Making any film is a labor-intensive process. Gathering and organizing resources, supporters and a competent crew can take the wind out of many professionals before the first frame is even shot. In the end, however, all of the blood and sweat of production finally shows up on the screen, and when others take notice of your work, the rewards are even sweeter.
For two student filmmakers out of the Radio-Televison-Film Department at the University of Texas, their hard work paid off in a big way with respective nominations in the prestigious Student Academy Awards.
Recent UT graduate Huay-Bing Law was nominated for his film Benny in the Narrative film category, while graduate student Micah Robert Barber received a nomination in the Alternative category for Falconer.
Since 1973, the Student Academy Awards has allowed the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to shed light on the works of young, bright filmmakers, many of whom have moved on to bigger career successes. Past award winners include the likes of Spike Lee, Robert Zemeckis and John Lasseter, while many nominees have also continued to produce many more critically acclaimed films and other productions.
It’s the type of illustrious recognition that certainly validates the dreams held by two students from the RTF Department at UT. And it certainly proves as an opportune moment to advertise just what the RTF program is capable of.
“The festival circuit was a lot of fun for me, being able to experience my film with different audiences around the country,” says Huay-Bing Law, a former Biomedical Engineering major, “But with the SAA nomination, I almost feel like Micah and I are representing UT in a way.”
With the usual major film schools at USC and NYU receiving their expected representations, it’s exciting to see UT with two nominees in the race, proving that the school has what it takes to provide the best environment for prospective filmmakers.
Law’s film, Benny, has already enjoyed plenty of success on the festival circuit, being screened at the 2011 Austin Film Festival, the 2011 Starz Denver Film Festival, and the 2011 New Orleans Film Festival. It tells the story of an overweight teenager who visits an old friend who has become a personal fitness trainer.
Law considers the film’s subject matter as something to be easily relatable for many viewers at the nationwide festivals. “I’m happy with the lifespan of Benny and the SAA is a good way to end it,” says the aspiring director. It’s also an impressive feat for a Clear Lake native who fell in love with movies due to his dad’s VHS collection.
While the SAA nomination puts quite the exclamation point on Law’s film, it serves as more of a springboard for MFA student Micah Robert Barber’s film, Falconer.
The film concerns the small, rural town that is seemingly cut off from the outside world, until Death itself pays the citizens a visit. The production is literally the fulfillment of a dream that Barber had, inspiring the film’s aesthetic of still photography being combined with a motion picture shot on traditional 35mm.
Barber’s extended dream of filmmaking began as a student at Wheaton College in Chicago. After reading Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Sculpting in Time,” Barber gained an immediate attraction to film as a medium for his vision. After putting his entire focus on filmmaking, a choice had to be made about where next to move to continue developing his craft.
While considering USC, Barber eventually decided on the Master’s program at UT in RTF, although the surrounding environment also helped in the decision. “I just felt a much better vibe from Austin,” recalls Barber, who wasn’t as enthralled with the LA environment after working and studying there for a brief time.
Once Falconer is eventually finished with its festival run, Barber hopes to begin work on his first feature with the intent on producing it here in Austin. For him, the people at the university and in the community make the difference.
Collaboration is what can get an ambitious student film off the ground, and UT fosters that spirit. In fact, even Law and Barber are not strangers to one another, with Law having worked on all of Barber’s films at UT and Barber even filling in for the role of Assistant Director for Benny. Law considers Barber as a mentor who has taught him much during their work together.
In the end, co-operation is still the best teaching tool — a facet of filmmaking that both UT and the Student Academy Awards recognize and support.