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Former students' film claims one of 210 coveted spots in R.I. International Film Festival
July 30, 2014
Though they have yet to graduate from their film studies program at the University of Rhode Island, former Community College of Rhode Island students Kyle Sidlik and Christian Renzi already have reason to celebrate. Their short film, “The Outside of Life,” has been accepted into this year’s Rhode Island International Film Festival, an elite and Academy Award-qualifying festival that received more than 5,400 submissions this year for only 210 spots.
“We’re really happy about it,” said Sidlik, who was cinematographer for the project.
Although Sidlik and Renzi, who wrote and directed the film, didn’t meet until last year, the two both were students at CCRI prior to transferring. Sidlik came directly to CCRI after graduating from Coventry High School in 2010.
“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do; I had always liked movies, so I wanted to try taking an audiovisual class with Associate Professor Sandra Sneesby. And I really liked it. I liked planning and then collaborating with other people and sharing ideas,” he said.
Renzi came to CCRI after spending a semester at Franklin Pierce College. Unlike Sidlik, he said he always had been focused on film: “Pretty much since my parents let me use their video camera when I was 12,” he said. “I tried to make serious movies, but they never came out well. I saw ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ when I was 13 and I wanted to recreate something like that. That didn’t work out, but it got me on the road to film.”
Sneesby, who taught both students, remembered them as being creative and inquisitive with a knack for telling stories through film.
“Both of them have similar traits. They’re very unassuming. Their projects were always well done and creative. They quickly mastered concepts and were self-starters. They spent extra time practicing and learning editing software to better their films. They were insightful in class discussions and really stood out in the class for their talent,” she said.
The two knew of each other through mutual friends and even had collaborated on one of Renzi’s early projects, but had never spoken while at CCRI. That all changed when the pair moved to URI, from which they hope to graduate next spring. “The film studies department at URI is pretty small,” explained Renzi. “It’s pretty close knit. So everyone is always working together.”
“Once we had taken a few classes together and became friends, we decided we should start collaborating,” said Sidlik.
The pair spoke of this spirit of collaboration on “Life” and other projects, particularly making use of small crews of dedicated, well-rounded – as opposed to other film programs where students are encouraged to only learn one job, noted Renzi – filmmakers, actors, and non-actor friends alike to get results on a tiny budget. For “Life,” the budget was $300, most of which was food, they said. Renzi had written the script over a three-month period last winter and, after the pair journeyed to Austin, Texas, to attend South by Southwest and saw many of the short films that had been accepted for screening there, they knew they could make the vision come to life.
While Renzi is more comfortable behind the camera, he said he’s written a script that puts himself on display, in a sense. He explained “Life” as a new take on a classic story – in the vein of “It’s a Wonderful Life” or his perennial muse, “Eternal Sunshine” – wherein his main character, who is an exaggerated version of himself, is sent to a therapist who has the power to help him relive his own memories. This is, ostensibly, treatment for the hypochondria that has alienated his girlfriend (“I’m a serious hypochondriac,” said Renzi), whom he tries to win back during the course of the film. It’s a little too complex to be billed as either a comedy or drama; there are darkly humorous parts, said Sidlik, to which Renzi added, “It’s uncomfortable humor.”
Working with the extensive equipment available to them via URI’s film program, Renzi wrote the first draft during a three-month period over the winter, and then they were able to film over a week of 12-hour-a-day shoots. Editing with their producer, Kyle Smith, took place over the following months.
The morning before they submitted their final copy to RIIFF, they were still tweaking the music, with one of their actors and another friend was rescoring parts previously set to tracks they didn’t have the rights to. “It almost feels like a movie is never done,” said Renzi, who added that they were making edits to the script right up until the final day of the shoot.
Audiences can see the finished product on screen during the festival, which runs Aug. 5 through 10 at various venues across the state. More information on the festival is available online and information about the film and its cast and crew is available on Facebook.
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