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Campus Profile: Christopher Newport University

Eleventh in a series of articles from our visits to colleges and universities that are invited to participate in the 2018 College Film Awards.

Newport News is the site for one of Virginia’s youngest and fast-rising universities, Christopher Newport University. Named after the captain of the Susan Constant and one of the founders of the Virginia colony in 1607, CNU has established itself as the third most difficult college for student admissions in the state.

We were greeted last week by Baxter Vendrick of the CNU Alumni Office, who graciously showed off the beautiful campus. Modeled after Thomas Jefferson’s lawn at the University of Virginia, CNU boasts an “academical village” of sorts with stately brick mansions surrounding a pristine lawn – “longer than UVA’s,” Mr. Vendrick noted.

CNU began in 1957 as an offshoot campus of William and Mary and became an independent university in 1992. Today, Christopher Newport is a four-year public university that enrolls 5,000 students in rigorous and rewarding academic programs in the liberal arts and sciences. According to its website, CNU offers great teaching and small class sizes with an emphasis on leadership, civic engagement and honor.

The University also offers a film studies minor, although the course curriculum is light on film production work. We learned that CNU students have organized the “Full Sail Film Club,” which appears to be geared toward exploration of film themes rather than production of student films. We have reached out to the club to determine whether student films, including documentaries, may be available for the College Film Awards.

With its growing standing in the Commonwealth’s community of universities, we encourage Christopher Newport to participate in our growing College Film Awards event by submitting their best student films to our contest. Go Captains!

Campus Profile: College of William and Mary

Tenth in a series of articles from our visits to colleges and universities that are invited to participate in the 2018 College Film Awards.

Today we visit the oldest college in Virginia — the College of William and Mary. Founded in 1693, this institution of classical learning considers itself a “public Ivy” due to its stellar academic reputation. One can almost imagine Edgar Allan Poe lurking about the hallowed halls and serpentine paths.

But the cinema program? You have to traverse a long hallway in a building off Jamestown Road, to a doorway on the edge of a past century or two. Could easily be part of Williamsburg’s famous ghost tour.

W&M does offer a major in Film and Media Studies (or FMST – not sure what the T stands for). And the College boasts many famous alums in stage, screen and television – Jon Stewart among them. So we surmise that a lot of magic happens behind that distant door, down the long hallway, on the edge of a past century.

Anyway, we touched the door lightly, left some literature, recited an incantation from a Tribe of students long ago — all in hopes that our information filters to W&M’s talented film students.

Perhaps they will submit their finest narrative and documentary shorts to the 2018 College Film Awards and bring home our Grand Prize trophy to dear old William and Mary. Go Tribe!

Campus Profile: Mary Baldwin University

Ninth in a series of articles from our visits to college and universities that are invited to participate in the 2018 College Film Awards.

One beautiful aspect of our College Film Awards is this: the best films are not necessarily created in the biggest schools, or the best funded schools, or even schools with nationally prestigious film programs. The best films come from the best student filmmakers – those who have a story to tell and develop the most creative format to express it.

Enter Mary Baldwin University in Staunton, VA. An historically women’s college nestled in the Shenandoah Valley, whose strength lies with its size (only 2,125 students) and its tradition of high achievement (probably due to its 10 to one student to teacher ratio). It’s easy to underestimate MBU. Don’t.

In our 2017 College Film Awards, a Mary Baldwin filmmaker submitted a short entitled, “Delicacy,” and won the top award for artistic merit. Talula Mays, in MBU fashion, whooshed past student films from powerhouse programs and achieved a top prize for her Poe-like suspense story. She vows to enter another film this year.

We met with film studies professor Allan Moyé in his quaint movie office on campus. He told us that MBU has offered a film minor through the school’s communications department for about five years. Students recently are able to design a studio art major, and the school plans to recruit students for film studies next year.

“Our students are getting into more visual studies,” Professor Moyé said. “It is the new language. It is the new literature.”

Perhaps with his student’s win at Poe last November, he can encourage more funding and attract alumni support for production studios on campus in addition to the former WHSV studio. Imagine what these achieving Mary Baldwin students can accomplish with better equipment and facilities.

So we welcome Mary Baldwin University to the 2018 College Film Awards. Thank you for honoring us with “Delicacy” last year. What delicacies may follow this year? Go Fighting Squirrels!

Campus Profile: James Madison University

Eighth in a series of articles from our visits to colleges and universities that are invited to participate in the 2018 College Film Awards.

We secured a promise yesterday that’s exciting.

James Madison University film students, and there are about 200 of them, will submit their finest short films and documentaries to compete in Poe Film Festival’s College Film Awards on Saturday, November 3.

The gauntlet has been laid (lain?) tossed into the arena. Watch out.

We met with Dr. Gwyneth Mellinger, director of the JMU School of Media Arts and Design (SMAD), at her office in Harrison Hall on a rainy Wednesday morning. Her words were like summer sunshine to us. SMAD, she said, pushes its film students to enter competitions and gain experience networking with filmmakers outside the classroom.

