No matter how much we try to put it off, finals week approaches, ready to attack.

During these last few weeks, every student manages to scramble to get everything in order and for film majors it’s only that much more stressful. Trust me, I know. Having your project ready in time for the end of the year can be a challenge, but with the right crew and the best equipment Keene State College can offer, it should come out great.

Sometimes people don’t know what it takes to put together a film, short or long, and all the effort and care that goes into it. Well, this weekend was The Film Festival and Critical Studies Conference where all film students from KSC had their moment to shine.

Starting on Friday night at the Putnam Arts Lecture Hall was the combination of projects from Production I, Production II, Storytelling and Animation.

About five minutes after I arrived, nearly every seat in that theater was filled with students and proud professors, eager to see the finished results on the big screen.  From what I saw, I have to say that this was an amazing year for student films. Each one felt unique in its own way.

Some of my personal favorites were “Connor & Max” where film student Connor Vail has an open conversation discussing what it meant to come out to his parents and his experience in general, as well as “Red Unseen” by P1 student Chris Oblon, about a killer apple on the loose.

Both of these films differ in content, but that’s what I loved about this festival. Some shorts like Vail’s felt personal and inviting, while others decided to try something more fun and new.

Natalie Rees, Mikhail Lavrentyev, Lena Houst, Matt Hanley, Nicole Albee, Connor Vail, Seiichiro Okuma and Nic Pollock are a few of the names who seem destined for greatness in the future, based on what I saw.

From there, Part II of the KSC Film Festival took place in the astonishingly beautiful Colonial Theater of Downtown Keene. This special event was to present the P3/P4 films usually made by the year’s juniors and seniors, and what a selection we had this year.  Out of the whole selection “Dream Big” touched me the most. This was a film about what it means to dream or to have a dream.

Everything from nighttime dreams to daydreams is covered, and in such an imaginative way.

It feels like the filmmakers understood that not all nighttime dreams make the most sense and seeing the setting from a child’s perspective really brought me back to those nights when I felt like had I awoken from a grand adventure.

The daydreaming aspect also perfectly captures the boredom that builds up into something that we want to see, rather than what we’re getting at the moment. Overall, “Dream Big” truly is an inspirational piece that everyone can relate to, no matter what age they are.  Next up was “Lost in Bloom” which blew myself and the audience away with its luscious cinematography and human emotion. It took me a minute or so to understand what was happening, but once everything fell into place, it became an emotional roller coaster of the human psyche.

Due to an experimental brain treatment, the protagonist Ethan gains confidence within himself. However, the experiment has some drawbacks as well. He questions life and the true meaning of love, which is something that I think most people have done or will do at some point in their lives.

Watching Ethan try to figure out what to do shows a vulnerable side of humanity that we rarely see. For that matter alone, “Lost in Bloom” was an incredible experience.

From there, directors Steven Urquhart and Nicole Reitano crafted “Revision: A Plant-Based Documentary” from a very personal place.

In their film, they try to show the benefits that being vegan can have both on yourself and the animals

George Amaru / Graphic Design Editor

George Amaru / Graphic Design Editor

that are consumed on a daily basis. When asked about what inspired him to develop this film, Steve stated that he “wanted to make a film dedicated to animal rights.”  He hopes that it “makes people think” and maybe “open their eyes” to the issue of animal rights.

What I commend about Steve’s film is that anybody can use slaughterhouse footage to show the cruelty of farm animals but instead, he realized that there is a better way to get his message across.

Capturing footage from farm sanctuaries to vegan-based businesses allowed Steve and Nicole to present their case in a way that anybody watching their film can understand without resorting to shock tactics.

Steve also stated that he would like to make this “an ongoing series” and with the ideas that he has, I wish him the best of luck moving forward.

Next up was “Speakeasy,” where in an alternate future, Prohibition has come back full-force, reducing citizens to once again find private places to drink.

When a group of three friends get together to build a speakeasy of their own, they have great success, that is until someone threatens to destroy everything that they have worked for.

The idea of Prohibition coming back is a fascinating story within itself but when you add a very human story to the mix, it creates an interesting combination. Co-director Joe Fusco when asked about his inspiration for the film stated that he wanted to create, “a sense of community, a place where people can feel safe.”

From what I’ve seen in the film, I definitely feel a sense of community within the three main protagonists.  “Speakeasy’s”  cinematographer Hazel Marder described the set as a “unique environment” and that the “energy from everyone involved was unbelievable.”  Overall, “Speakeasy” was a colorful and moving story about what it means to feel free.

While every film on this roster did a great job, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t have a blast with

“The Adventures of Chase Laser,” an action packed sci-fi tale told with puppets and practical effects.

The short consisted of two episodes and they are both action-packed and hilarious. At only 14 minutes, I was left disappointed because once Episode 2 ended, I wanted more adventures with Chase and his cadet Petey.

I could see this becoming an ongoing series that will always have my attention.

Overall, props to everyone involved for creating such a fun and original property that has legs to survive in the ongoing future.  “Among Wolves” was the final film to be shown during the festival and while it wasn’t the final finished cut, I saw potential for when it is completed. Until then, I think that the filmmakers are on the right track to crafting an interesting feature film.

While everything I saw this week may not be an incredible masterpiece, I respect each and every film shown because of one element, effort.

For everything that didn’t work, I saw a crew of students who put their best foot forward and crafted something that they thought worked.  Every step of production all the way from pre to post is a rigorous process and in that regard, I saw students that could one day have a valuable position in the film industry due to their dedication to their work.

Matt Bilodeau can be contacted at

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