WILMORE — Folks at the Ichthus Festival know they are seeing a big music event. In between the bands though, the audience is also being treated to a film festival.
For the third year in a row, Ichthus is screening winning entries in Asbury College's Highbridge Film Festival between the evening bands. Five films will be shown.
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”More and more festivals want to have films, short films, to show between the bands,“ says Greg Bandy, assistant professor of media communications at Asbury College. ”This whole film culture has developed in the era of YouTube and the Internet.“
The Highbridge folks know they're offering films of a higher quality than the average homemade YouTube video. In fact, they see the screening of their films to the 15,000 to 20,000 people who attend Ichthus each year as yet another way to show off the accomplishments of the school's acclaimed media communications department, which regularly sends graduates to work in Hollywood and at major TV networks.
”The media communications department at Asbury is the biggest department on campus,“ says filmmaker Jack Brannen, whose film Pencil Me In will be screened at Ichthus. ”So much goes on in media communications, and the students are used so much around campus, you don't have to major in media communications to be interested in it.“
That's made the campus version of the Highbridge Festival, held in late April, one of the college's signature events.
The red carpet was rolled down the steps of Asbury's Hughes Auditorium the night of April 27, and students dressed in the best clothes in their closets and streamed through the doors to pack the church and assembly hall to see the 11 finalists.
Bandy and fellow film faculty member Jeff Day marked it as a sign of progress for the film school that the finalists were culled from a field of more than 40 hopefuls.
While it meant there were a number of disappointed students, the festival was, ”doing what we wanted it to do: inspiring students to do better work,“ Day said that night.
The standout of the screening was Lexington's Brock Smith, whose film Visceral was to the 2008 Highbridge Festival what The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was to the 2003 Oscars.
The gritty, 24-esque short film was noted for its special effects and sound editing.
”He has done some amazing work, and his technical expertise is ahead of everyone else,“ Brannen says.
Smith says he became interested in filmmaking when he 10 years old and he and a friend used a video camera and computer program to make a movie.
When it came time to apply for college, ”Asbury was the only one,“ he said.
Brannen similarly developed an instant attraction to Asbury when he started college searching after moving from Pennsylvania to Woodford County, where his father, David Brannen, is pastor of St. Andrews Anglican Church.
Bandy and the students all talk of the numerous opportunities that being in the Asbury media program have afforded them. Smith, for example, and several other Highbridge filmmakers are heading to Beijing in September to be part of Asbury's usual gig filming the Olympic Games. Smith also has been in Los Angeles as part of an Asbury internship program.
And of course, now that Highbridge is working with Ichthus, a lot more people are going to see their student movies.