Duran wowed the audience with a voice and guitar playing abilities that would make John Mayer jealous, leaving many in the audience with goosebumps.
The night was not without laughs, as the stage was missing a mic stand, forcing Bretow and Best Actress Kayley Kemp to hold up microphones for Duran as he performed.
The Academy Awards equivalent would have been if Neil Patrick Harris and Julianne Moore held microphones for John Legend’s performance, and understandably added a quirky charm to the evening.
“I’m very pleased with the quality of the films,” said SSU-TV faculty adviser Ed Beebout. “We really would like to build a larger film community, and it starts with SSU-TV.”
Beebout is a professor at Sonoma State and has vast experience as a news broadcaster, as well as much knowledge of the film industry.
The opportunity for students to show off their hard work to their peers and industry professionals who appreciate fine film is priceless.
“I am extremely honored to have won [Best Cinematography and Third Place] at CineNoma 2015,” said senior communication and media studies major and director Cara Fuqua. “Creating ‘The Sound of Silence’ with Serena Kamlani, Alex Bretow and Charlie Baker was a rewarding experience.”
“The Sound of Silence” is a short film that revealed a woman’s inner thoughts on her relationship, detailing the everyday ups and downs to her specific romance, highlighting the fact that not all relationships are the same.
“I highly recommend participating in CineNoma 2016 to anyone who becomes inspired to make a short film,” said Fuqua. “Get a couple of your friends together, brainstorm and create something you’re proud of. You’ll have a blast making your idea come to life.”
The night was a compilation of many months of dedication and hard work by all involved, and the bar was set high for the years to come.
“We [at SSU-TV] are on the right track,” Beebout said. “The crew put a lot of time and effort into putting on this event.”
SSU-TV looks forward to hopefully building CineNoma into a Sonoma State legacy for years to come, and Thursday’s first go at it was an exceptional start.
“This film fest is important because it gives people here at SSU a chance to show their talents,” said Kemp, a senior communication and media studies major who won Best Actress for her role in “Uproar.”
Many students expressed much gratitude to SSU-TV for taking on the challenge of setting up a platform for students whose passion lies in film production.
“The event was amazing. Anna Luna went above and beyond decorating and planning and making this event something people would enjoy and want to keep coming to,” Kemp said. “As for winning best actress, I was shocked but it felt amazing.”
Next year, CineNoma is expected to grow in size with the help of early promotion, but as for this year, the festival has fulfilled its duties to the campus. CineNoma served as a social event that many attendees had been craving and turned on the spotlight that many students have been looking for in order to shine.