Film school's Premiere Weekend screens unreleased movies
This week, Liberty University’s Cinematic Arts, Zaki Gordon Center hosted its annual Premiere Weekend, a film festival with exclusive screenings of new faith-based films, panel discussions featuring key members of the industry, and a chance for students to showcase their own short films.
The free festival began on Thursday, Aug. 28, with a prerelease showing of “Beyond the Mask” followed by a Q-and-A session with producer Aaron Burns at Cinemark Movies 10 in the Candlers Station Shopping Center, across from Liberty’s campus.
On Friday, Aug. 29, the festival continued with a screening of “Brother’s Keeper” and a discussion session with Cindy Bond, CEO of Mission Pictures. Immediately afterwards attendees saw “The Remaining,” AFFIRM Films’ adrenaline-pumped “found footage” spin on the end-times genre.
Rich Peluso, senior vice president for AFFIRM Films, also appeared for a Q-and-A with film students. Other notable films by AFFIRM include “Heaven Is For Real,” “Soul Surfer,” “Courageous,” “Moms’ Night Out,” and “When the Game Stands Tall,” which is now in theaters.
|Rich Peluso, senior vice president for AFFIRM Films, speaks to the audience following a special screening of "The Remaining," during Liberty University's Premiere Weekend film festival.|
For the students in attendance, the first two evenings of the festival were also an opportunity to reveal their own short films, the fruits of a demanding two-year program. Starting their junior year, cinematic arts students are immersed solely in filmmaking. Graduates finish the program with a completed screenplay, a business plan to market and fund it, a feature film credit, and a short film they have written and directed.
Walcene Metayer graduated from the film school in May and marked the milestone by unveiling his own short film in front of an audience of professors, coworkers, family, and friends on Friday.
“After spending hours and hours working on the script and from pre production to filming and post production, it's always a feeling of accomplishment to know that not only did I complete a short film, but that what I have created from nothing can come to life on the big screen,” he said. “I was thrilled with the amount of people that showed up to watch and support the film, and the feedback was very positive.”
Seeing the fruits of his labor reassured Metayer that he is on the right path.
“I thank God, Dan Gordon, Stephan Schultze, and President Jerry Falwell for bringing a cutting-edge film school with state-of-the-art equipment and facilities to Liberty, because this program definitely sharpened and refined my skills as a filmmaker.”
Metayer said the hands-on experience aspect of the program made the film school stand out to him against the competition.
Ian Miller, another film school graduate, was also thrilled at the opportunity to showcase his own work.
“I worked the film festival the first two years, so to be able to show my work in the festival now that I have finished (the program) is exciting,” Miller said. “The film festival shows the world outside of Liberty that we are a growing program and we strive for excellence in our art.”
Miller, like many of his fellow film alumni, feels that the Premiere Weekend is all about forming relationships with others in the film world.
“Students should come to the festival because it is a chance to build a network here in Lynchburg. Networking is what our industry is all about.”
On Saturday, Aug. 30, the festival will continue with panel discussions at 10:30 a.m. and noon with Bond, Peluso, and other faith-based movie moguls, such as Dan Gordon, the screenwriter and director whose credits include “The Hurricane,” “Murder in the First,” and “Wyatt Earp,” and Paul Lauer, founder of Motive Entertainment, which helped market “The Bible” miniseries, “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” and “United 93.”
Breakout sessions will follow at 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m., hosted by Burns, Gordon, Aaron Tabor (founder of Jesus Daily), and Bobby Downes (founder of Netflix-style DVD rental service ChristianCinema.com). A full schedule of Premiere Weekend events can be found on the department’s site.
The film festival is one of many valuable opportunities made available to students in the program. In February, Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, producers of “Son of God” and “The Bible” miniseries, flew eight Cinematic Arts students and two communication students to Hollywood to meet with them and attend a taping of “The Voice.” Earlier this month, ten aspiring filmmakers served on the set of the Kendrick brothers’ upcoming fifth film. In 2013, six students worked on the set of “Moms’ Night Out,” which premiered in May of this year featuring Patricia Heaton (“Everybody Loves Raymond”), Sean Astin (“The Lord of the Rings”), and country music singer Trace Adkins.