The Glendale International Film Festival, which concluded Thursday, showcased three short films written, directed and produced by Glendale Community College students.
“A Woman in Danger,” “Candlelight” and “To: My Favorite Child” were among 21 student films selected from colleges and universities nationally and internationally for festival screening at the Laemmle Theatre.
Justin Alexander, the director and student representative for “A Woman in Danger,” has been at GCC for about a year, majoring in media arts. The project grew out of a class assignment that tasked Alexander and fellow classmates — Alycia Houston, Elisia Song, Zitlalli Robles-Murillo and Dro Davidian — to collaborate on creating a short film.
The short follows a young, clairvoyant woman who leaves home to join a traveling side show. Entranced by the charming circus ringleader, “she has these glamorous illusions about what this life is like as the star of a show,” Alexander told the News-Press. Once the glamour wears off, the woman realizes the leader is dangerous, but is unable to escape his grip.
“One of the [film’s] concepts that really interests me is: Are we chained to the decisions that we make or are we able to change and evolve?” Alexander said.
Alexander expressed his gratitude for being included in a film festival, adding that he feels community colleges are often “overlooked” given the number film schools in Southern California.
“The opportunity of being at the festival and getting to interact with the other filmmakers and networking and getting to meet new people was great,” he said. “Seeing [the film] in a theater was something I never thought would happen. So, there was a ‘pinch-me moment’ with that.”
CandyJoe Dahlstrom, the producer and student representative for “To: My Favorite Child,” also spoke highly of her experience at the festival and praised Glendale Arts, the nonprofit that organized the festival.
“Glendale Arts goes above and beyond,” Dahlstrom told the News-Press. “They really treat all of the filmmakers like celebrities. It was really cool to experience. I was able to meet other filmmakers and it was the first time that I ever called myself a filmmaker, so that was fun.”
Written and directed by Raymond Shamiryan, “To: My Favorite Child” tells the story of three grown siblings whose wealthy, estranged father passed away and left them with a cryptic letter leading them on a treasure hunt, only to find a box with nothing inside.
A major challenge Dahlstrom faced as producer was finding a budget-friendly location to shoot the film, as the setting was intended to be a large, extravagant mansion. After a long search, Dahlstrom scored a student discount and booked Historic Harris House for a full day shooting.
Subhitsha Sridhar, who goes by her performance name, Soobie, wrote, produced and directed “Candlelight,” a music video for a song Soobie wrote about the pandemic and “staying away from your loved ones and the moments of instability of not being sure what was going to happen.”
In “Candlelight,” Soobie portrays a metaphorical ring and its journey finding its way back to its owner to represent this feeling.
Soobie moved to Southern California from Chennai, India, seven years ago to pursue songwriting and music composition at the Los Angeles College of Music in Pasadena. After completing her degree there, she decided to enroll in GCC to learn how to produce her own music videos.
With “Candlelight” being her first completed music video, Soobie said she was “so happy” to hear it was selected for the film festival.
“The festival screening was exhilarating. It was one of my best moments in life so far, because I had so many supportive people show up,” Soobie told the News-Press. She went on to say it was a “wholesome feeling” to see a packed theater for short films made by students rather than professionals.
Soobie also thanked her parents for supporting her move to the United States to pursue her dream and “Candlelight’s” stellar cast: Chris Howard, Rhino, Miguel Molina, Amanda Janoyan, Edwin Ruano and Isae Arreola.
Following the screening of student short films, the festival held a Q&A moderated by Geri Ulrey, a professor of visual and performing arts at GCC and a filmmaker herself.
“It’s really important that there are opportunities for the next generation of up-and-coming filmmakers to screen and to have a dialogue about their work,” Ulrey told the News-Press. “We have students at Glendale Community College [who] are in their 50s, so it’s not just about youth, but it’s all new voices.”
Through her work at GCC, Ulrey has gotten the chance to know the GCC students with films in the festival either as a professor or simply in passing as the media arts department is “intimate,” Ulrey said.
“Those students are hardworking, they’re tenacious, they’re creative and they’re problem solvers, and it shows in their films. To me, that in and of itself is something to celebrate and to honor,” Ulrey said, adding that each film had a “strong and creative voice.”
While Ulrey is involved with the board of Glendale Arts, she made it clear she had no role in selecting which films would be screened at the festival.
Despite being shy when it comes to public speaking, Soobie said participating in the Q&A gave her a sense of belonging in the industry. Alexander, who also took part in the Q&A, said he particularly enjoyed the chance to listen to other filmmakers discuss their methodologies and how they overcame certain obstacles.
“It was a nice community moment,” Alexander said.
This is just the beginning for these filmmakers. Alexander shared the news that his horror short, “A Transmission From Hell,” will be included in “American Terror Tales 3,” which will be available on Blu-ray and Tubi. Dahlstrom will continue to grow her organization, Life Child, a theatrical production company that works in storytelling with incarcerated youth, as well as embark on making more films. Soobie’s goal is to become a “one-stop shop” by writing and composing her own music, doing the photography for her album art and creating cinematic music videos.
First published in the October 7 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.