FTMA Program to Honor Rebecca Miller, Dominic Chianese at Film Festival

News Story: September 13, 2016
Dominic Chianese and Rebecca Miller

Sacred Heart University’s film and television master of arts program (FTMA) will honor filmmakers Rebecca Miller and Dominic Chianese at its third annual FTMA Film Festival, September 22-25.

With its continuing effort to build a rich film and television culture in Connecticut, the FTMA festival also will honor student work and expose the community to films, panel discussions and intimate conversations with filmmakers.

The festival’s Opening Night Awards Gala will take place at the Avon Theater in Stamford on Thursday, September 22, when Miller will receive this year’s Joanne Woodward Award for Excellence. Miller wrote and directed Personal Velocity: Three Portraits, The Ballad of Jack and Rose, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee and her latest film, Maggie’s Plan.

“She’s a luminary in the film world,” said Justin Liberman, co-program director of FTMA and executive director of the film festival. “She is not only one of the best female filmmakers to ever live, she is one of the most daring and exciting filmmakers working today. She is exactly what we represent here at FTMA: a hard-working artist who uses the medium to explore important issues, while paying tribute to the tradition of cinema.”

The Opening Night Gala will begin with a special VIP screening of Maggie’s Plan, which premiered at last year’s New York Film Festival and stars Ethan Hawke, Julianne Moore and Greta Gerwig. After the screening, Liberman will moderate a discussion with Miller that will explore her influences, approach to film and advice to young filmmakers.

That night’s audience also will view four award-winning student films (best director, best screenplay, best producer and best picture). “These are the students’ thesis films, which means they are the culminating project after a year of intense artistic development,” Liberman said. “They are incredible stories, told by deeply passionate filmmakers, and I am so proud of them. They are really great films.”

This year’s film festival theme, Expanding the Scope, derives from the program’s growth and expansion into a two-year conservatory. “Filmmaking is such a complicated craft that, over the past few years, students told us they felt like they were just starting to understand the medium right when they were about to graduate,” Liberman said. “We took that comment seriously and redesigned the program to give students an extra year to marinate in what they’ve been learning.”

The four-day celebration of film and television will continue Friday, September 23, at the Frank and Marisa Martire Business and Communications Center on SHU’s Fairfield campus with student screenplay readings and a tribute to stand-up comedy featuring Nick Di Paolo. Before his routine, audience members will watch episodes of Louie and Inside Amy Schumer in which he appeared.

On the festival’s third day, Professor Sid Gottlieb will host a Roberto Rossellini retrospective with a screening of Journey to Italy, starring Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders. Coffee and breakfast will be served at the 10 a.m. screening, which will conclude with a discussion. “People have the opportunity to start their day with a really beautiful film,” Liberman said. “Dr. Gottlieb has such an infectious joy for classic cinema that he’s the perfect person to kick off our third day.”

The festival will continue later in the day with a discussion with ESPN’s Molly Qerim of the show First Take. Co-sponsored by the sports communication and media graduate program, the event will be moderated by SHU alumnus Terrance Williams.

The day will end with a screening of all the FTMA student films. Filmmakers, casts, crews, friends and families will see the works on the big screen in the Martire Center’s main theater.

The 2016 FTMA Film Festival will close Sunday, September 25, with “A Conversation and Maverick Award Presentation” honoring Dominic Chianese, who is known for his roles in the Godfather Part II and as the iconic Uncle Junior in HBO’s The Sopranos.

“We really look for seasoned filmmakers and TV veterans who are true craftsman and have built a body of work that shows how much they really love the process of filmmaking,” Liberman said. “We like to honor the hardworking actor or actress who is more known for his or her body of work than for stardom.”

At the event, an intimate discussion will follow a clip reel of Chianese’s work. In addition, Chianese may show off his vocal talents, as he is also known for singing Italian ballads. “Anyone who watched The Sopranos knows the power of Mr. Chianese’s voice,” Liberman said. “I think if we ask nicely, he may just sing for us.”

The festival is free and open to the public. “We built not only our FTMA program, but specifically this film festival, for our community,” said Liberman. “Film is such a big part of people’s lives. It is a constant in our culture, and this is an opportunity for people to celebrate film and pay tribute to a universal language.”

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