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Student films get the Hollywood treatment, thanks to Northwestern alumni

Yes, it was a night for movies, but Department of Radio/Television/Film professor and chair David Tolchinsky, who moderated the second annual Northwestern Student Film Screening this month, urged the audience not to look at it that way.

“Think of it more like a deejay’s set,” he said, hoping to convey the eclectic range of films that made up the well-attended student showcase, held on June 12 at the offices of International Creative Management (ICM) in Hollywood.

Organized and curated by Kevin Crotty (WCAS92), David Hollander (C90), Jeff Jacobs (C85, J87), and Steve Stark (C82), eleven student films—some sprawling and cinematic, others packing a punch at only a minute or so long—were shown to an enthusiastic audience of alumni and Northwestern friends. Some of the featured filmmakers were on hand, too.

There was comedy. There was drama. There were Saturday Night Live-style “commercials” that had audience members breaking up in their seats.

“It was a really strong night,” said Hollander, one of the evening’s co-hosts. Hollander, a TV writer and producer who created The Guardian and Heartland, said the evening was designed, in part, to let the students spread their wings. “As a filmmaker myself, I know how important it is for someone young to get their first project out of the door feeling good,” he said.

And while there were many industry insiders in the audience, he added, “The evening is less about recent grads trying to get agents or make deals. It’s a chance for them to show their work to a larger audience, which can be a hugely informative experience. It’s also about creating community between students and alums and building industry awareness.”

Tolchinsky, who directs the MFA Writing Program for the Screen and Stage ( and who, with RTVF faculty, helped shape the evening, said, “Some of the works shown were made by groups of students. Others were made by groups of recent alums, still creating together even though they’ve graduated.

“It’s this early, intense, and ongoing creative camaraderie that makes our program unique and the films that emerge from it so strong,” Tolchinsky said.

The evening’s films were indeed diverse—everything from narrative stories to documentaries to animated shorts. Their variety, Tolchinsky said, was a chance to “take the audience different places.” And while he was speaking primarily about genre and tone, some of the footage presented at the screening was shot in locations as far flung as a South Dakota Indian reservation and a golf course north of the Arctic Circle.

Plans for a third annual festival are already underway, so who knows where the audience will be taken next? Stay tuned.