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ACM Student Film Conference & Festival

Showcasing Student Filmmakers, Screenwriters, and Scholars

April 1-3, 2016
Lawrence University, Appleton, WI

The ACM Student Film Conference & Festival showcased the best work of student filmmakers, screenwriters, and scholars from ACM colleges. The Festival provided a forum for students to exchange perspectives and learn from distinguished media artists and industry professionals.

The following awards were presented to students at the Film Conference & Festival:

Awards for research papers

  • Best Paper — Michelle Risacher (Grinnell): "Women's Time: Analyzing Female Subjectivity in Maya Deren's 'Witch's Cradle' "
  • Best Paper Runner-Up — Julia Downs (Grinnell): "Return of the Revolutionary Politic: Sexuality as Advancement in 'Anna Lucasta'"
  • Best Paper Runner-Up — Pat Commins (Lawrence): "Cars: Spectacles and Embodiments"
  • Best Foreign Language Paper —  Hannah Shryer (Lawrence):  "Gender or Genre?: Elements of Horror and Identity in Victor Erice's 'The Spirit of the Beehive'"

Awards for screenplays

  • Best Screenplay — Malcom Barnes, Dillon Tanner, and Charles Bayley (Colorado): "Dog Days"
  • Best Screenplay Runner-Up — Leo Leventhal (Lawrence): "Janitors"

Awards for films

Use the links to view the films.

Student submissions

For the film festival, students submitted screenplays and film and video works of any length in the categories of narrative, documentary, experimental, animation, public service, performance, and music video. A selection committee composed of faculty, professionals in the field, and students from the ACM member colleges made all programming decisions, and an independent festival jury recognized top submissions in each category.

For the film conference, student scholars submitted their research papers on topics from a variety of theoretical, cultural, and historical approaches to film studies and visual culture. A committee composed of ACM faculty and students selected papers to be presented.

Festival judges

Four members of the independent festival jury — Alan Berger, Garrett Brown, and Louis Massiah — selected the top submissions in each category of the ACM Film Festival. In addition, the four judges gave presentations during the festival and Brown led students in public readings of the award-winning screenplays.

  • Alan Berger is Television Agent at the Creative Artists Agency (CAA), an entertainment and sports agency with offices in Los Angeles, New York, London, Nashville, and Beijing. During his long career he has also worked with International Creative Management, Artists Management Group, and the William Morris Agency.
  • Phyllis Berger's career has included executive positions in series development at ABC and feature films at Paramount Studios, as well as producing network television series and being a casting director for Broadway, television, and films.
  • Garrett M. Brown, an award-winning actor, writer and theater producer-director, has worked in the industry for nearly four decades. In addition to many movies and television series, he has appeared in over 100 plays both in Los Angeles and New York and was artistic director  of Ensemble Studio Theater Los Angeles from 1998 to 2001.
  • Louis Massiah is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, MacArthur Foundation Fellow, and the founder of the Scribe Video Center in Philadelphia, a media arts center that provides educational workshops and equipment access to community groups and emerging independent media makers.


Film Studies is a relatively new, technology-enabled discipline that has grown exponentially as a field among the ACM campuses. Pervasive use of visual technology and media makes visual literacy a compelling, if not critical, educational initiative. The liberal arts can demonstrate enhanced continuing relevance, and find fresh expression and application through film studies. It also frequently fosters interdisciplinarity and supports other campus activities. Film studies has, however, seen uneven development across the ACM, with not all the campuses having equal access to new technological and intellectual resources.

A cross-campus team of film faculty organized the inaugural ACM Student Film Conference & Festival. The main goal of this project is to create a collaborative atmosphere for film studies across the ACM campuses that will enable larger discussions of curriculum development, research opportunities, and the possibility for future collaborations. Further, this project aims to offer students a rare regional educational opportunity and strengthen film studies programs across the ACM, no matter their stage of development.

The ACM Student Film Conference & Festival is an opportunity for the ACM consortium faculty to show leadership and outstanding undergraduate education in a technology-rich field. Looking ahead, the organizers anticipate that all ACM film programs will benefit from the additional attention the event will draw to the role that liberal arts colleges can play in the propagation of film studies. It will heighten the programs' attraction for prospective students and raise the awareness of industry professionals. Moreover, it will contribute to the outstanding undergraduate experience of students at ACM colleges.

