Harvard University Prepares for College Film Festival

Nicole Delany, founder and co-head of the Harvard College Film Festival, knew two months ago that the project she had been working on for over a year would finally come to fruition. Delany, a  senior at Harvard University studying social anthropology with a self-described focus in media, was showing her mother the festival’s website when she recognized that it had strong layout, a mission statement, sponsorship, contact information, and, most importantly, a place to submit films. Delany said, however, that it took her a fair amount of work to reach the point of being able to say, “Wow, this is really happening,” and that even now she questions what she got herself into.

The film festival is the brainchild of Delany and one of her friends, both of whom hoped to fill a void they saw on campus. “We saw this gap, that there wasn’t much content being created on campus,” Delaney said of Harvard’s film culture. Because of a limited access to resources, only a small number of students are concentrated on creating film and other kinds of media. “We wanted to find a way to open up that space and get some creation going,” she said.

“When you take a course in film, the teacher is of course going to have their own idea of what film is, and we wanted to encourage all different kinds of film making and a way for our school to share in that,” Delany said.

The upcoming film festival event does not center solely on the Harvard student body. On the contrary, the student-run organization has opened up submissions for almost the entire country’s collegiate population, and it hopes to create a forum in which all people can share.

“In the end, we are all the same generation,” Delany said.

Getting a project of this scale off the ground required more than just a pitch to a few teachers and a few emails. The original projection for the festival’s magnitude was much greater than what it has become. About a year ago, Delany and her friends had to set aside the idea for some time because the faculty members they approached about helping out with the festival hesitated to take on a project of such size. Describing the original size, Delany said that one of the original goals was to get professionals such as James Franco involved in the festival, but the issue of space availability on campus and a lack of money to pay for space elsewhere impeded such plans.

As the project gained momentum, though, the students became more realistic about their goals.  “There have been a lot of steps backward,” Delany said. “We had to start small and scale up because it was such an ambitious project.”

The project eventually earned the support necessary from Harvard’s administration. The organizers of the film festival gaining their status as an official student organization coincided with a documentary group requesting to have a film screened at the festival and two speakers committing to appear on a panel that will be present at the event. One of these speakers is Ben Seresin, a cinematographer whose works have included such films as World War Zand Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.  The other speaker is Elizabeth Hunter, a producer and writer who has written for the television series ER.

Additionally, one of the judges is Carter Burwell, a composer recognized for his work in Fargo and Twilight, and who has also received a Golden Globe nomination. Delany said that the festival’s entrants can find excitement in the prospects of people like Burwell viewing their work.

The Harvard College Film Festival will also enjoy the presence of another speaker, entrepreneur Courtney Spence, the CEO of Students of the World-an organization sponsoring the festival, and one that promotes using media for social change. “[Spence] will give a talk about social change and why media is an effective tool for achieving that, but also a little about what the process of being an entrepreneur and what starting a company is like,” Delany said. She and the rest of the organization are still looking for a keynote speaker.

The film festival is currently scheduled to take place April 12-13, but it will begin on April 11 if a keynote speaker is available. Delany confirmed that the organization is still looking for submissions, guidelines for which can be found at www.harvardfilm.com. The event is open to the public on a first come, first serve basis, and all events will take place on Harvard’s campus.

As the project draws closer to completion, Delany said that she has found reassurance in the past few months that the event will work out, and that the most exciting part of the process is seeing people submit their films-a sure sign that the event she has worked on for so long will succeed.