RTF Media Fest Acknowledges Filmmakers’ Work

From left to right: Tyler Baldi, AJ Bucci and Niko Ioannou. / Photo via Paige Previte

Filmmakers, screenwriters and content creators alike gathered in King Auditorium this past weekend to celebrate the 8th Annual RTF Media Fest. The festival was held in two parts with the Rowan-specific division showcased on Friday, April 8 and the high school division on the following day.

The event consisted of a short introduction by Radio Television & Film Department Chair Keith Brand, followed by roughly an hour and a half screening of the nominated works. A brief intermission allowed guests to enjoy an assortment of sandwiches, cookies and drinks. The event ended in the announcement of the winners by various Rowan professors including Jonathan Mason, Jonathan Olshefski, and Film Production Coordinator, Sean O’Leary.

The event was livestreamed to YouTube and photographed by a small volunteer production group. The team consisted of Professor Chris Winkler, Annie Tzvetanova, Chelsea Valcourt, Jayla Thomas, Leah Frank, Paige Previte and Darien Brown. The event as a whole was managed by Professor Mason. 

Films submitted to the Rowan division were judged by an independent panel consisting of professionals from around the world.

Best in Animation went to “The Action Film” by Sebastian Urquidi. “UpBEAT – The Rhythm” by George Guy III took home Best in Broadcast/TV. Winning Best in Documentary was Gabrielle Connelly’s “Mutation on Chromosome 5,” and “Roommate Dysfunction Junction” by Christine Anlage & Holly Johns was named Best in New Media. 

“[Mutation on Chromosome 5] is [about] Dillon… my baby brother. I set out with the intention to show people who he was and what CdLS was,” Connelly said. “This was the first time I watched other people watch my film… [and] it felt really cool to win this award.”

“Twisted Faith” by production group Tyler Baldi, Niko Ioannou, Erin Nielsen, Joe Pidgeon, Kathryn Tonra, and AJ Bucci won Best in Film. 

Finally, Best in Screenwriting went to “How the Wax Burns” by Elaine Miller, while the Eric Boldizar award for comedic writing went to “Open Bar” by Caitlin Hinson.

“This year I didn’t see a lot of [the works before the event]. Frankly, I was blown away,” Brand said. “It’s really, really great work – high-quality work. I am very proud of the work our students did.”

Following the awards, volunteers running the first night’s event quickly unassembled the room so that it could be used for an event the next day. They returned mid-afternoon on Saturday to set everything back up for the high school’s division.

The winners of the high school division were:

  • Best Broadcast/TV: “PVTV Halloween Special 2021” from Pascack Valley High School
  • Best Documentary: “The Inner Workings of a Normal Mind” from East Brunswick Tech – School of the Arts
  • Best Film: “Oleander” from Princeton High School
  • Best in Screenwriting: “Hell on Earth” from Absegami High School

These events also shined a spotlight on the incredible work our alumni students have been accomplishing. 

These alumni spotlights included a trailer for All That’s Good Productions, an East Coast production group including Rowan alumni Derek Falen (‘15),  Elena Ordille (‘17), Garrett Miller (‘19), and Vincent Rebbechhi (‘21). The group has gone on to produce content for Netflix, Disney+, the NFL and many more.

Other alumni have gone on to work on big projects such as Fox Sports’ film “If You Build It: 30 Years of Field of Dreams” and HBO’s “Mare of Easttown.”

“They all started here,” Brand said. “I’m as proud of the alumni work as I am of the student work.”

Additionally, coordinators of the event wasted no opportunity to inform audiences of Rowan University’s newest ranking. Recently, the Broadcast Education Association (BEA) named Rowan University’s programs ninth overall, internationally, out of more than 300 member institutions. The BEA also ranked Rowan number three in Audio Production, number six in Documentary, number nine in Film Production and number eighteen in News Programs.

Current Rowan and high school students are eligible to submit work created as a part of a class and are encouraged to polish it up using peer and teacher feedback before entering. Submissions will likely open again in February of 2023, so be sure to continuously improve your work as you go. It is free to enter the festival and submissions for multiple categories are allowed. 

“It gives students a sense of confidence when their work gets recognized in this way,” Brand said. “It’s also something that they can put on a CV. The fact that it gets nominated or that they got an award for their work… that can open some doors…”

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