Note: Content below has been adapated from project proposal.


Updated Mar 11, 2016

  • Promote cross-campus collaboration and sharing of resources among faculty and students
  • Enhance student learning in Film Studies
  • Strengthen Film Studies programs on ACM campuses

Film Studies is a relatively new discipline that has grown exponentially as a field among the ACM campuses. Pervasive use of visual technology and media makes visual literacy a compelling, if not critical educational initiative. Film Studies also enhances the liberal arts' continuing relevance, and gives it fresh expression and application. It frequently fosters interdisciplinarity and supports other campus activities. Film studies has, however, seen uneven development across the ACM, with not all the campuses having equal access to new technological and intellectual resources. Some schools have full-scale programs with majors and minors, while others are limited to areas of concentrated study within other disciplines such as English.

The ACM Festival and Conference will allow campuses with smaller programs to collaborate with larger, more resourced programs, in order to take advantage of equipment, curricular, and faculty assets. Networking and sharing should help faculty enrich their programs and student experience. This project provides a collaborative opportunity for ACM faculty to show leadership and outstanding undergraduate education in this technology-rich field.

Also, the ACM is fairly spread out, geographically. The Festival and Conference would be another opportunity to get ACM people interested in film all together in one place. In bridging the geography of the ACM, it facilitates conversation and collaboration that can resonate into the future. As a result of this project, we anticipate that faculty will return to home institutions better equipped to develop their film programs. The Festival and Conference also bridges the geography of film, bringing it from the Coasts to the Midwest, where it is more easily accessed by our consortium of schools. Sharing the Festival and Conference provides a rare regional opportunity for all ACM film faculty and students.

For Lawrence, the proposed Film Festival and Conference will accelerate existing momentum. Film Studies began as an Interdisciplinary Area at Lawrence in 2007 and quickly became the fastest growing academic area on campus. The campus received a large grant in 2011 that took the initiative to the next level: funding new, cutting-edge facilities for the production and study of film and established a new endowed chair and director of the program. Currently, students can only add a major in Film Studies to their transcript through a student-designed major, but the program is in the process of creating an official major and minor.

We anticipate that relationships developed through planning and implementation of this event will assist faculty in curriculum development. We expect that holding the inaugural ACM Festival and Conference at Lawrence will strengthen the program by raising awareness and attracting prospective students. We are pleased that it also fulfills our continuing commitment to our service mission to the surrounding community. Because screenings will be open to the public, it will nurture culture and education, as well as further community relations.

At Grinnell, there are multiple courses that allow a concentration in Film Studies within the English Department and there are plans to create a Film Studies minor. Similarly at Beloit College, Film Studies courses are dispersed through a variety of disciplines that address media and the arts. For faculty at Grinnell and Beloit, collaboration with colleagues across the ACM to implement the festival will improve access to resources, helping them to further establish the program.

Other ACM institutions, such as Macalester and Carleton Colleges, have well-established Film Studies programs that offer both majors and minors. This Festival and Conference would expand their existing faculty and student network. The increase in collaboration across ACM Film Studies programs and campuses will help to create a strong intercampus culture. We anticipate that all ACM film programs will benefit from the additional attention it will draw to the role that liberal arts schools can play in the propagation of Film Studies. We expect it will heighten our programs' attraction for prospective students and raise the awareness of industry professionals. Moreover, it will contribute to the outstanding undergraduate experience of our current students.

The ACM Film Festival and Conference is an opportunity for the ACM consortium faculty to show leadership and outstanding undergraduate education in a technology-rich field. Film Studies as a discipline is dependent on technology that very rapidly innovates. In the last twenty years alone, the technology for recording and disseminating visual culture has undergone complete transformation. Even if a Film Studies program is not engaged directly in film production, it takes a certain amount of facility with technology to understand film as an art. The Festival and Conference presents an opportunity for our liberal arts schools to excel in technology-enabled education.