Perfect, works for us.

James Madison, set in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, is less than a two-hour drive to our festival home at the Grace Street Theater in Richmond. The school’s talented film students produce short narrative films in their directing class and, recently, have upgraded their documentary production with an initiative that tracks the lives of so-called “Dreamers” in the Harrisonburg school system. Our new documentary award category hopes to attract such topical films.

Dr. Mellinger provided a tour of the SMAD film production facilities, the massive equipment room, the beautiful television studio, and state-of-the-art editing classroom. She beamed with pride at how far the film program has progressed in the past few years with solid University support and financial gifts from alumni.

That’s how dreams come true for talented film students. We welcome JMU’s finest to our College Film Awards. Go Dukes!

Campus Profile: Regent University

Seventh in a series of articles from our visits to colleges and universities that are invited to participate in the 2018 College Film Awards.

Remarkable! The commitment, passion, joy, and indomitable spirit of the Regent University film school create the perfect environment for remarkable movie making. No surprise then that Regent captured the grand prize award at the 2017 Poe Film Festival College Film Awards.

Jarrod Anderson, director of the top film, “Changing Jane,” and Nathanael Dunn, director of the best story, “Until Death Do Us Part,” led all Official Selections on the judges’ scoresheets, propelling Regent University to its status as Top Film School in Virginia.

We visited the university’s campus in Virginia Beach to formally present the winner’s check, sponsored by the Virginia Film Office. And in grand Regent fashion, we were treated to a reception with the College’s dean, Dr. Robert Herron Jr.; the School’s director, Dr. Peter Fraser; its renowned film professor, Andrew Quicke, and its accomplished documentarian/professor Vincent Williams. Also joining us was student filmmaker Nick Moon, whose production, “Ticking Hearts,” earned Official Selection honors at the festival.

After the reception at the university’s impressive Communications Building, Peggy Southerland, whose title is Professional in Residence (but who we believe is really the person in charge), gave the Poe festival directors a complete tour of Regent’s production facilities. Amazing. We were astounded by the quality and quantity of equipment available to students as well as studios, animation room, voiceover booth, audio facilities, and an auditorium that rivals any university venue we’ve seen in Virginia.

More impressive than its production facilities are Regent’s 125 undergraduate and 100 graduate film students. Drawing from a national and international pool of talent, Regent students share a passion and dedication to positive storytelling. Peggy and Andrew beamed with pride when recalling how their students deliver their messages with mounting drama and efficiency. It is remarkably similar to Edgar Allan Poe’s Philosophy of Composition — rising tension, unity of effect, reaching for the proper emotion in the audience.

Regent University filmmakers have won top prizes in more than 300 film festivals across the country, an awesome accomplishment for any university. For more information: https://www.regent.edu/acad/schcom/landing_pages/film-school/accelerate-film.cfm

Professor Williams promises more quality submissions to the 2018 Poe Film Festival, including documentaries. We can’t wait to watch this year’s Regent student films. Go Royals!

Campus Profile: Old Dominion University

Sixth in a series of articles from our visits to colleges and universities that are invited to participate in the 2018 College Film Awards.

If you want a true Virginia college experience, look no further than the traditions and forward-looking vibe you find at Old Dominion University in Norfolk.

ODU is the Commonwealth’s leading entrepreneurial research university, offering 120 undergraduate majors with courses designed to propel graduates into successful careers in business, technology, medicine and the arts.

Belying its name, the university is one of the freshest faces among Virginia schools, having been established in 1930 by its neighbor to the west, College of William and Mary. It gained independence from W&M in 1962, and has established itself as a powerhouse in research, technology, athletics and … film!

We stopped by the University Theater to visit Professor David Mallin, director of the ODU film program. His creative students explore both narrative and documentary filmmaking in two emphasis areas in filmmaking: BA in Theatre Arts with an emphasis in Cinema Production and BA or BS in Communication with an emphasis in cinema and television production.

We watched Professor Mallin’s work on a recent documentary screened by the Virginia Production Alliance, “Uma,” shot in Mali and produced with student help. Perhaps more student documentaries could be submitted for the College Film Awards in a few months.

Also, we learned from our visit that the ODU student film club partners with a similar club at Regent University.
That’s an interesting arrangement that surely helps both schools.

Welcome ODU filmmakers to our screening party and awards this year. We look forward to your submissions. Go Monarachs!

Campus Profile: Hampton University

Fifth in a series of articles from our visits to colleges and universities that are invited to participate in the 2018 College Film Awards.

One step onto the grounds of Hampton University and a wave of history sweeps over you. It’s a story not unlike a tale of Aristotelian dimension — struggle, objective, journey and redemption. Hampton’s first class, in 1861, consisted of twenty students of newly freed slaves under Union Army supervision. “Contraband of War” they were called. Despite Virginia law forbidding education of blacks, these students gathered for class under a simple oak tree, “the Emancipation Oak,” which still stands on campus.

