This week, 10 Oakland University students are bringing their stories to the big screen at the Sixth annual GrizzDance Film Festival.
The festival is the annual on-campus competition for independent student filmmakers. In order to be eligible for submission into GrizzDance, the film must have been shot within the last year, be submitted by an OU student prior to deadline, be no longer than 15 minutes and have a majority of its crew comprised of OU students.
This year, GrizzDance Vice President Adam McChesney said the most common theme for the film submissions was relationships. He noted that there are also two films this year that focus on awareness of serious issues, with one focusing on drinking and driving and the other on drug use on campus.
The committee reviews the submissions and organizes the event, including choosing an emcee and a keynote speaker.
“We faced quite a challenge this year, as all of our officers are brand new officers, but we’ve done a good job,” McChesney said. “Given that everyone’s new though, we have no past experience to go off of and so we’ve all added new ideas and personal touches to the event.”
The committee held auditions for the event’s emcee and chose senior Ryan D’Silva. D’Silva has been involved with GrizzDance for the past three years and has won numerous awards at the festival. This year, he will host the screenings as well as the award ceremony.
Over the past three years, D’Silva said the change in the quality of the films has been tremendous.
“The projects keep consistently getting better,” D’Silva said. “With the commercial market exploding and technology exploding, the accessibility of cameras has really increased. Projects are stepping up their game. The films shown at this particular festival are going to be awesome.”
D’Silva said as a filmmaker himself, the festival is a good opportunity for those interested in film in any way.
“Without GrizzDance, you can make all the video projects you want, but people won’t really see them,” D’Silva said. “I’ve had the luxury to show my films and do something with them at GrizzDance. I’m blessed to have been able to show what I can do with my talents at GrizzDance.”
In addition to benefits for up and coming filmmakers, D’Silva said the festival is important to the OU community as a whole.
“I think it’s vital to support your arts in general,” he said. “Film is how we remember history. For example, when I think of World War II, I think of ‘Saving Private Ryan.’ In the future, film will become more scholarly and academic, so encouraging film on campus as a major, as a philosophy, as a field of study is so important to establishing the academics of the future.”
McChesney agrees that one of the main aspects of the festival is its community vibe.
“It brings the campus together,” McChesney said. “Whether you’re a commuter or living in the res halls, regardless of major or class standing, you can make a movie or enjoy a movie. Everyone loves a movie.”
He also emphasizes that although the deadline for this year’s festival has passed, aspiring filmmakers can already start planning for next year’s GrizzDance.
“If you enjoy the festival this year, there’s nothing stopping you from submitting a film next year,” McChesney said.
Screenings of the 10 films will take place Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the Oakland Room in the Oakland Center. During this time, viewers may also vote for their favorite.
In addition to the screenings, a number of evening activities will be held on Wednesday night such as movie jeopardy in the Hamlin Lounge at 5 p.m.
The keynote speaker at GrizzDance this year is actor and writer Rasheed Muhammad. As part of the festival, Muhammad will have a preview screening of his film, “Wingman.” The screening of “Wingman,” followed by a question and answer session with Muhammad, will take place Thursday night at 5 p.m. in banquet room A in the Oakland Center.
The festival concludes with the reception ceremony and awards on Friday night starting at 7 p.m. in the Gold Rooms. This year’s first place film winner will receive $750.
“The bottom line of what makes a film, regardless of what you use to make it, is the story you tell,” D’Silva said. “I’m anticipating to see a lot of great stories this year.”