‘First Cut’ to premiere fresh works from VCU Cinema

Nick Bonadies
Spectrum Editor

The VCUarts Cinema Program will screen the premieres of six student-made films this Tuesday and Wednesday at “First Cut,” a juried program at the Grace Street Theater.

“First Cut” will feature the finished results of the Cinema program’s summer intensive sequence, an eight-week, 15-credit session consisting of full time hands-on film production at locations around and outside of Richmond.  Students in the program handle every aspect of the film-making process, including scriptwriting, directing, set and costume design, working with actors, scouting locations, operating complex equipment – and even catering.  Over a typical cinema student’s degree, he or she works in some capacity on at least ten finished short films.

The panel of judges for “First Cut” includes renowned film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum, visiting assistant professor in the VCU Department of Art History and past selection committee member for the New York Film Festival, as well as Peter Kirkpatrick, professor of French at VCU and founder of the French Film Festival.

The panel will select award winners among six categories to be screened on Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. at Grace Street Theater, with the other films – with a special repeat screening of a selected winner – to be shown on Sept. 29 at 7 p.m.  Both screenings are free and open to the public, though seating at the theater will be limited.

“You can look forward to one really exciting evening,” Program Director Rob Tregenza said.  “All of this work is really uniformly excellent.”

When VCU’s Cinema program began just three years ago, Tregenza was the only full-time instructor – but since, the department has grown to include Kirk Kjeldsen, a writer, and Mary Beth Reed, a writer/director. The program also includes the insights of visiting cinematographers, directors and sound engineers active in the field.  In 2010, the Cinema program saw its first graduating class.

Among the Cinema program class of 2010, many graduates are already involved in various film and commercial work, and others – like Nate King, winner of the Virginia Screenwriting Competition – are making big names for themselves in the film world.  Andrea Murphy won an award at the Female Shorts: Film and Video Showcase in Alexandria; at the Virginia Student Film Festival, Steven Vagias won awards for Best in Show and Best Narrative.

The lineup for “First Cut” this week will include:

Small Steps directed by Jasce Burrow, written by Brooks Finnie;

But Daddy Loves Momma directed by Katie Baumgart, written by Abe Smith;

Xanadu Undone directed by Harrison Colby, written by Danny Caporaletti;

My Fourth Wife Drove Me to My Fifth directed by Brooks Finnie, written by Dylan Frayser;

Gutted directed by Steven Vagias, written by Michael Leonberger and Steven Vagias; and

Bloom written by Kurt Bailey.

Both screenings at the Grace Street Theater at 934 W. Grace Street, on Tuesday the 28th at 7pm and Wednesday the 29th at 7pm, are free admission and open to the public.

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