Give Me A S. Give Me Another S. . . SOUSFF! Interview with SOUSFF Faculty Advisor Andrew Gay
Like filling the barrel of a musket with gunpowder, the SOU Student Film Festival (SOUSFF) packs a mixture of short films into one long program. All told, the festival is actually two barrels worth of programs totaling about an hour and a half of short, student-produced films; some hitting their targets spot-on, others that may blow up in your face. (See how we carried the musket metaphor too far?) Andrew Gay, Assistant Professor of Digital Cinema at SOU, is the faculty advisor for SOUSFF, and director of a forthcoming feature documentary about the culture of “babywearing,” Highly Sought After.
Rogue Valley Messenger: How long have you been teaching at SOU, and how long have you been involved with organizing the SOU Student Film Festival?
Andrew Gay: I came to SOU in the Fall of 2014 from the University of Central Florida, where I taught in their BFA and MFA film production programs. My hire was part of the Communication Department’s commitment to growing a vital filmmaking community in the Rogue Valley and coincided with the creation of a new concentration in Digital Cinema within the major. Prior to my arriving, the festival had been department sponsored, but I wanted to see it become more of its own entity. I worked with some key student leaders—including Michelle Branch, Chloe Welch, Michael Bryant, Alison Hoffman, and Jimmy Leavens—to form the SOU Film Club, and the club became the official SOUSFF sponsor, which allowed us to seek funding from Student Life. This is my second year as the faculty sponsor of both the SOU Film Club and the SOUSFF. This year, I am also teaching a class on Film Festival Programming & Promotion, and those students have been heavily involved in supporting the Film Club’s work in organizing and promoting this event.
RVM: What kind of awards is the festival offering?
AG: We will offer four awards this year. First, we will offer awards for Best Narrative Short Film and Best Documentary Short Film. The three highest scoring films in each of those categories were forwarded as finalists to a jury comprised of alumni, professional filmmakers, and other community members not employed by the university or enrolled as students. This year we are introducing a new award for casting and performance named in honor of Jimmy Dix, a former SOU student and actor who passed away last year and whose last film, “Not a Bench,” will close the festival. This is also a juried award and will go to the narrative filmmaker whose film is judged to have the strongest overall performances. Finally, all of the films screening in the festival are eligible for the Audience Choice Award, voted on immediately after the screening.
RVM: One of the films I saw was about the SOU Women’s Rugby team, “The Ruggers.” Are a lot of the films about life at SOU? Are there any common themes?
AG: This year we’ve selected 21 films out of about twice that many submissions. I think five of those are documentaries, two animated films, and the rest are traditional narrative short films. Certainly, college life frequently pops up as do familiar locations, but we also look for variety in the program and for filmmakers who exhibit curiosity about the world beyond the campus. “Ruggers” is the best kind of “college life” film, because it is deeply personal, empowering, and explores a subject (women’s rugby) that the audience may not be familiar with. I’d say another common element is the Southern Oregon landscape, which is one of the best resources this region offers our filmmakers.
RVM: Last year, Movie Maker Magazine named Ashland the best town to live and work as a movie maker. What is it about Ashland that makes it such a great place to make movies?
AG: A friend (SOFaM founder Gary Kout) recently remarked that Ashland is the hip, creative neighborhood you find in any big city only picked up and dropped in the middle of Southern Oregon, and that rings true to me. Creativity is practically in the water.
RVM: What do you hope people take home from this year’s festival?
AG: I hope people leave the festival with a deeper appreciation of the student talent we’re incubating at SOU and seek ways to support and share it. I hope the audience will spread the word that SOU has a growing filmmaking program, and that doors are opened for the students whose work will be screened.
SOU Student Film Festival
6 pm, Tuesday, May 31
Varsity Theater, 166 E Main, Ashland