Film students, faculty make their mark at Cannes. Again

Greg Bishop, one of the UWM students who interned at that Cannes Film Festival in June.

An international spotlight was shining again this spring on the Department of Film, Video, Animation, and New Genres in the Peck School of the Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Seven films by faculty, students and alums were selected for the Short Film Corner (or Court Métrage) at the Cannes Film Festival, besting last year’s total of six films at the venue.And, for the first time, two UWM film students were chosen for the internship program at the American Pavilion at Cannes. (View the films.)

Bishop outside of the red carpet entrance for world premiere screenings in the Lumiere Theater.

As interns, Gregory Bishop and Brian McGuire gained unique access to festival venues and networking opportunities, insight into the business side of film, and awareness of the range of film genres across the globe. Both returned energized and determined to follow up with the contacts made at Cannes.

For Bishop, the lesson is “Be busy!” The festival’s films impacted Bishop artistically and made him eager to tackle experimental filmmaking as a UWM senior this fall. At the same time, Bishop treasures the observations and contacts made on the business-side of film—even during his internship’s “day job” as a waiter at the American Pavilion’s restaurant. For example, he has since spoken online and sent one of his films to screenwriter and filmmaker Jennifer Lynch (Hollywood’s youngest female writer and director for the 1993 film “Boxing Helena” and the daughter of filmmaker and television director David Lynch).

Bishop is convinced that the time at Cannes is a boost towards his career goal of producing documentaries.

In addition to a bit more “maturity” than the rest of his internship class, Brian McGuire brought his position as a film exhibitor to Cannes. An undergrad film alum and graduate student, McGuire first enrolled as a freshman in UWM’s film department in 1989. After a move to Los Angeles and years of working in other fields, including an effort to become a professional soccer player, he returned to Milwaukee.

Now a full-time master’s degree student, McGuire also works as a programmer for the UWM Union Theatre. The Cannes Film Festival provided an incredible opportunity to “shop” for films to bring to the university. Although he had attended film festivals like Sundance, this is the first time McGuire had experienced one with a market. And the market at Cannes is immense.

Grauman's Chinese Theater, Cannes style: The handprint of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa.

McGuire describes a seemingly endless sea of cubicles, each occupied by producers and distributors promoting films. Entire buildings were dedicated to the film industries of Turkey, Ireland and India.

He looked for films that weren’t scheduled to come to the U.S., films he’d never seen but heard about and films that had U.S. distribution but, for one reason or another, were not yet “getting traction.” The spring schedule for the UWM Union Theatre should reflect some of those “finds,” he says.

The Cannes Film Festival definitely influenced McGuire’s career focus. “I started grad school headed for teaching and filmmaking, with no idea of becoming an exhibitor or programmer. Since taking on the Union Theatre job and attending Cannes, though, I’m hooked on that aspect of film.”

McGuire also credits the festival with inspiring his narrative-film script-writing and experimental filmmaking. “If you’re a filmmaker and you leave the Cannes Film Festival uninspired, there’s something wrong. Better try another career.”