The objective, of course, was education — the great equalizer of society. And the journey of the last 150 years, the steady and focused pursuit of learning to those less fortunate among us, has produced perhaps the world’s most accomplished and successful historically black university.

Pride, social consciousness, political energy and leadership are themes that abound on this campus — themes that are reflected in the quality of student filmmaking here.

The University’s Film and Television Studies program trains “visual” storytellers who will make their marks on society in the 21st Century. Hampton advocates an “interdisciplinary nature” of film, and provides opportunities for students to draw upon subjects, for example, such as history, English literature, music, fine art, psychology and architecture, to provide a context for the creation of their visual stories.

We had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Karen Ward, chair of fine and performing arts at Hampton. Her program offers a B.A. in English with an emphasis in Film and Television Studies and a Minor in Film Studies. The school offers courses in screenwriting, television writing, digital filmmaking, film history, film criticism, film festival development and the adaptation of novels to screen.

Congratulations to Hampton, where students draw on a history of yearning for education. We at Poe Film Festival can’t wait to see the intensity and powerful stories these students will submit to our College Film Awards this year. Go Pirates!

Campus Profile: Virginia Commonwealth University

Fourth in a series of articles from our visits to colleges and universities that are invited to participate in the 2018 College Film Awards in November.

Poe wandered about most of his life, never truly having one city to call his own. In a sense, we at the Poe Film Festival have that wandering feeling as we determine whether our College Film Awards should travel about Virginia from year to year, from one college to another, until we settle down.

Enter Virginia Commonwealth University in uptown Richmond. It’s difficult for us not to call VCU our home.

One lesson from our 2017 festival is the importance of a central location that can be reached by car in two to three hours at most by our traveling college students. VCU checks that box. Second, our venue must offer a “big screen” experience for our filmmakers, in a setting for 200-300 guests. VCU can handle that. Finally, the festival must provide better facilities for networking and educational programs. We discovered today that VCU can provide that.

On top of those criteria, VCU brings a world-class cinema and media arts department brimming with creative story ideas and student film projects. This year, we must tap into that creativity and bring VCU into our fold of colleges.

We met with Hong Cheng, director of VCU’s School of Media and Culture, to strengthen our ties with the university and open more avenues of communication with its student filmmakers. Dr. Cheng reported that his school offers a capstone class each semester where teams of students produce short documentaries as a final project.

That got us thinking: why not offer an award in a documentary category? One of our strongest entries last year was a documentary from a Virginia Tech student. Surely, many of our colleges could participate in such a category.

So we pursue VCU as our home team this year and join in what they call “Chaos.” Go Rams!

5 Reasons to Submit Your Script to The Poe Contest

It’s that time of year when the world falls in love with your screenplay. So don’t keep it hidden in a binder on your shelf. Be proud. Share it with the world, and the world will reward you when you submit to The Poe Contest.

Why should you submit to Poe rather than other contests? Five reasons:

Number Five

Our judges. Each script is read in total by our panel of Poe scholars, not some second year dental school student who took a composition class in L.A. public schools. Maybe that’s a little harsh, but some contests (especially the big ones) pay their judges pittance per 120-page script. Is that fair to you?

Number Four

Our scripts are judged based upon Poe’s Principles of Composition, not Save The Cat formulas or typical Hollywood weak story-telling. If you have a script that’s original, with rising tension and emotional connection, we will reward you.

Number Three

Check out our submission prices. We don’t soak you.

Number Two

Our winners have a history of getting produced. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Last year’s feature winner, “The Odds” by Bob Giordano is in post-production, and our shorts winner, “I’ll Have Another” by Bill Brock is enjoying top film awards at several film festivals this year. Hint: our script development partner, Poe Films, is in talks for two of our top-placing scripts.

Number One

It’s POE! Win it and your career will languish Nevermore.

Campus Profile: Virginia State University

Third in a series of articles from our visits to colleges and universities that are invited to participate in the 2018 College Film Awards.

Virginia State University in Petersburg is thousands of miles from Hollywood. But what a setting for filmmaking!

Set on a bluff above the Appomattox River, this beautiful campus is dotted with historic brick buildings from centuries past. A quick walk down Hayden Street, however, transports us to the 21st century with new classrooms, residence halls and athletic facilities.

We are interested in student filmmaking. So how does VSU stack up? We met with Emmy Award-winning director Jesse Vaughan at nearby Vincenzo’s Restaurant and asked him. Jesse produces in-house films for the university, including a short about Edgar Allan Poe’s early years in Petersburg. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxXLVUXz2Zo&t=80s He worked with creative VSU students in his production.

Although talent abounds on campus, the school does not offer a film studies major. Currently, VSU has a screenwriting class and mass communications courses more centered to broadcast television. VSU is heading in the right direction by moving its media studies department to the new Academic Commons Building, where presumably the department can enhance its film production facilities.

In the meantime, we hope VSU’s ambitious young filmmakers will move forward and produce their creative stories, and then submit their films to be shown at the 2018 College Film Awards next November. Go Trojans!