January 3, 2007

Screening Excellence

Alumni Sweep The 12th Annual DGA Student Film Awards

By James Tella

Paperboat is a film steeped in the roots and inspiration of the homeland of writer/director Daphne Lambrinou ’05.
Four production graduates of the USC School of Cinematic Arts have gotten the jump on this year’s award season with an impressive showing at the 12th Annual DGA Student Film Awards. Daphne Lambrinou ’05 and Vineet Dewan ’06, winners in the Women’s and Asian American categories respectively, were joined by Honorable Mentions Diane Lisa Johnson ’05 and Arvin Chen ’06 in a evening that honored, encouraged and brought attention to outstanding ethnically diverse and women students in California film schools and other select universities across the country last November at the DGA Theatre in Los Angeles.

“We’re extremely proud that the DGA has recognized this new generation of talent as representatives of the best in student filmmaking today,” said Dean Elizabeth Daley. “They are an inspiration to their peers and their success is well deserved.”

"I am so pleased that our program continues to produce directors of such high quality, and that the DGA has recognized their achievements,” said Division of Film & Television Production Chair Michael Taylor. “It is also particularly gratifying that the DGA is honoring films with a global outlook.”
Clear Cut, Simple took first place in the Asian American Category at the 12th Annual DGA Student Film Awards. View Trailer.

“I’m heartened two films that combine rather daring visual cinematic styles with emotionally-rooted narratives have been recognized,” said Dewan about the two films in the Asian American category, adding that he’s humbled and surprised his modest adaptation of a former U.S. Army Captain’s friendship with an Iraqi interpreter, Clear Cut, Simple, is among the winners. “It’s rewarding to see that neither of the films in the Asian category fetishize the “exotic” or pander to any Eurocentric expectations. It's just honest, emotional, visual storytelling.” 

  Dewan, who was born in the Middle East and displaced from his home due to the first Gulf War, has already won the John Huston Directing Award, the Thomas Bush Memorial Award for Cinematography and the MMPA Student Diversity Award for his work. “This honor is certainly a testament to the incredible talent of the crew and the faith they had in me as a director,” he added.

“Coming from directors makes this recognition even more special,” said Chen who first thought of his romance story, Mei when he was working in Taipei. The film follows a shy young man who has fallen in love with the daughter of noodle stand owner in the night markets of the Republic of China’s capital city. “To have our films screened at the DGA theatre is just amazing,” he added.

For writer/director Lambrinou, the dilemma of leaving your childhood paradise to follow a dream resulted in a film steeped in the roots and inspiration of her Greek homeland.

“My time at USC was extremely crucial to me,” said Lambrinou, whose short Paperboat has also garnered her Best Female Director at the Los Angeles International Short Film Festival. “I felt such passion for this story. To be recognized by the DGA is an amazing honor for my cast, my crew and me. I’m deeply moved.”

Inter-office cat fighting, deception and romance meet with comedic proportions in Swimming.
“You have to try to do your best at each and every step of the way, because it is the accumulation of your efforts that has an impact on the viewer,” offered Johnson. The writer/director already has several people interested in expanding her film, Swimming, a comedy about the distance between the life you have and the life you want complete with inter-office cat fighting, deception and romance into a feature.

Above all, “there’s no question that these awards open doors for aspiring filmmakers” and Johnson is grateful for the attention that’s been brought to all the winning shorts. 
Mei follows a shy young man who has fallen in love with the daughter of noodle stand owner in the night markets of the Republic of China’s capital city. .

“Filmmaking is a collaborative process,” she added. “And the great thing about USC is I’ve become friends with such talented people. You can’t beat that.”

Both Lambrinou and Dewan will receive a cash prize of $2,500 along with a product grant valued at $1,000 provided by Kodak's Worldwide Student Film Program, while Johnson and Chen are awarded with a product grant valued at $500.

Even before receiving accolades on their movies, all four agree that the real prize is touching audience with their stories.

“When I make movies, there’s always this piece of my heart that's attached to home,” added Lambrinou. “I don't ever want to change that.”