Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Triumph of the Human Spirit

Monika Moreno is a screenwriter and the director of the Angelus Student Film Festival, in Hollywood. Monika talks to True Feminism about the mission of Angelus.

SD: What does Angelus do?

MM: Angelus student film festival honors student filmmakers on an international level, at film schools, and universities. We honour the filmmaker as they create films that respect, the dignity of the human person, for example films shorts such as animation or documentary must have a theme such as redemption, tolerance, dignity, forgiveness, or spirituality. It could be a comedy, a tragedy, a hard-hitting documentary or a hilarious animation.

SD: How are Festival entries selected?

MM: We receive anywhere from 400 to 700 films a year and they go through three sets of jurors. Three people see the film in the first round, our judging is the heart of Angelus, because we take such great care and laborious detail, making sure each film, gets a fair shot, so it’s not just based on one person’s opinion, we might have a group watch a film, then a different group. We select a few members and those are our semi-finalists, and we have a top group of industry professionals choose the winners.

SD: How does Angelus differ from other Student film festivals?

MM: The difference between the Angelus student festivals and others for one is our theme, that the films must engage the heart, we do require production excellence, but stories are paramount and the central mission of Angelus.

SD: How does someone enter an Angelus film festival?

MM: It doesn’t matter what country they are from, they just go to our website or to without a, fill out the application online and send it to us. We keep prices down, we are a non-profit film festival. This year we have a new award called "Wake up to justice" and the winner of that must be around live action or documentary, must centre on social issues in a global way. The grand prizewinner gets $10,000 and then we have a $5,000 winner for a film that wins the triumph of the spirit award and then we have outstanding documentary and outstanding animation, so it’s quite gratifying to see Hollywood back our little festival. We offer tickets free in Hollywood, our goal, is to bring visibility to talented young filmmakers, who should have a career, in Hollywood or internationally.

After the festival is over we have tours, we go to Sundance and we are fortunate to be able to go to one international venue each year. We go to few other universities around the country, we believe film is universal language and the themes cross every culture, religion, every background: forgiveness, redemption, triumph of the spirit, so we believe what we are doing is to be able to take these young filmmakers around the world at times.

SD: What’s your favourite Angelus film?

MM: Its like crops of vine, it’s different every year you don’t know what you’re going to get. "I am always excited to see smaller films rise to the top, comedies have difficulty in general, even with the Academy awards, for some reasons, judges don’t always take comedy as seriously as the dramatic fair." We certainly have some great hard-hitting, dramas, this year and I am excited about them. " I am excited about a comedy, and for the world to see this comedy called "God of love." win the 10,000 grand prize." It will be interesting to see how that crosses over internationally.

SD: What advice would you offer someone who’s interested in the world of Alternate or independent filmmaking?

MM: Everybody always says persist and preserver and that’s certainly essential, but I would say “ study your craft first and by that I mean watch as many films as you can and I am always impressed when a young filmmaker, knows films from the 40s, 60s, 70s and knows international filmmakers." If they do they are going to go far. It’s like a lawyer studying cases and a doctor studying medicine. You just don’t jump in with your scalpel, because you have a great concept or any idea that happened to you or your buddy. They study and study for years. Not just film, but literature and music, and life and the arts and the more this is under their belt it certainty comes out. You can tell which filmmaker is going to make it because they take it so seriously that they eat, sleep, and drink it. Take your craft seriously.

SD: Where do the Winners go?

MM: The winners generally use their short film as a calling card, there are so many people flooding, Hollywood or saturating offices here, wanting to get a break or to be heard. You just have a screenplay or an idea you are not going to get heard quickly. With a film, a judge can see pretty quickly if you have talent or not. You can use that to get into festivals and to get noticed so many of our past winners have taken jobs, a few have made features, others have taken editing jobs, if they are animators they are getting story board artist jobs. We took one guy to Sundance last year, he was very enterprising, met somebody from MTV, who got him distribution and his feature will be at Toronto Film Festival this year.

SD: How did Angelus come up with its theme “the Triumph of the Human Spirit”?

MM: Angelus is 15 years old. 15 years ago the films that were coming out of Hollywood, were violent and were exploiting various negative elements in society, there are few good themes coming out too. A few people here got together, and thought "wouldn’t it be wonderful if we actually had a festival, if we have a venue for filmmakers to pursue these themes and award them." At the time they weren’t being awarded for that. We didn’t know if that would take off. It was very small, we only opened it to Southern California to see if there was interest, and the interest was overwhelming and it went on to a domestic, national and international level and it just took off.

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