Stony Brook’s MFA in Film program continues its year of achievements, as movies developed by its participants gain recognition.
One film made and edited in the program won a best film award and another was accepted into two Manhattan film festivals.
Bentley Heyman, an MFA in Film student, won the Best Experimental Film award at the 2016 Nottingham International Film Festival in the United Kingdom for his film “Kingdom.”
“It was a surreal moment,” Heyman said. “You make something and you don’t expect that to be the outcome.”
“Kingdom” was also selected for the Montana Film Festival, New York International Film Festival and Kiwi International Film Festival.
Melissa Bank, an author, director and teacher in the MFA in Creative Writing program, directed a short film called “Siren” that was accepted in the 2016 New York Short Film Festival, which ran from Nov. 4 to Nov. 10, and the 2016 Zero Film Festival on Nov. 9.
“Siren” is the film adaptation of Bank’s own short story, “Run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run Away”, which was written in 2005.
The MFA in Film program has been working in association with the Killer Films Production company since 2015 when one of the founders of the company, Christine Vachon, became the program director of MFA in Film. Killer Films was a production group for the 2015 film, “Carol,” which received six Academy Award nominations.
In addition to these two achievements in the program, Emily Laue, an MFA in Film student, was selected in October to receive a New York Women in Film and Television scholarship.
Four other MFA in Film students were selected to join the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation Careers in Entertainment Tour at the Brooklyn Expo Center in New York City on Sept. 21. The tour is provided to 400 exceptional high school and college students from underserved communities. Each tour is broken down into panel sessions for the students to hear from and engage with professionals in the entertainment industry.
Another writer and director in the program, Michael Narkunski, is holding a casting call until Nov. 30 for his short film “Noise,” about a young gay man with mental challenges and the peculiar relationship he develops with the woman administering his HIV test. Narkunski draws from personal experiences in this film.
“I decided to place it in an HIV clinic because I could picture my experiences in those places vividly and wondered that if even I had a hard time there, what someone even more fragile and confused would feel like and how they might navigate that experience,” Narkunski said.
Several members of the film program, including Bank and Vachon, will participate in the 2017 Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference in Washington, D.C. in February. The conference, titled “Loose, Faithful, and Literal: Adaptation from Novel to Screen,” will examine, among other topics, how screenwriters and directors may diverge in their own unique terms. It will discuss how loosely, faithfully, or literally screenwriters and directors cling to to an original story when adapting it into a movie.
The success of Killer Films Production in the mainstream entertainment industry, combined with the success of Stony Brook’s MFA in Film program in lower-key film awards, has been a pattern of continual progress for both groups.
“[My success] could not have happened without SBU and the amazing community that they’ve created in the film program,” Heyman said.