RSJ students selected for film festival
The above photo is a still shot from Crystal Powell’s documentary on child abuse.
Story by RSJ Student Writer Tyler Hersko
Several Reynolds School of Journalism students had an opportunity to show their work at the Carson City International Film Weekend.
The festival, which ran from Feb. 18 through Feb. 20, screened works from a variety of award-winning international filmmakers and local independent directors. Five teams of students in professor Kari Barber’s fall 2015 documentary course submitted their films to the festival, all of which were screened during the event.
Reynolds School students Samantha Altergott, Bryan Akerley, Rocio Hernandez, Alex Hoeft, Lexi Jones, Jared Longland, Courtney Laubacher, Michelle Matus, Crystal Powell and Michael Stuyvesant had their works screened at the festival.
The student films were presented alongside a number of other independent films on Feb. 19. After the screenings, the students participated in an open forum to discuss their projects.
Valerie Anderson, the festival’s independent film coordinator, was particularly impressed with the professionalism of the students’ documentaries and noted that they were above the caliber one might expect from student projects.
“I was floored by the high quality of the documentaries,” Anderson said. “At first I thought, ‘Oh, it’s a film class, how good can you be?’ Then I watched them and every single one was really well done and of high quality.
For Altergott, creating films is a meticulous, albeit rewarding, process. Barber encouraged Altergott, along with the other student filmmakers, to submit their projects to the festival. Altergott was initially surprised to have her work accepted and expressed excitement about the screening.
“I can’t tell you how many nights I spent tweaking [the documentary] to make it perfect,” Altergott said. “But you don’t really expect it to go anywhere except maybe online. It’s nice watching people react to the film.”
Although most of Barber’s students began their documentaries early in the fall semester, Powell’s film was years in the making. Powell was inspired to begin her project, which focuses on domestic violence, during her sophomore year of high school. According to Powell, the domestic violence education in her health classes were insufficient and she eventually decided to join the Reynolds School to complete her project.
At first, Powell struggled to find a news angle for her story. Barber’s documentary course provided an opportunity for Powell to tell a more personal story than would typically be found in traditional newsrooms.
Powell encouraged students interested in filmmaking to take Barber’s documentary course and noted that despite joining the Reynolds School solely to complete her documentary, her journalism education proved to be a worthwhile experience.
“Barber encouraged everyone to follow the project they wanted to create and there was always a way to work around roadblocks and obstacles we may have come up against,” Powell said. “At the [Reynolds School] we always got to pitch our stories and if we pitched them well enough we were allowed to pursue them. I’m not sure how that works in an entry level journalism job but that freedom the school gives its students really allows them to figure out if this is what they want to do.”
For Matus, creating documentaries is exactly what she wants to do. While her project for Barber’s class was her first film, Matus thoroughly enjoyed the experience and plans on continuing to produce documentaries in the future.
“Everyone has a story to tell and it’s really fun to be able to go out into the community and tell those stories,” Matus said. “The whole process has lit a fire in me to tell more stories in a documentary fashion. I didn’t have the first idea of what would go into it but working together with Kari was fundamental in being able to create something that I’m really proud of.”
Interested in taking this course? The Reynolds School Documentary Filmmaking class for Fall 2016 will be listed in the course catalog as JOUR 460, News Studio: Documentary Filmmaking.