Travel course sends TCF students to Colorado

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Jason Frost

Since 1974, the Telluride Film Festival has brought filmmakers and moviegoers to the Colorado Mountains to screen new films and pay tribute to Hollywood superstars and unknowns alike. Kristen Warner, assistant professor of the telecommunication and film department, is jump-starting a new travel course to take students to the festival.

Warner, along with Rachel Raimist, a professor in the TCF department and co-director of Creative Campus, have run a number of film festival courses over the past few years. Warner said she plans to take some students to the Atlanta Film Festival, which lasts from March 28 to April 16.

Warner helped start TCF 444, Film Festivals and Independent Cinema, in 2013. The class takes a trip to the Sundance Film Festival to network and learn about how the film industry operates. Alexis Butler, a senior majoring in TCF, was part of the class last year.

(See also “UA students participate in Sundance Film Festival“)

“Park City was really nice in terms of weather, and the festival wasn’t too crowded because we arrived the second week,” Butler said. “This was my first film festival, so I was really pleased with the films I got to see. Going to the festival as a student has many advantages, especially networking.”

The new class, TCF 380, counts as a 1-credit travel course and will be capped at 10 students. Warner said she was convinced to attend Telluride this year after discussing the festival with one of her mentors, Mary Beth Harallovich, a film historian from the University of Arizona who attends the festival every year.

“There was always an expectation that if Sundance went well, we could expand to other festivals,” Warner said. “I was thinking about festivals domestically that would give a slightly different experience than Sundance, and was manageable, and Telluride was something I always wanted to try. It’s a small festival in the mountains of Colorado and it’s all about people who love movies.”

Students will be expected to blog about the festival, write about panels and meet professionals. Drawing from her Sundance class, Warner will also set up a scavenger hunt for students to participate. At the end of the course, students will devise a marketing concept as if they were pitching a film.

(See also “TCF students create TV show pilot“)

“The number of the people who attend Telluride is smaller than those that attend Sundance or Toronto,” Warner said. “The size of it makes it more personal for these filmmakers, these journalists who are there. It doesn’t make it easier, but it makes the films a lot more acceptable. The passes that come with the class cover opening night parties, where all these film festival people are going to show up, and it gives us access to this barbecue on Labor Day where, in my mind, they turn Main Street Telluride into a long picnic.”

Amy Tippit, a UA alumna with a degree in TCF, was involved in Warner’s Sundance classes last year which helped get her an internship with the Cannes Film Festival. Tippit said Warner’s classes are heavily focused on discussion, and that the class itself was structured similarly to a festival. She now works for the Atlanta Film Festival

“The reason I have my job is because we have classes like this,” she said. “They were like ‘This is amazing, we have to have you.’ When I got to Atlanta, I was like, ‘Hey, let’s set up something with the University of Alabama,’ and now Dr. Warner and some students are coming up to the Atlanta Film Festival. They didn’t know this class existed, and now we want to encourage them to keep this class going.”

Students interested in any of the film festival classes can email Warner at kwarner@ua.edu for an application. Costs for the trip will include airfare, lodging, festival passes and miscellaneous expenses. The courses are open to both undergraduate and graduate students.

“When students get there, they realize what they were thinking of was too small,” Warner said. “By the time they leave, it clicks. Like, ‘Oh, I should have talked to this film producer or this marketing person’. It gives them so much courage and so much confidence that when they get back they have this new fire that burns and they want to be a part of that film industry. It’s exciting to see people changed by a film festival.”

(See also “Film series to honor deceased TCF professor“)