The show went on for an annual tradition for cinema and screen studies students thanks to alumni support and the determined creativity of filmmakers in the Oswego family.

The 2020 Mixed Emotions Film Festival and an uplifting awards ceremony happened because of “a truly wonderful alumni experience” spearheaded by 2014 alumna Jessi Partridge, said faculty advisor Amy Shore, director of the cinema and screen studies program. 

Sponsored by the Oswego Film Club, the spring film festival dates back a decade as a way for cinema and screen studies students to make films over a 36-hour period and enjoy the work of their peers. The event typically begins on a Friday at 6 p.m. when the festival organizers release the requirements for the films -- such as a line of dialogue, a prop, a particular camera angle or edit -- then teams work the next day and a half to write, cast, shoot and edit films. 

Filmmakers who complete their films, fulfilling all requirements, are eligible for awards at a public screening the following weekend. These screenings in the Marano Campus Center auditorium “are standing-room-only as students from across campus enjoy watching the creations,” Shore noted.

The club planned to hold the festival after spring break, but the health conditions changed those plans. Until cinema and screen studies alumni came to the rescue.

Oswego connections

Partridge, an experienced location coordinator for the TV and film industry, heard from fellow Oswego alumna Jackie McTigue in late March about staging a remote film festival.

“She knew that I ran the festivals when I was a student and that a lot of alumni weren’t working with all production jobs stopping,” Partridge said. “So I agreed to throw the idea out there and see if anyone would be interested then take it from there.”

Via a Facebook group for current and graduated cinema and screen studies students, Partridge gauged interest and availability, picking a weekend that worked for most. She reached out to fellow grad Luke Polito to create a graphic for the event and consulted with others on picking a theme. Shore connected Patridge with current student Julia Keating to spread the word to Oswego classmates. Partridge, McTigue and Keating put together an email list and sent the invitation Polito designed.

The call for entries found immediate interest. Working around a theme of identity, current students and alumni worked in teams -- sometimes on different coasts, Shore said -- and maintained appropriate physical distancing rules.

“We ended up getting 27 registrations and 22 submitted films,” Partridge said. “I really enjoyed getting to interact with current students who I’ve never met before and also being in touch with my former classmates who I don’t talk to as often as I’d like.” 

Remote red carpet

Partridge tapped 2103 Oswego graduate Allain Daigle to co-host a Zoom awards ceremony that included the student screenings. Much like the live version of previous years, she wanted to maintain the dress-up nature of the event.

“I requested that everyone get dressed up in red carpet attire to sit on their couches and hang out on Zoom while I presented some made-up awards,” Partridge said. 

“It was so much fun for me watching everyone’s faces pop up on my screen as they logged on, people I didn’t know and people I haven’t seen in years,” she added. “It was a really fantastic reunion. After Allain and I finished presenting the awards and I had nothing else to say I kept asking other people to say things because I didn’t want it to end!”

The YouTube live stream ‘premiere’ of the films took place on Saturday evening (April 25) with more than 50 screens logged in around the country (with multiple viewers in each site),” Shore said. “The chat screen was buzzing all night with alumni and students enjoying each others’ films.”

A YouTube posting of the 22 submitted films had received more than 300 views as of early last week, Shore noted. But the biggest measure of success was how the Oswego filmmaking community responded, she added.

“While I sat in my living room in red-carpet attire with my family and watched the films, I felt overwhelmed with gratitude for our students and alumni,” Shore recalled. “In the middle of a pandemic, they came together to CREATE together. When prospective students ask what makes Oz CSS different, it is precisely that spirit and commitment to our shared community that I cite. Never have I seen it more evident than that evening.”