Nolan Potter’s film class this semester has some pretty unusual requirements.
He and his classmates at Bates College in Lewiston watch movies: that’s a fact. But they also contact film distributors, write emails to filmmakers, create video trailers and advertise. Their work will not be captured in an epic research paper, but will be used to organize a film festival.
The Bates Film Festival, organized by students of Jonathan Cavallero’s Film Festival Studies Course, takes place Tuesday through Sunday at the Nordica Theater in Freeport and on the Bates campus. It features 29 movies, ranging from classics of their genres, like the musical “Meet Me in St. Louis” and the sci-fi adventure “Tron,” to critically acclaimed releases of the past year or two. years, including the documentary “Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street” and the Norwegian black comedy “The Worst Person in the World”.
“It’s one thing to take a course and write an article, but we learn how things work in the real world, and we see our work translated into an actual product, a film festival,” Potter said, 21, majoring in rhetoric and film studies from Wells.
Guest speakers scheduled for the festival include actor and director John Turturro, who plays crime boss Carmine Falcone in the recent “The Batman,” as well as Emmy Award-winning and Bates alum actor John Shea, class of 1970, who has had a career spanning over 45 years in television and film. Another is animator and director Bruce W. Smith, creator of the Disney Channel animated series “The Proud Family.” His 1992 film “Bebe’s Kids” is widely recognized as the first animated film to feature a predominantly black cast.
“To be able to point to someone like John Turturro and tell people he’s in ‘The Batman’ and he’s coming to our festival, that’s exciting,” Potter said.
The festival’s screenings and guest events – including Q&A sessions with various film professionals after the screenings – are all free.
Cavallero, an associate professor of rhetoric, film and screen studies, started the film festival course as a way to connect students interested in film and television work with people working in the film industry. , including old ones. He hoped that these connections would allow them to explore internships or future employment opportunities. Many of the filmmakers or actors booked to speak at the festival were contacted with the help of Bates alumni or parents who have industry ties, Cavallero said.
The first festival took place in 2018 and the second in 2019. This year is the third. The festival’s advisory board this year includes recent Bates graduates who are now working in film or television in some capacity. The festival course is not offered every year.
“Maine is 3,000 miles or more from the movie world, so kids here are studying movies and then trying to get jobs there after college,” Cavallero said. “So I wanted to find a way for students to work with alumni, work with people in the industry and learn on their own. No one in our alumni network ever says no when we ask for help. »
Students in the Festival Studies course tried to choose films that, in some way, stimulate civic conversation and bring people together. This year’s programming represents a wide range of topics, genres and styles.
“We looked at how we could engage the film community and Maine in general,” said Gene Chen, an art historian from Beijing, China, who is in the film festival class. “They all have this social justice component. We were able to get our hands on a lot of great movies.
Assignments for the class involve scholarly reading but also lots of practical writing, including emails to filmmakers, blog posts for the festival website, publicity texts for the films, and invitations to guests and potential panelists.
BRINGING THE ARTS TO TOWN
The festival kicks off Tuesday at the Bates campus with a reception on the common patio in the afternoon and a screening of “The Worst Person in the World.” On Friday, the festival moves to Freeport and Nordica Theater, where most screenings will take place. There will be several panel discussions featuring industry professionals at Meetinghouse Arts, led by the Freeport Arts and Culture Alliance.
In recent years, most festival screenings have taken place in lecture halls on the Bates campus. But this year, Cavallero and the students wanted to show films in a real movie theater. So they got in touch with the owners of Nordica, which is about half an hour from Bates, and also contacted the Freeport Arts and Culture Alliance.
Nordica Theatre, with six screens, opened in 2011 in downtown Freeport. The theater has been closed since the start of the pandemic, but owners are optimistic it will reopen at some point as COVID restrictions ease and the threat of the virus diminishes, said Alfred Yebba, one of the owners. . Yebba said Nordica owners are monitoring the financial performance of independent theaters across the country as they try to determine when it makes sense for them to reopen.
Yebba said the theater’s involvement in the Bates Film Festival is a way to create “intrinsic value” for the theater and help attract moviegoers to Freeport, which is best known for its outlets. The theater is in the Freeport Village train station and is owned by partners in the shopping complex.
Dana Legawiec, executive director of the Freeport Arts and Culture Alliance, said hosting the Bates Film Festival is a way for the city to broaden its appeal and identity.
“Shops, restaurants and businesses are all supporting (the festival) because it’s a way to bring people to town for the performing arts,” Legawiec said. “It also shows how important it can be to have a local movie theater.”
THE STORIES BEHIND THE WORK
Cavallero said Turturro – contacted with the help of a relative of Bates – was happy to come to the festival even though “The Batman” was released on March 4 and he’s been busy helping promote that film. Turturro’s long film career includes a star turn in the Cohen Brothers’ “Barton Fink” in 1991 and supporting roles in “Miller’s Crossing,” “Quiz Show,” “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” and “The Big Lebowski”.
Turturro will give a talk April 3 at the Schaeffer Theater in Bates and do Q&A sessions with the audience after screenings of two films he directed, “Mac” and “Romance & Cigarettes,” Saturday at the Nordica Theater. 1992’s “Mac” also stars Turturro and focuses on an eldest son facing the pressures of taking over the family construction business after his father’s death. 2005’s “Romance & Cigarettes” is a romantic musical with an ensemble cast that includes Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, Steve Buscemi and more.
Shea, who first gained acclaim in the 1982 thriller ‘Missing’ starring Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek, will host a Q&A after a film he directed, ‘Grey Lady’, Friday at the Nordica Theater . It’s a 2017 romantic thriller about a Boston homicide detective trying to track down the killer of his sister and her partner. The cast includes Eric Dane and Amy Madigan.
Shea has also appeared on dozens of television shows over the years, including “The Blacklist” and “Law & Order” on NBC, “The Good Wife” on CBS, and “Gossip Girl” on CW.
Shea will speak April 3 at the Shaeffer Theater on the importance of recognizing opportunities and taking risks. Shea said his acting career started at Bates, but by accident.
He was on the football team and the debate team, but had never thought of playing, until the day he was on his way to get his fake ID, so he could buy some beer for his friends. He headed for the debating room, where his fake ID was, and passed a theater rehearsal. The director stopped him and asked him to read a role, and he did. He landed the role in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing and fell in love with acting. He then attended the Yale School of Drama after graduating from Bates.
“Life is full of surprising signposts and cosmic moments that put you on the right track if you pay attention. I could have said no (read for the role), but I said yes,” said Shea in a phone interview, “The whole point of higher education is to really explore and see what’s out there.”
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