I just saw "Filmic Achievement" at the Boston Independent Film Festival. I loved it. There was one scene in it that was so funny that that I actually went into some kind of traumatic shock from seeing it and pushed it completely out of my conscious mind until I was safely out of the theater.
Written and directed by Kevin Kerwin, the movie is a mockumentary in the classic Christopher Guest style. It follows a class of a dozen or so more or less eager young students as they go through an intensive six-week film-making program at the UNY School of Film, a small, evidently for-profit, institution somewhere in the Big Apple.
The founder and dean of the school is Buck Felty. He also teaches the Screen writing 1 course, based on his own 13-step story structure which he calls "The Hero's Jaunt", and does private tutorials with "selected" (i.e. female) students. He's played to perfection by Matthew Lawlor, who conveys an affable mix of charisma, smugness and sleaze that made me think of Bill Murray in his younger days (esp. the ESP testing scene in "Ghostbusters").
He has most of his students exactly where he wants them - particularly the class hottie, Kelly Rush, played by Janie Brookshire -, but there's one who's clearly not drinking the Kool-Aid. It's Delvo Christian, played by Andrew Benator, who holds back from classroom exercises and mostly just sits silently observing from the back of the room. Always the same, with his woolen cap, his glasses, an unlit cigarette dangling from his lips, and a sceptical (to say the least) look on his face, he reminded me strangely much of Waldo in a Where's Waldo? Picture (only easier to find).
The film focuses on five students in addition to Delvo and Kelly. They include Mike Pack, a guy who lives with his mother and aspires to be almost as good as Quentin Tarantino, Constance Van Horn, an articulate feminist whose artistic grasp exceeds her reach, Marci Martin, who is seriously inspired by her Beany Babies, Kris Stein, a conscientious young woman who wants to tackle the thorny subject of eating disorders, and Xavier Reynolds, a middle class black kid who seems forever hung up on details.
The culmination of the program and the movie is the competition for the $10000 Filmic Achievement Award sponsored by the school. We watch the students put their classroom knowledge to work as they write and direct their own shorts, assisted by volunteer actors and crew, and then get to watch the shorts themselves, or at least the four finalists in the contest. I won't give away who wins. I personally thought it was the best entry, but then I am not a film critic.
"Filmic Achievement" is a totally fun movie. It's warm, and cheery, satirical but not mean, and is filled with funny stuff, including a sprinkling of rather striking sexually oriented sight gags. (For example it's one of the few movies I have ever seen that shows Kleenex being used for what it is used for in real life.) The actors are all great across the board the faculty, the students, the volunteers in the shorts, and the other random people in the movie. The pacing is good and the climax is lively. If I had to fault anything, it would be the trailer, which spoilingly reveals a key dramatic development in one of the student films.
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