On March 26, over 150 students, faculty and staff gathered in the Executive Boardroom of the Bauccio Commons, ate popcorn and candy, played games and celebrated film in honor of the late Spanish professor, Kate Regan.
The “Kate Regan Film Festival” gave members of the UP community an opportunity to submit their short films with the chance of winning a cash prize and watching their film be aired.
Honoring the late and great Kate Regan
Although the banners read “Second Annual Kate Regan Short Film Festival,” this was the first year that the festival donned the name “Kate Regan.”
In the previous year, the event was called CISGO DIGI-SHORTS Digital Storytelling Festival and it was coordinated by Regan herself.
The beloved professor had a vision of not only creating a stronger international awareness with short films but also informing faculty, staff and students of UP’s film resources.
When Regan passed away suddenly in July 2014, her close friends and colleagues worked to honor her legacy and to make the Digital Storytelling Festival bigger and better than the year before.
“Several organizations banded together to move her vision forward and make it really special,” Karen Eifler, co-director of the Garaventa Center and close friend of Regan, said. “We wanted to capture the excitement that Dr. Regan brought to the first one and really extend her vision of it as well.”
The Garaventa Center and several other participants succeeded in their goal to improve on Regan’s brainchild. Where as last year’s fest received five submissions of only international films, this year’s film fest received 33 submissions in all five categories. Those who submitted ranged from students, faculty and staff.
Eifler says that Regan would have been thrilled to see participation from staff as well as students.
“Kate and I had been collaborating on ways to use film not just for entertainment but for teaching, assessment and student learning.” Eifler said. “She brought so much energy to the first one. I really wanted to see that vision expanded.
Best in Show
Gabriela Riegos won both “Best Narrative” and “Best in Show” for her film “Reasoning with my Depression.”
Although Riegos was pleasantly surprised by the recognition for her work, she says that the purpose of her film, an internal conversation between her depression and herself spelled out in golden and foam letters, was to continue her art even in the emotionally difficult transition from high school to college.
“I noticed that when I would fall into a more depressive state of mind, I stopped making art, I’d lose that part of myself,” Riegos said. “So this was making me literally sit down and make a script. I want to make art. I forced myself to make art.”
Riegos walked around the UP campus with her Canon 70 D in one hand and a pile of letters in the other. She put together sentences of hope and positivity in golden letters, and countering ones sprouted from her depression in different colored foam letters.
She said the process was therapeutic. No one on campus questioned or bothered her. As she stacked the letters in different places on campus, she was able to peacefully give her inner struggles a voice.
Riegos stumbled upon the golden letters, that would later lead her to hope and a $1,000 cash prize, by accident.
While shopping for college supplies, she came across them in the teacher’s section and was inspired. Ever since, she knew she had to use them to make art in some way.
“Every time I opened my drawer where I keep my art stuff in my dorm I was like, ‘Ah, there are those letters again,’” Riegos said. “I knew I wanted to do something with them, something expressive with words. It was just the constant nagging of those letters.”
Expressing herself through film really did make a difference in Riegos’ mental state, so much so that she decided to make at least one film a semester.
“It got me restarted,” Riegos said. “I don’t how to describe it. It just turned me around for a little bit. Making art just makes me feel so much better.”
Although ultimately, Riegos makes her films for herself, she found that sharing them with others can be equally rewarding.
It was a slow process getting the word out about her film. She first showed it to her roommate, and then eventually shared it on the Facebook page of a Catholic retreat she had gone on previously.
All the feedback was positive, which gave Riegos confidence.
“I realized that people also feel this way and didn’t know that they felt this way. A lot of people reached out to me,” Riegos said. “I think that seeing people’s reactions is a part of the art too. Seeing that I can affect them.”
Once Riegos caught word of the “Kate Regan Film Festival,” her film felt like a perfect fit.
She submitted the film with no expectation to win “Best in Show” and $1,000 cash prize. In fact, her only current plan to spend the generous prize includes treating her roommates to Taco Bell.
“It was kind of an impulse thing,” Riegos said. “I was like why not, I have it. It’s exactly five minutes long. This is the universe telling me to do this and it worked out for me.”
The other winners
Eifler was astonished at the amount of quality and talent within the festival’s 33 submissions. She said what was most exciting was the variety of films.
Therefore, it came as no surprise that the overall winner, along with the winners in each category, were all beautifully-shot inspiring pieces of art.
Category winners include senior Cassie Sheridan in the documentary film category for “Life Aboard the ‘Sea Prince’,” freshman Hunter Crawford in the humor category for “Walk Through Video Games,” junior Jason Smith in the animation category for his 3D stop-motion film “Scorned by Fate,” and junior Thomas Dempsey, in the International category for his film “Nicaragua.”
Dempsey’s collection of photography from his travel abroad experience in Nicaragua last May struck a chord with the audience.
Dempsey says that ultimately story-telling was his driving force for making the film.
“We were in a small village, 50 people maybe. I just wanted to try and tell their story a little,” he said. “One thing I always tell people is I like photography so much because I’m not very good at storytelling. So having pictures always helps with that process.”
The reason Dempsey made the film initially was to find an interesting way to share his trip with friends and family, so when he heard about the film festival he was excited about the opportunity to share his work.
“I didn’t think any film festival would pop up where I could submit it,” Dempsey said. “To show it in a space like that with a bigger audience definitely was exciting for me.”
Kate Regan Film Fest: UP at its best
Category winners took home a cash prize of $250 each while the “Best in Show” winner took home an extra $750. Each winner was presented with a giant foam check.
These significant cash rewards are a result of a generous donor who loved Kate Regan and wanted to see the festival continue. Eifler says that this marks the overall theme of the festival: Generous community members working together to make something great.
“I think this is UP at its best,” Eifler said. “People taking an idea and making it truly awesome by bringing their gifts and talents to the table and being really generous with what they have.”
People from all over UP worked to make the festival happen. Campus Program Board donated popcorn and candy, and The Library’s Digital Lab offered workshops on how to edit films and lent out equipment.
Several Spanish professors also got involved. Lauren Gaskill, Spanish professor and Regan’s niece, put together a collection of Regan’s short films to display at the festival. Andrea Castanette emceed the program and there was also a Spanish professor on the board of judges.
“Anytime people from all over campus come together to make something happen, I think that’s worth celebrating,” Eifler said. “A lot of the time, we feel like we’re in our little silos, our little caves, but when we come out magical stuff happens.”
–Story from the Beacon by: Rachel Rippetoe