In entering the Ultimate Filmmaker Competition last November, a bold NJIT film crew took up a challenge that would test both their ingenuity and their stamina: to write, direct, and produce a short film in seven days based on three specifications provided the first day of the contest. When they hit ‘submit’ at midnight on the last day, it felt like something of a miracle.Better still, it was a miracle that did not dissipate with the morning light. The movie they shot, “A Special Kind of Magic,” lives on to screen next month at the Garden State Film Festival in Atlantic City along with another NJIT film, “Not Fade Away,” that was produced during an earlier session of the Ultimate Filmmaker Competition last June.
The two films are the first produced by the university’s theater arts program and shot on campus that have been accepted into festivals, notes Rodney Reyes, production manager for the joint Rutgers-NJIT Theatre Arts Program.
“It’s a great opportunity for our students, at a school known primarily for its technical prowess, to have their creativity celebrated in a film festival,” Reyes says, adding, "I'm very excited that some of the actors that I grew up watching on television and film will be attending the same festival in April. I'm hoping to run into Bebe Neuwirth and get a photo with her!"
Reyes says he was intrigued by Ultimate Filmmaker, an organization whose mission is “to inspire filmmakers, crew and talent to create good content in an exciting and supportive environment,” according to its founders, and wanted to “participate, win, and, more importantly, have fun.”
“And I definitely wanted to have students work on it. In some cases they know more about technology than I do, and it was an opportunity to learn even more. I also thought it would be fun and challenging – the only thing we could lose was sleep,” recounts Reyes, whose production company, Fictional Films, produced both films.
The film’s co-writer, Rebecca Cortes ’17, of Sayreville, began developing the story line with Reyes on Nov. 7 with the sparest of instructions – the film had to be a mystery that incorporated a wand as a prop and the line, “I literally cannot do this without you.” She began with the idea of a question - ‘What is the character looking for?’ - which generated a mystery and a search.
“What did I learn? Definitely that less is more - the audience is smarter than you think,” recounts Cortes, who also co-directed, and, as editor, whittled away several minutes of footage. It was an experience, she says, that “took me way out of my comfort zone. I had no choice!”
Eric Holzer ’16, of Middlesex, a Mechanical Engineering and Theater Arts and Technology double major, also had a strenuous role in the marathon effort as the sound man.
“You’re holding onto a very big stick with a microphone at the end and making sure that you’re as close as possible without getting into the camera frame. There was a 12-hour stint that was a little stressful,” Holzer recalls, adding gamely, however, “I’m ready for whatever Rodney throws at me next.”
Freshmen Rebecca Cortes, a Digital Design major, served as co-writer/co-director and editor, Lea Burlew ‘17, from Avenel, also a Digital Design major, served as cinematographer and Vipin Kannekanti ’17, a Computer Science major from Edison, was a production assistant for the film "A Special Kind of Magic." Alumni Kenneth A. Welch and David Einstein served as assistant directors and Daniel Ovalle composed the music.
Senior Gretchen Von Koenig lent her voice to the film "Not Fade Away." Alumnus Kenneth A. Welch was a co-writer and worked on sound, alumni Daniel Ovalle composed the music, and Matan Shavat and Francisco Sarmiento were production assistants.
"Not Fade Away" was accepted into last year's International Film Festival in Manhattan winning "Best Short," the Alexandria Film Festival in Virginia, the online Creative Arts Film Festival, the Garden State Film Festival, and the NewFilmmakers in Manhattan this coming May at the Anthology Film Archives. The Garden State Film Festival will be the first for "A Special Kind of Magic."
"A Special Kind of Magic" will screen in screening block RSR 18 at 12:15pm, Sunday, April 6th, 2014 at the Resorts Hotel & Casino, Resorts Showroom. Tickets can be purchased here: http://www.linerocket.com/Events/Screening-Block-RSR-18.
"Not Fade Away" will screen in screening block RSR 14 at 12:15pm, Saturday, April 5th, 2014 at the Resorts Hotel & Casino, Resorts Showroom. Tickets can be purchased here: http://www.linerocket.com/Events/Screening-Block-RSR-14.
Trailers for both short films can be found at http://vimeo.com/fictionalfilms.
For more information about the Garden State Film Festival go to http://www.gsff.org.