It also presents an innovative way to address the needs of our ACM film programs at different stages of development. As the Festival and Conference evolves, we expect it will be a catalyst for faculty collaboration and program development at all levels. Faculty from established programs can offer their students this excellent educational opportunity and network with industry professionals to cultivate program speakers and mentors or possibly internship opportunities. Their programs stand to gain from the additional exposure to filmmaking in the Midwest.

Faculty in developing programs can network and pool resources to boost their curriculum and programs, and connect students to a richer opportunity than they could offer alone. Rare time spent with other faculty interested in film may spark future research projects. We anticipate that no matter where each program is at in the continuum, the Festival and Conference will create a collaborative atmosphere in which a shared sense of purpose across the ACM will become the norm among faculty and students.


Updated Mar 11, 2016

  • We will prepare a Call for Papers (CFP) and event publicity materials including posters, press releases, and a website. We have already created a listserv to support the dissemination of information among Film Studies faculty. We will use the listserv to facilitate festival planning (we already used it to circulate a preliminary CFP draft) and support ongoing communication about Film Studies resources across the ACM even after the festival ends. We expect that frequent communication in pursuit of a common interest will foster a collaborative spirit (G1). Publicity materials, sent to each school, will generate excitement and raise awareness for the event. As this is the first of what we hope will become an annual event, strong marketing materials will encourage attendance, prompting students to take advantage of this rare regional opportunity (G2). Strong marketing and ongoing communication strategies are the foundation for a strong first festival and strong Film Studies programs across the ACM (G3).
  • We will make Festival and Conference arrangements, such as: food and lodging for participants, venues for screening and paper presentations, and awards. We will also prepare a participant packet including items like a folder, pen, nametag, and program. Student volunteers will gain valuable experience and faculty will have another opportunity to collaborate assisting in these preparations. Ensuring a well-organized pilot event will encourage its possible continuance among attending faculty, students, and industry professionals. An increasingly visible and high-quality annual event such as the ACM Film Festival and Conference would support faculty and student collaboration, enhance student learning, and strengthen our consortium Film Studies programs into the future (G1, G2, G3).
  • Industry professionals will travel to Lawrence to serve as jury members, workshop leaders, and keynote speakers. We already have some potential speakers and jurors lined up. The Midwest is somewhat removed from the major centers of film production in the US that tend to be located on either coast. This potentially leaves ACM schools out of the innovation loop. The keynote speaker and jurors will consequently be chosen not only for their stature within the field but also for their contribution to recent innovation in the field of Film Studies or production. A Festival is a way to collaborate and share the cost of a valuable speaker opportunity that we otherwise could not afford (G1). Access to industry speakers is rare in our region, so it will be an excellent educational opportunity for our students to learn from giants in the field, gain exposure to their work, and network (G2). This will also provide an opportunity for faculty to expand their industry network in order to explore future speaker and internship opportunities for their students. As industry professionals become familiar with our programs and campuses, it would boost our programs' reputation (G3).
  • The Festival will screen nominees in each category as well as provide additional showcase space for each participating school to show student films curated by faculty from that school. The Conference will begin with students presenting their scholarship with feedback from faculty respondents. These activities will help foster a sense of collaborative intellectual exchange among participants (G1, G2). It will also help to students to strategize how to co-create film and videos with the resources that they have on their respective campuses. We will also further the goal of providing a forum for the sharing of technological and intellectual innovations that will continue to establish Film Studies as a viable discipline on ACM campuses through the actual conference and film presentations themselves (G3).
  • Festival and Conference attendees will participate in group mealtimes on campus. Eating at Lawrence will be convenient and will save time and money for participants. More importantly, informal networking at meals will provide an opportunity for students, faculty, and industry professionals to build community in keeping with our first goal (G1). Students can learn from each other, faculty, and industry professionals throughout their time at the Festival and Conference (G2). Forming ties to each other and the industry through relationships will further our respective programs by fostering collaboration and raising awareness (G3).
  • The Festival and Conference attendees will participate in opening and closing ceremonies. The opening ceremony and keynote address will enhance a global sense of Film Studies and the film industry for ACM students and help to foster a sense of community between ACM students, faculty, and the wider film industry (G1, G2). It will also be an opportunity for students to learn from a notable industry professional (G2). A closing ceremony will give participants a chance to celebrate their experiences and reflect on future possibilities for collaboration. Students who win an award could list it on their resume, lending them credibility and distinction as future film professionals. If, as we anticipate, the Festival and Conference gains momentum and continues in the future, the growing prestige of being associated with it will boost our respective programs' reputation (G3).

