What began as a script in an RTF thesis workshop class is now the top student film at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.
“Skunk,” a short film written and directed by Moody College of Communication graduate Annie Silverstein, Radio-Television-Film MFA ’13, won first prize in the prestigious international film festival’s Cinéfoundation Selection program. “Skunk” was one of 16 films selected out of 1,631 film school entries from around the world. The win gives Silverstein 15,000 and a guarantee that her first feature film will show at Cannes in the future.
The film was crewed entirely by UT students and graduates.
Silverstein began writing the film as a student in 2012, and worked to refine the script with classmates in Assistant Professor P.J. Raval‘s thesis workshop course. The film tells the story of 14-year-old Leila, whose pit bull kills a skunk. She then meets the neighborhood boy Marco, forming an unlikely bond until things begin to spin out of control. Leila is then forced to protect what she loves most at the cost of her own innocence.
The Moody College asked Silverstein which professors and classes influenced her during the making of the film, and here’s what she had to say:
I took Associate Professor Stuart Kelban‘s screenwriting class my first semester of graduate school and it made a huge impact on me. My background was in documentary and youth work and I was intimidated by fiction. Associate Professor Kelban changed the way I understood storytelling, and inspired me to write by drawing on my past life experiences versus trying to write in a voice that isn’t mine.
Associate Professor Kelban was my faculty advisor on “Skunk” and helped me immensely during the screenwriting stage, reading drafts, meeting up to discuss revisions and figuring out places to raise the stakes and trim the fat.
Associate Professor Andrew Shea gave me the tools to direct! His classes were eye opening and he’s been a huge influence in my directing approach: never forget the heart of the story during production, dig for raw emotion, believable performances and do whatever it takes (while keeping the safety and well-being of your crew and cast in the forefront of your mind.) Associate Professor Shea was incredibly helpful throughout my thesis production, discussing the script, thinking ahead to production challenges, watching cuts and giving directing advice.
Assistant Professor P.J. Raval offered a great deal of support in conceptualizing the look of my films at UT Austin, and has offered endless advice and incredibly useful production know-how. Professors Paul Stekler, Andrew Garrison and Charles Ramírez-Berg served on my advisory board and were an incredible support, reading drafts of the script and offering their perspective and on-going encouragement.
This story is part of our yearlong series “The Creative Campus,” which showcases student creativity.