Student films accepted into Cannes festival

Over spring break, Sonoma State University senior Alex Bretow and junior Mary-Madison Baldo received an email from the Cannes Film Festival congratulating them on a rare accomplishment. Two of their films were accepted into the prestigious film screening event.

“I just went bonkers,” Bretow said of the moment, “I literally ran outside so I could yell.” 

The two filmmaking partners expressed much excitement over their accomplishment. 

Baldo said, “I leaped out of bed and was like, ‘Mom, Mom.’”

The Cannes Film Festival, held annually in France, is one of the most celebrated film festivals.

Cannes is known for screening popular films such as “Pulp Fiction” and more recently, “Grace of Monaco” starring Nicole Kidman, making the festival an opportunity for exposure among filmmakers and actors alike.

Bretow, a business major who is also minoring in computer science, and Baldo, a double major in English and education, met through the university’s Campus MovieFest, after Baldo had one of her previous films win the award for Best Drama. Bretow reportedly approached Baldo after the show to congratulate her on the win, and the two exchanged numbers and would later begin to collaborate on film ideas.

“I could tell how creative a person [she was] when I walked into her room and her walls were covered with magazine cut-outs and movie posters,” Bretow said, “I thought that [she] had interesting tastes, and she wasn’t afraid to shout them at the top of her lungs.”

After exchanging ideas regarding a Doritos commercial competition, the two began working together on building their now successful business, Baldo-Bretow Pictures. 

“We balance each other out very well,” said Baldo of her partnership with Bretow, “We keep each other sane.”

The two share directing and producing duties on set. Bretow conducts the business and photography side of their company and Baldo is the head writer.

“[He is] a visionary task assassin, and I am a brilliantly bold oddball,” said Baldo of the two’s professional chemistry.

Bretow said of his childhood, “At 8 years old I had a camcorder and I’d run around my house, and tear his house to pieces filming action movies,” said Baldo, finishing his story. 

It was obvious the two had spent much time in each other’s company.

“When I got to college, I got onto the set of ‘Chasing Mavericks’ and I thought, ‘This is awesome, how do I do more of this?’” said Bretow.

Bretow was also a production assistant on the set of the upcoming movie “Ant Man” starring Paul Rudd, and is active in his position as the general manager for SSU-TV. 

“Film has always been a part of my life,” said Baldo. “My dad is an animation director, and he would give me different projects, different things to write down, draw or watch, and then we’d talk about them.”

Baldo began writing  as a child, and wrote several novels in her youth, including one that got attention from the publishing house Penguin. 

“The 11-year-old me with my braces thought this was so cool,” said Baldo, “but they wanted to change the main character to a male. I refused.”

The two films that were accepted into the Cannes Film Festival, “Snake Eyes” and “Rampage” were discovered by Cannes through their wins at the Campus MovieFest of 2014. 

“Snake Eyes” is a 25-minute short action-suspense film, while “Rampage” is more of a horror film.

“I like just being on the edge of your seat, and having that feeling of your heart being squeezed,” said Baldo of horror and suspense films. 

Bretow agreed. “I like twisting the usual and making it unusual,” said Bretow.

When asked what they wanted to do after graduation, Baldo said, “I’d like to eventually teach. I love kids. A riskier and crazier plan would be teaming up with [Bretow] and make more of a name for ourselves.”

Baldo also expressed interest in going to graduate school in southern California, and possibly interning with a production company, but is still open to what the future has in store.

“I’ll be doing this,” said Bretow. “I’m going to be filmmaking no matter what, so depending on what [she] decides to do, there will always be this.”

Bretow and Baldo are attempting to gather donated funds for a trip to Cannes, France, in order to attend the big event in May.

The two students must raise $11,000 to pay for transportation, hotel accommodations, food for themselves and possibly funds to accommodate potential investors for their projects.

The duo are collecting donations on GoFundMe.com and expressed much gratitude to those who have donated so far. 

“We had someone donate $500 anonymously,” said Bretow. “We’ve gotten a ton of support from professors, students, family and friends, and the community. It’s incredible.”

Bretow and Baldo agreed that giving up is not an option when pursuing one’s dreams. 

“Be true to your vision, and never give up. Don’t let other people affect your decisions,” said Baldo.

“If you have a passion, pursue that,” said Bretow. “Don’t let anything in the world get in your way.”