Ethan Stein, friends win Boston student film fest
'Wordsmith' wins at the Boston Student Film FestivalWhen New York City-native Ethan Stein ’15 teamed up with three high school friends to make a feature film, he thought it would be good practice.
And it was -- in award-acceptance speeches, among other skills.
“Wordsmith,” a short film he produced with Mikey Gefland, Mark Rapaport and Rob Robbins, won the top prize at the 2013 Boston Student Film Festival, which recognizes excellence in filmmaking by undergraduate and graduate students.
This year, “the slogan for the Bernstein Festival is ‘Imagine the Impossible.’ Now that’s the slogan for our lives,” he says, still reeling with disbelief from the honor. “We just thought it would be fun and good experience. Now my LinkedIn says I’m an award-winning producer.”
More than $3,000 was raised through Kickstarter, a popular fundraising website, to make the film, which was produced by Rob Robbins Reels, the production company Stein’s friends founded in 2011. The film was shot in just one day in New York City, utilizing public locations and filmmakers’ family homes. Actors were hired through a professional actors’ listserv, a “real role reversal for us 20-year-olds to be able to choose from all of these 60-year-old actors,” Stein says.
“Wordsmith” began as a film within a film. The plot of their feature, “The Convenient Job,” revolved around failed filmmakers whose rejection leads to a sequence of events that culminates in a convenience store robbery. So Stein and his colleagues began filming the fictional characters’ project, about a couple of guys who want to make their mark in life by getting a word into the Merriam Webster dictionary.
The feature film is still a work in progress. A rough cut was screened in the Wasserman Cinematheque, where he and his friends also held a talk-back that he hoped would serve two purposes: to improve edits of his own film and to motivate fellow students.
“We got some fantastic feedback, both from people who genuinely enjoyed it and people who gave us great ideas on how to make it better,” Stein says. “And I think it was also great for students to see people their age, who are in their shoes and making a film.”
Stein, who is a computer science major, has always been interested in entertaining and making people laugh, and says his parents had trouble getting him off the couch and away from the TV as a kid. But he lauds film professor Alice Kelikian as a wonderful mentor who “wants to inspire students,” and brings guests to her program who “live and breathe the business.”
Stein says even faculty outside of the Film, Television and Interactive Media program have been eager to offer advice and help bring his dreams to fruition any way they can.
“What other school would ask you to screen your film in a professional cinematheque?” he asks.
The win at the Boston Student Film Festival came as a surprise to Stein and his friends, but has helped strengthen their resolve to complete the feature film. In the meantime, they’ve continued to submit “Wordsmith” to additional film festivals.
“It’s exciting and humbling,” he says, “and now it’s a drive to grow and continue.”
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