ProAm USA announced the winners of its 2014 International Student Film Competition. Designed to encourage budding filmmakers, the competition was free to enter and open to students enrolled in accredited high schools, colleges and universities worldwide. The winners were chosen by a Hollywood jury, including The Walking Dead writer Curtis Gwinn, The Good Wife and Law & Order actor Ash Christian and Chicago International Film Festival jury organizer Bohus Blahut. Entries were judged on film narrative, originality and execution of chosen genre.
University of North Carolina School of the Arts student filmmaker Matthew Krieg took home the grand prize for his short film Dudley Taft, winning $1,500 and the Orion Production Package. Krieg started the project after he was referred to local musician Dudley Taft, who was looking for a music video to coincide with his album release. “I was thrilled to take on the challenge of creating a music video, a medium of film I hadn’t explored before,” said Krieg. “Dudley gave us the theme he wanted us to explore: Spaghetti Western.”
Krieg worked with the producer/production designer, Conner Sullivan, to come up with a narrative for the video that would work with their extremely limited budget of only $1,000.
“I come from a narrative film background, and I have noticed that modern American music videos typically lack any attempt to create a narrative at all. I wanted to make sure that the music video I made had a narrative as the backdrop,” said Krieg. “After throwing around ideas, we came across the idea of recreating [John] Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Its main attraction at the time was that it could be pulled off with only two main actors, and I felt that it would fit well with the tone of the song.”
German student filmmaker Marvin Nuecklaus secured the first place honor with his film WASSER Werke, an animation starring a figure made entirely from water.
“My biggest dream is to move to the States to work for the American film industry,” said Nuecklaus. “So what could be greater than to enter an American film competition? It’s actually my second competition in the U.S. and it’s not going to be the last one! Of course, the prize was attractive as well, especially the fact that not only can I win film equipment, but also my university. I think this makes the ProAm USA International Student Contest very special.”
The title WASSER Werke is German, meaning “water works.” The project was created to supplement Nuecklaus’s application to the university he now attends. The instructions were to create a three-minute video with said title. Nuecklaus’s interpretation led him to create a film based on how water affects the Earth and life. Nuecklaus said, “It’s just something special, and it was a big challenge for me because I’ve never done something like that before.”
When he won this first prize award, Nuecklaus was ecstatic. “For a filmmaker, this is the best feedback you can get,” he said. “The industry is so hard and unpredictable. To find a good job is like winning a million dollars. I think every filmmaker who really wants to earn his or her money in this industry is worried about his or her future. You really need to believe in yourself, and winning the first prize in a film competition is really helpful!”
ProAm also awarded several other entries for their excellence in film narrative, originality and execution of chosen genre. Additional awards included the second place prize of $400 and the Orion Jr. Crane to Adrià Olea Fernández’s Ana, the third place prize of $200 and the HD2 LCD Kit to Jason Segal’s Jenna, and honorable mentions to Álvaro Núñez‘s M is for Miracle and Travis Grenier‘s Gum. Amr Kawji was honored with the People’s Choice Award for Chicago Stands For Syrian Freedom, winning $1,500 and an Orion Production Package after receiving the most public votes.
“I really admire the level of professionalism in these entries,” said Blahut. “These are exciting days for filmmakers. Just a few years ago, it was inconceivable that an affordable camera could produce such a beautiful image, or that low-cost production tools like what you see from ProAm USA put truly high-end looks in the hands of nearly every filmmaker. Most importantly, it’s great to see filmmakers go out and create. That’s the best classroom of all.”