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Media Production students capture 4 awards at national festival

by Audrey Post on February 15, 2011

Students in the School of Communication’s Media Production program won four awards, including a Best of Festival, in the Broadcast Education Association’s 2011 Festival of Media Arts national competition. The awards will be presented in Las Vegas in April.

More than 900 entries from 143 colleges and universities were submitted in the following competition categories: audio, video, documentary, interactive multimedia, news, scriptwriting, sports, and two-year and small colleges.

Two of the winning FSU entries were videos produced as part of The Narrative Project 2010, an advanced course within the Media Production program. The third winner, which garnered two awards, was a screenplay produced as a Media Production honors thesis in 2009-2010. Bob Pekurny, as associate professor of Communication, was the faculty instructor on all three.

The screenplay, “The Vermont,” won first place for Kael O’Malley in the Feature Script division and went on to win the Best of Festival award for the entire Scriptwriting category. “The Vermont” is based on the true story of the first person to drive across the United States in a car, at a time when there were only a few hundred miles of paved roads in the nation.

“Trying to be a writer can be a very discouraging path sometimes, so it is was very nice to hear that people are enjoying something I spent a long time writing,” said O’Malley, who graduated in Summer 2010 and now lives in North Hollywood, Calif. “I’ve gotten feedback from people who know a lot more about screenwriting than I do. Their insight has been both encouraging and helpful. Hopefully I will walk away from this a better writer.”

Jeanette Castillo of Communication and Dennis Moore of the English Department joined Pekurny on O’Malley’s honors committee.

“Usually by the end of the first semester of an honors thesis, students writing a screenplay only get to the treatment or thorough outline stage and might have a scene or two of the actual script written,” Pekurny said. “Kael was the only student in all my years of doing these who had the full treatment and about half of the script finished the first semester.  The script was always in good shape and with his rapid progress, he was able to have more time than most students to polish the script.  The other two committee members and I were very pleased and impressed with the product and process.”

David Dorsey of Tallahassee led the team that won first place in the Animation/Experimental category for “Goodbye Ben,” one of four videos produced in The Narrative Project 2010, a course taught by Pekurny. The 20-minute video is the story of Ben, whose father has committed suicide, but not before inventing a machine that lets one revisit past events and remove regrets. View Dorsey’s winning video at http://vimeo.com/19466271.

Andrew Fairbank, of Jackson, Miss., won second place in the Narrative Video category with “Collapse,” a 20-minute video set in 2014 after the U.S. dollar has collapsed. The story follows Elijah, a middle-age hermit living in the woods after the death of his wife, as he is forced to re-enter society and witness first-hand what his country has become. Fairbank got his bachelor’s degree in Spring 2010 and is now a graduate student in FSU’s Film School. View Fairbank’s winning video at http://vimeo.com/19465480.

Dorsey and Fairbank wrote and directed their videos; Pekurny served as executive producer on all four videos produced by The Narrative Project 2010.

“We whittle down 20 to 40 student scripts to a pool of six that are rewritten by small groups of students and the six rewrites are then discussed by the class and four are chosen for production,” Pekurny explained. “We hold auditions, which often draw close to 200 people.  Students then need to find locations, make costumes, keep revising their scripts, plan and complete their shoots, then edit and re-edit after many note sessions with me. Then they have to create titles, special effects and original music.

“They then have to virally and traditionally market our annual screening, which last year drew 400 people. They re-edit their videos based on audience feedback at that screening. Finally, they enter their videos in festivals such as the one held by the Broadcast Education Association,” he said.

“It was quite gratifying to see two of the four videos done in The Narrative Project receive national recognition,” Pekurny said.

Although entries are usually submitted in the name of the writer/director, Dorsey chose to enter “Goodbye Ben” under all his group members’ names: seniors Dorsey, Jesse Damiani, Tatiana Olsak and Kevin Patterson and 2010 graduate Clay Greenhaw.

Dorsey is no stranger to BEA Festival success. Last year, his “Inner Demon” video short won first place in the same category among 100 entries. It then went on to win a Best of Festival award.

The Broadcast Education Association is the national academic body for media production programs. Its website can be seen at www.beaweb.org.

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