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This week, from September 6-9, the city of Newark will play stage to one of the premier film festivals in the country — the Newark International Film Festival (NIFF). And this year, NJIT student-filmmakers will be part of the show. 

For the first time, films created by NJIT student-filmmaking groups have been accepted into Newark International Film Festival and will debut before this year's audiences. The annual event is expected to attract more than 10,000 film and visual media enthusiasts from around the world for a weekend of indoor and outdoor film screenings, as well as musical performances, stunt exhibitions and audition opportunities at NJIT and Newark’s theatres and cultural institutions.

Short film projects led by NJIT film students Jimmie Winbush ’18, Thomas Schlein ’19 and Rick-kendy Noziere ’19 were all selected for screening at the festival — which received more than 1,300 submissions from 78 nations worldwide this year, ranging from narrative feature and documentary films to avant-garde shorts and virtual reality projects.

Before they take their work to the festival’s big screens, we caught up with each film’s director to get a sneak preview of the films they will showcase, and learn what brought their projects to life.

"That 2017’s Show" (2017), Length: 00:05:42

Cast/Crew: Jimmie Winbush ’18 MET, Danny Szklarzewski ’19 CET, David Murawski ’18 CE, Kendrick Funes ’18 CE, Patrick Napurano (Camera), Nicholas Pietroniro (Camera) 

Director: Jimmie Winbush ’18, Mechanical Engineering Technology B.S.​

What Inspired Your Film?

Winbush: We started thinking about what could be something that was simple and funny and came up with the concept from “That 70’s Show”.  We had the idea to recreate the show’s basement conversation segments, but have it be about our film class. So, we shot the film as a couple of guys coming together to talk about these films that we were assigned to watch in film class, like Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane” and old westerns like “Shane”. “Goodfellas” was one of my favorites growing up and was another one in the film that I talked about. Of course, like “That 70’s Show”, we have guys going off on rants and making jokes. 

On the Process:

Winbush: This film was pretty much completely improvised. We didn’t have a script or anything. Whatever we thought was funny, we cut together and edited as heavily as we needed to. All the different things incorporated in the film itself were set in three sceneries. Mainly, we wanted it to be intricate and to bring the person watching into the spaces we were in. So, you see a lot of first-person turning of the camera toward different people to make the audience feel like they are part of what we were doing.

What's Been Most Rewarding About Making This Film as You Look Ahead to the Festival? 

Winbush: Just being able to get together inside and outside the class setting creates its new dynamics. You start to build relationships with people that you are going to school with. Moving forward, being able to get into Newark’s International Film Festival is a big deal. I am excited the film made it through. There are different workshops they will have at the festival I am looking forward to as well. But seeing our film on the big screen in one of the screenings, that will probably take the cake.

"Narration" (2018), Length: 009:45

Cast/Crew: Luciano Epp ’19, Thomas Schlein ’19, Erin Shea ’18, Chris Wagner ’18

Director: Thomas Schlein ’19, Computer Science B.S.​

What Inspired Your Film?

Schlein: Initially, we wanted to do something a lighthearted because the four of us who worked on this film all like comedies. So, we wrote a story about a guy who gets into a car accident and through a cosmic occurrence, he gets a disembodied voice that narrates everything he does. Everyone can hear it. He gets a lot of fame all over the world for it, but he realizes that it comes with a price. The disembodied voice is making jokes the whole time, and that is where we get the film’s lightheartedness and comedy. But I also really wanted to explore, especially as the lead actor in the film, how it would negatively affect his life. He doesn’t have many private thoughts or moments in his life anymore. We didn’t put it out there as much explicitly, but it was important to me to try and explore that in the character.

On the Process:

Schlein: I really like technical aspects of film and appreciate filmmakers like David Fincher, who is probably one of the best technical filmmakers today. We wanted to use technical approaches like long one-takes, such as the ones you’d see in the iconic restaurant scene in “Goodfellas”, or in “Baby Driver”, when they go to get coffee after their first heist. One-takes can be incredibly difficult because of all the moving parts, but I thought it was important to use that technique in our last scene because it is the only time in the movie where the audience is alone with the main character. We ended with a continuous shot of him taking the elevator to go to the top of a parking deck on campus. We leave it to the audience to decide whether he is going to be alone with his thoughts, or possibly do something else to get rid of the voice. That final scene was kind of my baby, and I had the idea for it from the time we first started going over the story.

What's Been Most Rewarding About Making This Film as You Look Ahead to the Festival?

Schlein: The best thing about making the film is that we got to make it. It’s a huge learning process. We are four STEM majors, and this isn’t something we would go and do on any given day. We are learning engineering and programming, and this project helped us go outside the field of what we know. It is good that I was able to take those first steps in filmmaking now because I have that much more inspiration to go on and make more after this experience. Of course, we are looking forward to watching other films and meeting other filmmakers at the festival. It is always to get other opinions and perspectives. Hopefully, audiences get to learn more about the people that made this film as well. 

"Wrongful" (2018), 00:07:20

Cast/Crew: Rodney Reyes (NJIT professor of Theatre Arts & Technology), Deep Sheth ’17, Fahim Chowdhury ’20 (Editor and Assistant Director), Akinlolu Aguda ’19 (Camera), Manideep Paturi ’18 (Sound)

Director: Rick-kendy Noziere ’19, Civil Engineering B.S.

Inspiration for the film:

Noziere: Our film asks the question, “What would you do if you have a choice to make that is not very popular, but it is the right thing to do?” Our film is very personal. I previously got into some trouble at my last job where I did something I was not supposed to. It was against the company policy, but I knew it was the moral thing to do. The film is set around a scene involving a man who goes to his lawyer to discuss suing the company he had been working for over this dilemma.

In terms of influences, I always try to emulate the techniques of some great movie I saw, and I was very influenced by films like Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing”. 

On the Process:

Noziere: Our movie is a short film, just 7 minutes. At first it was going to be very autobiographic and I was going to completely recreate the tense situation I had been in with my job. But closer to the date of filming, I changed it. I’d say it became 70% autobiographic, and the rest was elaborated from that. We allowed for improvisation in the dialogue between the lawyer and his client. Rodney Reyes, our film professor, is a great actor who helped in starring in the film, so we let him improvise some of his acting and dialogue and it added a whole new dimension to the film we were going to make originally.

What's Been Most Rewarding About Making This Film as You Look Ahead to the Festival?

Noziere: I am proud to be part of the NJIT Filmmaking Club. The club is small, but it was rewarding to be involved with most of the members in some way through this project. Just doing the movie was reward enough for us, but each of the members of the filmmaking club are especially glad to be selected to be part of the festival.

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To learn more about Newark International Film Festival, including free student passes to NIFF, as well as venue and event scheduling information, visit: http://newarkiff.com/newarkiff-2018-schedule