The iconic Fremont theater stands out in the downtown San Luis Obispo area – the bright lights bring a Hollywood feel to the community as a long line of people wraps around the surrounding buildings.
This crowd is not there for a show-stopping concert or the opening night of a box office hit. Instead, they are there to see Cal Poly students’ short films in the 2019 San Luis Obispo International Film Festival.
For the past five years, Cal Poly students have been creating films that have been featured as Cal Poly Short Cuts, at the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival as part of a collaboration between the ISLA 341 (Cinematic Process) and Art 483 (Digital Video II) classes. Originally, the Short Cut films premiered at the Palm Theater, but because of increasing popularity, this year’s event migrated to the Fremont for the first time.
“Fremont theater is such an icon in this town, and the more it’s used for things like this the better,” San Luis Obispo International Film Festival Director Wendy Eidson said. “We’re so lucky to use the Fremont theater for all our special events, and we consider this a special event. I hope we continue to do that and use it every year.”
The film festival premiered eight films directed, filmed and edited by Cal Poly students, who also cast the actors and schedule the locations. The films convey stories of self-discovery through love, loss and lots of laughter while transcending generations.
“I just like that you can have a vision and bring it to life,” Caisse said. “It’s a collaboration between your actors and people who have different expertise in different parts of film-making, so it’s cool to just work on a project with everyone.”
“I just like that you can have a vision and bring it to life”
The process of creating an entire short film from just an idea that she had, has given Caisse a unique experience.
For many of the students in these classes, this is their first time ever tackling the full production of a short film. From writing the script to filming the scenes in about a month, the students are able to bring these films together to create something they are all proud of.
“Everyone’s working really hard to get these films out there, but it’s definitely really cool to see something you wrote down on paper come to life,” Caisse said. “I would love to explore screenwriting more and making movies… it’s really hard work, but it’s really rewarding.”
Journalism senior Tabata Gordillo echoed these sentiments and said she plans on pursuing filmmaking or other forms of visual storytelling as a possible career.
“Going into Cal Poly, I knew I always wanted to do some sort of visual storytelling,” Gordillo said. “I’ve never really dipped my fingers in this before, so getting to do that last quarter, and now actually seeing it come to life this quarter, has kind of made me realize I want to go into the filmmaking side of visual storytelling.”
The student films are just one part of the week-long international film festival, but every year the crowd has gotten bigger and bigger, according to Eidson.
“It’s really gratifying to me because one of our missions is to educate,” Eidson said.“Seeing people working together, collaborating creatively while also overcoming the technical challenges, is difficult…there is no better way to make a movie than to just jump in and do it.”
“There is no better way to make a movie than to just jump in and do it”
Eidson has been working for the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival for 14 years and has seen its increasing popularity among not only Cal Poly students, but also the community. Now, being able to display the films on the big screens of Fremont is opening up new opportunities and increased awareness of the film festival.
“The enthusiasm is contagious and very exciting because it’s a chance for the to see their creations on a huge screen, which is probably really overwhelming in some cases,” Eidson said. “The Fremont screen is bigger than any screen in the county, so I know this year it will be even more exciting.”
This year is the 25th anniversary of the International Film Festival, and being able to expand to the Fremont Theater adds to the significance of the art scene on the Central Coast.
“Part of me is really excited to see it and the other part of me is hoping it looks good,” Gordillo said. “It’s just nerve-racking when you put so much work into something and you have to see it on a huge screen.”
Although the process can be stressful for students, they walk away with a learning experience they will never forget.
“I think when I wrote it last quarter, I never imagined I would pitch, let alone be chosen to be in the film fest,” Gordillo said. “When I was writing, I wasn’t thinking of the 22 scenes we had to shoot — six different locations and a predominantly Hispanic cast — but we made it work, and I’m really proud of the work we’ve done.”
“I think when I wrote it last quarter, I never imagined I would pitch, let alone be chosen to be in the film fest”
Participating in the Cal Poly Short Cuts film festival gives students a hands-on experience that a lot of college students do not get.
“I don’t think the motto ‘Learn By Doing’ has ever resonated more with me than in this case because I have never made a film, produced, directed or anything like that,” Gordillo said.
The students said they are are anxious to get to watch their films on the big screen.
“This is the biggest thing I’ve been working towards this quarter, so I’m really excited to see the finished product,” Gordillo said.