Laura Street

Last Saturday, undergraduate filmmakers at Yale presented and received feedback on their projects at the Yale Fall Film Forum, a three-and-a-half-hour workshop held at the Digital Media Center for the Arts.

The Yale Film Alliance, the student-led umbrella group serving film interests within the Yale community, planned and facilitated the workshop after YFA President Benjamin Steinberg ’17 proposed the idea. The first forum of its kind, the event featured 10 student presentations ranging from drafts of screenplays to completed films lasting 10 minutes each. According to Steinberg, the forum’s two main objectives were to strengthen the Yale film community and improve students’ work through constructive feedback.

“I was thinking earlier in the year [about] how we could create that more tight-knit film community where everyone knows what work other people are making,” said Steinberg. “Right now, it’s just word-of-mouth.”

Steinberg added that about half the presenters are film majors, and the same proportion are associated with Bulldog Productions, another film production group. While some presenters have made films for fun, many are more career-minded, he said.

YFA board member Jackie Ferro ’17, who was not directly involved in the forum’s planning process, plans to pursue film as a career and presented a project from the previous academic year. Even though the project was featured in the Yale Film Festival last year, she said it is always valuable to receive new feedback.

TJ Noel-Sullivan ’20, who plans to be a film major and movie director, presented a screenplay for a freshman film project titled “Role Model.” He said he saw the forum as an opportunity to recruit other freshmen to join the project team, get constructive feedback on the film’s progress and solicit advice from upperclassmen on future projects and study abroad opportunities for filmmakers.

“The best part [of the forum] was being able to develop those connections,” Noel-Sullivan said.

The YFA advertised the forum by creating a Facebook event, publishing the date in the organization’s newsletter and posting the event on the YFA’s website. In addition, Steinberg said, Yale in Hollywood President Kevin Winston advertised the event to alumni. About one-quarter of the Yale film community came to the forum, he said.

Ferro, who recruited students to present their projects, said the forum was “weirdly timed” and not visible to many members of the Yale film community. She said many students may have footage for film projects, but it is still too early in the year to present something for feedback. However, it made more logistical sense to do the forum in the fall because planning the annual Yale Student Film Festival in the spring, which involves workshops, lectures and competitions, will be such a labor-intensive project, she added.

According to Steinberg, although some students were hesitant to submit works in progress at first, those that did submit took advantage of the opportunity to give constructive feedback.

“People felt really open about what work they could share and what they could say,” he said.

Noel-Sullivan also said that the forum created a low-pressure environment in which students were invested in the success of their peers.

The Yale Film Alliance does not currently have any plans to host another film forum, both Steinberg and Ferro said. Steinberg added that he hopes another forum will be held in the future, giving students more time to present and provide feedback.

“I do hope people continue doing this forum because I think it is really important for strengthening the film community,” Steinberg said.

The Yale Film Alliance was founded in 2014.