SHU Announces Second Annual Film Festival

News Story: August 19, 2015

Professor Justin Liberman at last year's FTMA Film Festival

In only its second year, the film & television master’s program (FTMA) at Sacred Heart University is attracting some notable recognition. “I've been to a lot of film festivals, big and small, and I have to say I am really impressed by the lineup of honorees who will be attending,” says Justin Liberman, executive director of the festival and co-director of the University’s FTMA program.

“We wanted guests whom our students could respond to and learn from, be inspired by,” Liberman says. “Not just names for a marquee. We wanted filmmakers with a great story.”

In the end, he says, they got both.

The festival opens Thursday, September 17, with an Awards Gala at the Avon Theatre in Stamford, featuring award-winning student films as well as a special FTMA Rounders, Trailblazer Award to honor the work of screenwriter Brian Koppelman, best known for his films Ocean’s 13, and Runaway Jury. “Brian’s journey to becoming a successful and even groundbreaking screenwriter is exactly the sort of story our students—and audiences in general—can really connect to,” says Liberman. “We’re thrilled to have him with us.”

Friday, September 18, brings a screenwriting masterclass open to the public with Bulworth screenwriter and Academy Award nominee Jeremy Pikser, followed by a “Homegrown Cinema Discussion and Beer Tasting,” hosted by the festival’s official beer sponsor, Two Roads Brewery of Stratford. “There is a great post-industrialization history to Connecticut,” Liberman points out, “and Two Roads’ mission falls perfectly in line with our own—we both want to use that history as inspiration to craft something truly special.”

Later that evening, distinguished SHU alum Kevin Nealon will be honored in a stand-up comedy event on campus at the new Frank and Marisa Martire Business & Communications Center at the corner of Park Avenue and Jefferson Street in Fairfield. Nealon will received the FTMA Pioneer Award, which honors an alumnus who has made an impact in the film and television industry. Hosted by FTMA student Sean Whelan and featuring comics Shuli Egar of The Howard Stern Show and Keith Alberstadt of The Late Show with David Letterman, the evening has been curated as a celebration of the vital role of the stand-up comic in the history of film and television.

Saturday’s tribute to Orson Welles with renowned Welles scholar Sid Gottlieb and the FTMA student film screening and reception will culminate with the Sounds of Cinema concert, playing the music of Wes Anderson’s films. Sunday’s closing day film screening and presentation of the FTMA Maverick Award to the fantastically talented character actor Richard Kind will round out the four-day event. “Richard is simply amazing,” says Liberman. “Character actors are usually overlooked—in society and at award ceremonies—but their work is usually where the real heart of a story lies.”

To his point, though people may not know Kind’s name, his face is immediately recognizable and, if you listen closely, you will recognize his voice as that of Bing Bong from this summer’s Pixar success Inside Out—a performance which Liberman contends is “one of the most emotionally important roles in all of cinematic history. Yeah. It’s that good.”

All events are free and open to the public, but do require tickets. Tickets may be available at the door, but to be sure of a good seat, reserve them at