First Viking Film Fest: CSU Students Showcase Their Talents

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It’s a good time to be a film student in Cleveland.

With Tri-C and Cleveland State University (CSU) both tailoring their programs to the evolving industry, including providing students with resources such as state of the art equipment, knowledgeable professors and professional contacts, local and aspiring cinema artists can tap into the community, grow their experience and develop their craft.

To acknowledge the academic growth in this arena, this past Friday on June 8, CSU hosted its first Viking Film Fest. I was grateful to be one of the four judges of the event and it was a pleasure to see the variety of work in the dozen short films that screened during the evening.

Developed by Dr. Evan Lieberman and his partner Jen Poland, the event attracted a full theater, of students, their families and friends.

According to Dr. Lieberman, “This year’s COM 411 Filmmaking II was extraordinary in terms of the quality of the films they made as well as the speed with which they brought them to a point of reasonable completion for public viewing. The films are made over the course of a twelve-week period which is an incredibly compressed time frame for the production of a ten-minute long synchronized sound film from conception to premiere.”

Added Poland, “The students really need the opportunity to show their work to the public and to watch their films with a large audience most of whom don’t actually know the people who made the films. In this way it is their first real public exhibition and the awards are important as resume lines to show that their work has achieved a certain amount of recognition.”

The criteria? According to Poland, “There were 24 students in the class, each of whom made a roughly ten-minute long film but we only showed 12 in the festival. In order to show in the fest the student had to have a polished, completed film with edited and mixed sound, credits and color correction.”

The other guest judges included Filmmaker and Digital Photography/Video Teaching Artist at New Bridge Cleveland Center for Arts and Technology Robert Banks; CSU Film Professor and Executive Producer/Screenwriter at HomeTown Productions John Vourlis; and CSU’s Associate Professor and Film & Digital Media Director Paul Skalski.

When asked about what the film students will come away with, Lieberman concluded, “I hope that the festival will provide a platform for our students to present their work to the local film community and begin the festival life of their very worthy films. The festival is also important for showcasing the film production program at CSU and [to] demonstrate that we are turning out talented and well-trained students who have a marketable skill level in many aspects of media production. There is yet another affect of the festival, which is developing a sense of enthusiasm within the program, as students who are getting ready to enter the program see that their efforts can receive a public exhibition and students who have already been through program see that their work fits into a tradition of quality.

Most of all, I hope that the students get a stronger sense of themselves as filmmakers and better understand how the work they produced affects the audience and the broader film community.”


Below is a list of winners, who all worked hard, made us laugh and showed their potential to N.E. Ohio.

Best Screenplay – Kayla Milligan, Serendipity and Cigarettes

Best Editing – Justin Romanak, Devil’s Luck

Best Cinematography – Cory Lawver, Giving Back (go celluloid!)

Best Supporting Actor – Heath Oleson, Now Hiring: Evil Assistant (sorry if I misspelled your name Heath but I can never remember!)

Best Supporting Actress – Beth Prizante, Back to One

Best Actor – Brendan Kelly, Now Hiring: Evil Assistant

Best Actress – Nicole Karis, Now Hiring: Evil Assistant/Serendipity and Cigarettes

Best Director – (tie) Ryan Forte, Giving Back and Joni Lewanski, Fair Exchange

Best Film ComedyLightning Fingers (director – Vince Leonardi)

Best Film DramaFair Exchange (director – Joni Lewanski)

Audience Award for Best FilmNow Hiring: Evil Assistant (director – J Andrew Thames)

Special Awards:

Robert Altman Ensemble Acting AwardLightning Fingers

Christopher Guest Improvisational Comedy AwardBack to One (director – Katy Seavy)

George Romero Camp Horror AwardCleveland Vampire (director – Mike Kwiatkowski)

Professor’s Award For Cinematic ExcellenceThe Line (director – Justin Rossire)


Find out more about the Viking Film Fest here.

Reprinted with permission and gratitude from

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