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Resurrecting the student film festival

U of R students bring back Living Skies Film Festival for its 25th year

Paul Bogdan
A&C Writer

Going down that hallway in the Education building that barely fits two people side-by-side always makes me feel a bit claustrophobic. Unfortunately for the organizers of the 25th Living Skies Student Film Festival, who hold the annual event in a room down said hallway, they have to deal with that feeling.

“We’ve been asking for a larger room for a while now, but there just aren’t any,” said third-year film student Adrienne Adams, who is one of the festival’s organizers.

She and five other students have been busily organizing the upcoming Living Skies Student Film Festival, which is set to take place on Feb. 10 and 11. The festival will be showcasing student films from across the country.

“All the films are fifteen minutes or less, and it’s free to submit a film,” Adams said. “We put out a call for submissions all across Canada and the States; we wanted to do this so you can see what your peers are doing while you’re in school. It’s nice to know what calibre films are coming from Toronto or other centres.”

The films will be shown in the categories of high school, animation, experimental, documentary and nonfiction, and fiction. Adams said students can expect “entertainment.”

“Usually with short films you’re kept entertained,” she said. “One downfall of student films is that they run too long, but from what I’ve seen of the submissions, they’re pretty good.”

Adams said she is excited with the submissions that they have received, but played coy when discussing particulars.

“There’s one submission that I’m really excited to screen from Montreal. It’s in the experimental category, and that’s all I’m going to say … I think it will be interesting to see the audience’s reaction,” Adams said.

As well as the screenings of the films, there will also be workshops throughout the weekend and an awards gala on Feb. 11.

“We’re flying in Donald McWilliams from the National Film Board to come give a workshop, and local special effects genius Emersen Ziffle is giving a workshop. Actress Angela Edmunds will also be giving a workshop,” Adams said.

If you’re unfamiliar enough with the Living Skies Student Film Festival that its upcoming silver anniversary seems to have come out of nowhere, Adams explains that, while the festival has been running in its current form for 25 years, it has a new identity due to a recent rebranding.

“We recently renamed it,” Adams said. “It used to be called the National Student Film Festival, but there’s one in Montreal with a very similar name, so we thought we’d rebrand this year and change it. Now it’s the Living Skies Film Festival.”

Although the festival has a storied history, writing that history down has proven difficult. Written documentation borders on being nonexistent. The festival hasn’t been held on a strict annual basis, and the years it did take place haven’t been diligently chronicled.

“The records kind of come and go,” Adams said. “Our film lounge is quite small; it’s kind of like a closet, so we have limited storage space for things. We only have a filing cabinet to store things in, so our records are shoddy at best. There are a couple posters in there though. I know there’s one from 1995, and there’s another one we put this year from the ’80s or so … That’s as far back as we know, I guess.”

The festival’s history is passed along predominantly by oral records and personal accounts because of the lack of space needed to store written records.

“You ask around people in the industry who are older who went to school here, and they’ll say, ‘Oh, we threw a festival this year,’ so you can kind of trace it back,” Adams said.

The problem with this is that the festival (under either moniker as the Living Skies Student Film Festival or National Student Film Festival) hasn’t happened every year. Years lacking enough interest to put on this festival thus create gaps in the oral records.

“[Interest] ebbs and flows,” Adams said. “Some years it just doesn’t happen, like last year … It comes and goes every year because student enthusiasm and want tends to wane.”

However, to combat waning interest in the Living Skies Student Film Festival, it has recently been changed into a for-credit class for the students involved in organizing it.

"We get a credit for putting it on, but that’s mostly because in years past no one was enthusiastic enough to put on the festival,” Adams said. “There will be years where the festival is really big, but we haven’t had one in a while. We thought making it a class would help out.”

Adams hopes this will help get students involved in the festival earlier in their years at the university as opposed to what typically happens now.

“Usually when students start getting involved, they’re in their third or fourth year, and once you’re out of school, you’re not going to come back and help out a student film festival,” Adams said. “I think people don’t really know how to get involved.”

Getting people involved in the festival is important not only to keep the event exciting but also to develop the skills of film and video production students here at the University of Regina. The Queen City is the only city in the 4,000 kilometres between Vancouver and Toronto to offers a bachelor’s degree in this field of study.

“That’s what we’re shooting for, to get more attention to Regina, and also to benefit those from Regina too see what their peers are making,” Adams said. “We’ve got submissions from both coasts, Saskatoon, and some local ones.”

Not only that, but it’s one of the few festivals that is run completely by students.

“Every year it’s been run by students,” Adams said. “It’s for students by students, and that’s one of the cool things about it. There aren’t that many festivals that do that.

Tickets to the awards gala at the Owl are $12 and include a free pint. They can be purchased in Riddell Centre. The screenings and workshops are free to attend.

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