Although the communication and design arts department’s Black Bird Film Festival is known for its crimson-red carpet and logo-covered backdrops, it will be adopting a much different look this year. Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual event that draws crowds of students, faculty, staff and members of the Anderson community will be shifted to an online format.
Jack Lugar, associate professor of cinema and media arts and host of the Black Bird Film Festival, explained that he values showcasing students’ work on short films and videos, no matter what the format may be.
“It’s important for creators to have an audience,” said Lugar. “While it’s impossible to replace our annual on-campus film festival, offering a virtual festival is the next best option in light of this pandemic. Our cinema and media arts students have worked hard to express their talent and tell important and fun stories.”
With the shift to an online format, Lugar hopes that more people will be able to enjoy students’ work than in previous years.
“The great part of offering a virtual festival is that it allows members of the AU community who couldn’t come back to campus the opportunity to be a part of a very special event,” said Lugar. “This pandemic has stolen a lot from our students, but in adversity we are finding opportunity.”
Professor Kris Rinas, director of studio and technical operations at Black Bird Media Lab, has taken on the roles of engineer and director for the online event. Together, Lugar and Rinas have been planning the adaptation of the Black Bird Film Festival for weeks.
“Once we found out the semester would be finished fully online, we started planning the virtual event,” said Rinas. “The event will be completely live-streamed from Black Bird Media Lab Studios. The website has been updated and is currently running a countdown timer to the live event.”
Rinas explained that live conversation during the event can be found on Twitter with the hashtag “BBFF,” and that there will likely be a live after-party hosted on Zoom.
Although many aspects of the annual event were able to be transferred to a virtual format, some were not, such as the coveted “Squawkie” awards. In previous years, students have competed for “Squawkie” awards for titles such as best editor and best director. Unfortunately, Rinas explained, juggling the logistics of distributing the awards was unrealistic.
“We decided it was best to leave them in their cage this year,” said Rinas. “It was a hard decision. They will be back next year.”
Rinas noted that some of the films screened this year will be included in the Black Bird Film Festival in 2021 and be eligible to win a “Squawkie.”
According to Rinas, several of the films that were planned to be shown at the festival were unable to be filmed due to social distancing restrictions and stay-at-home orders. Despite this, Lugar and Rinas are still finding ways to showcase students’ talents.
“For the 2020 virtual Film Festival, we are looking through work already completed as well as reviewing new projects that are being submitted on April 15,” said Rinas. “We want the Film Festival to showcase quality storytelling and production techniques. Some of the projects we screen this year could be shot and edited completely on a smartphone. What is important for any submission shot after spring break is how you told the story and the creative use of the gear you had access to.”
The first-ever virtual Black Bird Film Festival will be held on Wednesday, April 29 at 7 p.m. at https://www.blackbirdmedialab.com/.