Fargo Film Festival Helps Students Grow

Story by Brianna Brickweg

MSUM English/Mass Communications

Education majors have student teaching. Business majors have internships. Film majors have a festival.

Film students in Fargo/Moorhead are given learning opportunities through the Fargo Film Festival. The festival runs from March 1 to March 5 at the Fargo Theatre. Students can enter their films into the festival for $10 less than other submissions. The festival also offers a student grant. The grant is worth $1500 and can be used in any way to help make the student’s senior seminar project.

Grant helps film students create their own project

Students submit a formal proposal. The proposal includes: writing a treatment, which is a 2-page-minimum synopsis, listing crew members, describing what the money will be used for, listing past works, creating a budget and creating a filming schedule.

“I basically sat down for several weeks in a row writing a 60-some-page proposal,” film student Nicholas Korokidas said about applying for the grant. “It’s a lot of work.”

The application is due in January and the winner of the grant is announced on the opening night of the festival. The winner gets a spot for their film in the festival next year along with the money.

This year two students are up for the grant: Nicholas Korokidas and Ben Pimlott.

Andrew Neill premieres ‘Lutefisk’ at the festival

Andrew Neill, a recent MSUM film graduate, entered a film he produced for his senior seminar class last year. The film, “A Lutefisk Western,” will be playing on March 5 at 11:30 a.m.

Cody Bushee plays Gunnar in "A Lutefisk Western." Submitted by Andrew Neill.

“This [A Lutefisk Western] was a much bigger production because it was an action film,” Neill said, “which was part of the reason we wanted to do it. We wanted to make an action film because nobody in the [MSUM film] department really has ever made an action film before.”

Gunnar (Cody Bushee) being chased by two mounties (Lucas Vonasek and Steven Molony, from left to right). Submitted by Andrew Neill.

Neill entered other films into the festival previously – a black and white 16-millimeter film, “Façade,” in 2009 and a 16-millimeter film, “Condoms,” in 2010.

Kristen Conaty premieres grant-winning film concept at the festival

Kristen Conaty, an MSUM film senior, won the student grant last year. She used the money to buy a camera for filming her project, which cost a total of $2500.

Conaty also proposed filming in Rhode Island as part of her senior seminar and she flew her entire cast and crew to the location last fall.

“I think it [the Fargo Film Festival] definitely pushed me a lot and we did a far bigger project because of that [grant],” Conaty said.

The cast and crew of "The Years" (from left to right: Adam Brandt, Caroline Stommes, Kyle Fogarty, Kristen Conaty, Ivan Clow, Tara Kramer, Ben Pimlott and Jessica Toth. Submitted by Kristen Conaty.
Kristen Conaty (left) directs Caroline Stommes (right) in "The Years." Submitted by Kristen Conaty.

Conaty’s film, “The Years,” will be playing on March 5 at 1:30 p.m.

Nicholas Korokidas applies for the student film grant

Korokidas is the first applicant for the grant this year. He proposed a project, “Honesty,” which he will be filming for his senior seminar.

Nicholas Korokidas (left) directing a scene from "Stranger than Fiction" for a class project. Katie Korynta (center) and Kristin Fox (right) are the actresses. Submitted by Nicholas Korokidas.

One thing Korokidas focused on in his proposal was the idea that filmmakers overuse Fargo/Moorhead as a location. Korokidas argues this isn’t true and wants to use his film to express to other filmmakers that filming in Fargo/Moorhead is beneficial.

“I chose to set my film in the Fargo/Moorhead area because I believe there are certain parts of it that are beautiful without people realizing it,” Korokidas said. “They don’t see the beauty around them and it’s sad because you don’t have to look that far.”

Ben Pimlott applies for the student film grant

Pimlott is the second applicant up for the grant this year. He said applying for the grant was a “very professional process.”

Pimlott proposed a six-part web series for his senior seminar.

Pimlott has a film in the festival this year. His film, “Dragon’s Breath,” was made for his intermediate film class and will be playing at the festival on March 5 at 10:20 a.m. Pimlott also had a film in the festival last year, “Folie Simultaneé,” which he made for his beginning film class.

Billy Schnase is Ben Pimlott's film "Dragon's Breath." Submitted by Ben Pimlott.

Fargo Film Festival provides a networking opportunity for students

Neill loves the networking opportunities at the Fargo Film Festival. He volunteered at the festival while still in school and thought it was a great way to meet professionals.

“For a student, it’s really good insight of what it’s like [working as a filmmaker],” Neill said. “Everybody kind of gives the same advice you learn as you go there over and over, and [it is]: ‘In order to be a filmmaker you have to make films,’ so what’s stopping you? Just go out and make a movie.”

Films should be seen and heard

Students love having a festival in the area so they can do what they were intended to do with their films: show them.

“That’s one thing that they teach you in film school, and they tell you time and time at the festival, is films are made to be seen,” Neill said. “The Fargo [Film Festival] is a really accessible festival for film students in the area.”

“It’s nice to have something built into the community where I’m going to school,” Pimlott said, “where I can possibly expand on [showing the film] and get it seen by more people.”

Ben Pimlott's "Dragon's Breath" is about feng shui, bringing positive energy to the Fargo Film Festival. Submitted by Ben Pimlott.

Edited by Dane Kipp, MSUM journalism major.


3 Responses

  1. I had a chance to see both “Dragon’s Breath” and “A Lutefisk Western”. Both very good films- the production on both were very good, and it really demonstrates the quality that is coming out of MSUM.

    Whoever thought feng shui was also a martial art! I’d like to see that concept developed into something bigger, it has the ability to be a full blown feature film in my opinion.

    The western was terrific, had all the components of an action movie, with great comedy. The cut to the Canadian beating the old man was priceless.

    Keep up the good work, it has inspired me to continue learning more about making films.

    1. Brianna Brickweg

      I’m glad you enjoyed both “Dragon’s Breath” and “A Lutefisk Western.” Did you have a chance to see any other student films from MSUM while at the festival? I hope your experiences with films and learning about making films continues to be enjoyable!

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