Dissemination Strategies

The conference will be open to all students and faculty at ACM campuses. Screenings will also be open to the general public. The Fox Cities community, in particular, has a longstanding arts tradition and will be a target audience for the Festival and Conference event. It will also be open to industry participants, some of whom will already be involved with the conference as workshop leaders and speakers.

The Festival and Conference will take place in spring 2016 (see proposed event schedule below). Planning activities, however, will begin upon funding; before the event, we will hold a series of conference calls and at least one in-person planning session for faculty at participating schools. We will also plan a conference call after the event to evaluate the Festival and Conference. We anticipate all official grant activities will be completed by June 2016.

ACM Film Festival and Conference Proposed Schedule

3:00 – 5:00PM Attendee Registration and Judges' Orientation
5:00 - 6:30PM Opening Ceremonies and Dinner with Keynote Speaker
6:45 - 8:30PM 1st Screening and Conference Sessions 
8:45 - 10:15PM 2nd Screening and Conference Sessions

9:00 – 10:30AM 3rd Screening and Conference Sessions
10:45 - 12:00PM Warch Center Brunch
12:00 - 1:30PM 4th Screening and Conference Sessions
1:45 - 3:15PM 5th Screening and Conference Sessions
3:30 - 5:00PM 6th Screening and Conference Sessions
5:00 - 6:30PM Warch Center Dinner
6:30 - 8:00PM 7th Screening and Conference Sessions
8:00 - 10:00PM Festival Reception with Featured Speaker

9:00 - 10:30AM Workshops
10:30 - 12:00PM Warch Center Brunch
12:00 - 1:00PM Awards Ceremony

Outcomes and Significance

  • We have already established a listserv, which is an effective way to communicate between Film Studies faculty at different schools. Everyone on the listserve can network, stay informed of opportunities, have a forum for discussion and feedback, and explore possible collaborations. We also have circulated a Call For Papers (CFP) and received feedback. With the peer-reviewed CFP, we will have a standard, quality solicitation for submissions. It can likely be reused for future festivals. Event promotional materials should result in awareness of the event, generate excitement surrounding the event, and motivate submissions and attendance. Student volunteers will benefit from the experience of developing and disseminating such materials.
  • Due to activities of planning and preparing, we expect to have a well-organized, quality Film Festival and Conference event. We aim to make it as useful to attendees as possible. That is why the schedule is packed tight and we have planned even meals to be fruitful in that they are times of informal networking. We will purchase supplies like nametags, so that people can get to know each other. Participant packets, including an event schedule, note paper, and pen will be supplied for convenience. As a result of planning efforts, we expect attendee and speaker satisfaction to be high. If the pilot year is successful—though it is outside the scope of this project and would require other funding sources—we would like to see the schools collaborate for a follow up Festival and Conference.
  • Speaker events and workshops with industry professionals should result in increased educational and networking opportunities for faculty and students. We anticipate that faculty and students will become more informed about new innovations in film and be exposed to the bigger picture of filmmaking through outside industry speakers. Faculty and students can also bring their own questions to ask one-on-one. Faculty and students can also come prepared to network, both personally and on behalf of their program. Stronger relationships can support a sharing of resources. Regional exposure to industry professionals is particularly beneficial in the Midwest, where travel to the centers of film production is cost-prohibitive.
  • Screenings and conference sessions, like presentations of papers and faculty discussion groups, result in exposure for student work and an opportunity for intellectual discussion for students and faculty. It would be a rare chance for undergraduate students to get their work seen in a film festival setting. This early experience should give them some professional advantage. Readings of papers provides an educational component, allowing student researchers to air their ideas and discuss with faculty moderators and peers. It may spark new projects or give students practice for professional scholarship. Talkbacks and discussion are also informal time for networking. Dedicated faculty discussion sessions could produce increased collaboration and sharing of resources. Showcase space, available to each school, allows them to choose and screen their own work. This gives them a chance to screen works that may not have been awarded an official Festival screening. It should encourage festival attendance, as well as provide each program experience and practice in the selection and screening process.
  • Scheduled meals on campus promote convenience and networking. Without having to leave campus, industry professionals, faculty, and students can talk informally, one-on-one, about their ideas, challenges, and opportunities. As a result, strategies can emerge to address the challenges unique to each individual and program. At least one brunch table will be set aside as a Project Pitch table, for students to talk with each other about their ideas for film projects. Collaborative projects may result from the opportunity for people with aligning interests to discuss.
  • Ceremonies are intended to result in a time for hearing a notable speaker and celebrating the achievements of attendees. Keynote speakers contribute to the educational strength of the Festival, bringing an industry perspective to complement formal scholarship. Faculty and students would gain regional access to the latest, more global conversations happening on the Coasts. Part of fostering collaborations is to help faculty and students celebrate each other’s accomplishments. We plan to formally recognize faculty publications in film studies within the last year, both during the ceremony and in the Festival program. This is aimed at sparking new research projects and future collaborations among faculty. Students will also receive awards for their achievements. Recognition can be motivating and may result in increased and higher-quality student work. Also, recognition can produce a professional advantage for students through resume enhancement.

