Saddleback film students celebrate their projects at the 2022 Newport Beach Film Festival

Saddleback film students take their photo on the red carpet at the 2022 Newport Beach Film Festival. Dylan Luden | Lariat

Saddleback film students were able to show off their new films at the annual 2022 Newport Beach Film Festival  to their classmates, friends, family and faculty, on Saturday, Oct. 15This year’s festival took place at the Edwards Big Newport theater which was a change from last year’s venue at the Starlight Triangle Square Cinemas. Six Saddleback films were shown at this year’s showcase.

Guests entered through the top of the venue being guided down by escalators to the main theater. On the way down they are welcomed with a red carpet with the Newport Beach Film Festival backdrop behind it for photo and interview opportunities. The student filmmakers were given a special orange pass to wear stating their role with the film.

The festival featured films of different genres such as documentaries, dramas and comedies. The lengths of the short films varied from four minutes to 20 minutes, occupying a one hour window. After all the films were shown, the theater was opened to a Q&A session with the directors and writers of the films where the audience asked questions. 

Saddleback’s president, Dr. Elliot Stern, was in attendance at the film festival to see the work of the students on display, and he enjoyed seeing their work being represented.

“I loved the films and I thought they showed talent and great potential talent both,” Stern said. “They were entertaining and wonderful while hitting on real themes, so I praise all the students and all of our faculty and staff who support them and help these students make their movies.”

Kicking off the festival was the documentary “Pride of Kokomo.” The film centers around the life of Linda Farmer, a grandmother living in Orange County who is from Kokomo, Indiana. The documentary dove into her childhood growing up as an African American girl living through the Civil Rights era and the racism she encountered living in the midwest. 

The film’s director, Berkley Farmer, felt inspired by some of the stories that his grandmother, Linda, was telling him about her experiences growing up in that era and wanted to showcase them on the big screen.

“When I was growing up, my grandma would tell me bits of stories and I felt like I should dive deeper into it,” Farmer said. “I wanted to find out what went on during her childhood and it just spawned into this bigger interview story.”

One of the comedic features that premiered at the festival was “Rapscallion,” which focused around a film student trying to make the next big movie in Hollywood. The film features many different styles of camera shots from various Hollywood blockbusters in the past, including a western shot for one of the scenes in the movie. 

“I liked planning out all the creative shots, like the one shot scene at the end of the film,” said Tasha Patrick, the director of the film. “The final shot of the film was around two minutes of just one long take, so that was just a lot of preparation even though it looks chaotic and silly.”

The cinematography for the film was done by Kai Vargas, who shot three out of the six films shown at the festival. 

“These films were very much a learning part in my career as I’m trying to become a professional cinematographer,” Vargas said. “I learned a lot in regards to how to light scenes and how to plan shots with directors to get what they want. I’m really happy with the work I’ve done here and I ‘m looking forward to making more films with the knowledge I’ve learned on these sets.”

The two films that wrapped up the festival dove head first into deeper topics. The first was “Prom Queen,” a film showcasing a complicated relationship between two high school women on prom night. They try to hide their relationship but then decide to be who they truly are together without caring what others would think. 

“’Prom Queen’ is a coming-of-age short film specifically for LGBTQ youth,” director Cynthia Nyguen said. “LGBTQ children and teenagers experience a suicide rate that is four times higher than their peers. That’s why I thought it was important to make a movie that represents us. I wanted it to show our milestones and that we can make it in any way that we could.”

The film was the longest that was shown at Saddleback’s screening, reaching 20 minutes. Making a film that long doesn’t come without its challenges and one of those difficulties was shooting at a different location. The film is mostly shot at Ruby’s Diner in Laguna Beach, but the crew had to film their scenes after the restaurant closed. 

“Ned, who is the general manager of this Ruby’s location, was very helpful because he went to Saddleback, so he understood what the process is for filming,” producer Adrian Gallardo said. “He was very manageable when I broke down what we needed, which was using the location for two nights overnight. We would wait to film until after they closed in order to bring the price down.”

The last film of the day was “Trouble in the Culture,” a film that brings to light issues in the entertainment industry, specifically in the rap and political communities. The film’s director, Jamal Lewis, said he wanted to focus on these critical issues to show the audience how they are derived from ignorance and can be changed.

For Lewis, seeing his 17-minute short film being shown on the big screen to a live audience was the highlight of his night.

“I cried, that’s what it felt like to see my movie up there,” Lewis said. “I was crying tears of joy because I still get choked up every few minutes thinking of the response from people saying that it’s brilliant. It means a lot to me because I put a lot of work into it.”

One of the bigger fans of Lewis’ film was Dr. Elliot Stern, who thought it touched on real-world issues that resonated with the audience.

“Jamal’s movie was incredible to me,” Stern said. “It was hysterical and I really loved it. He hit on really common themes of the troubles in our culture and that’s a real problem, but he did it in a way where it didn’t make anyone uncomfortable. He did it through humor which is always a great thing.” 

The film aspect of Saddleback’s CTVR department is run by Hiro Konishi, who is a fellow director as well. He has been teaching these film students since they first arrived on Saddleback’s campus. He is been able to help guide them into making these short films and is pleased to see how they turned out on the big screen, he said. 

“Students were able to do a bigger production this year, so I’m very happy to see their investment being shown in the movie theater on the big screen and it means a lot to the filmmakers, their families and the department,” Konishi said. 

For Saddleback film students, the Newport Beach Film Festival was a way to show off their hard work during the last semester to their family and peers. Some students have moved on to making films at other larger universities while some will be showcasing more of their work at next year’s festival.