We see the Festival and Conference itself as the primary result of the project.

Plans to Maximize Festival and Conference Potential
  • During the Festival, we propose to host a Projects Pitch brunch table, where students can talk about their film project ideas with each other. Students who collaborate cross-campus could take advantage of the best resources of both for production.
  • We plan to host a faculty/industry professional roundtable discussion about film studies in the ACM and the Midwest. This is a rare chance to talk together about challenges and opportunities specific to our region. This session would also be open to students.
  • We also intend to have two faculty discussion sessions (one for production and one for film studies) during the conference to discuss topics such as curriculum development. This will promote the sharing of curriculum resources across campuses to create major, minors, and concentrations.
  • We plan to take advantage of a conference session to hold a faculty discussion about the interdisciplinary possibilities for Film Studies.
  • One of the Conference workshops for students will be a panel discussion about professional development and getting internships with industry professionals. It is much harder for Midwest students to get internships, being so far removed from the centers of film production. While we cannot guarantee internships will result from the session, we expect that it will be a strong professional networking opportunity for students.
  • The Festival and Conference itself would raise the profile of Film Studies for students, faculty, and prospective students with a variety of interests.
  • After the Festival and Conference, we intend to list awardees on the event website and feature links to their work for increased exposure.
Two Prongs to the Dissemination Strategy: Festival Promotion and Facilitating Collaboration

Planning and implementing the Festival and Conference event itself would facilitate a sharing of intellectual resources across campuses as it would provide a forum for the exchange of ideas and create the grounds for future collaborations. We have already established a listserve to promote this kind of communication across campuses. Using the listserve, we plan to introduce several topics for discussion to explore further avenues for collaboration.

We would also develop a dual-purpose website for the promotion of the Festival and Conference and for the sharing of resources before, during, and after the conference. Festival promotion will continue online, utilizing existing Lawrence University social media channels and inviting participating ACM schools to do likewise. We will also use print media to promote the event. We plan to design and distribute posters to all ACM campuses. We would hang posters on the Lawrence campus and in the Fox Cities community, particularly downtown, due to its proximity to campus. We also intend to take out an ad in a leading industry publication and plan to issue a press release to local news outlets, including TV, radio, and newspaper.

In the future, the ACM Festival and Conference would potentially rotate among schools, spreading the word and deepening the connections between faculty.

Lead Partner
Amy Ongiri
Associate Professor, Lawrence University
Film Studies
Collaborating partner(s)
Theresa Galler
Associate Professor, Grinnell College
John Kaufman
Assistant Professor, Beloit College
ACM Program Funding
Funding Cycle
Project Duration
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