Loyola Student Film Awarded First Place At 2017 Shakespeare Film Festival

Caterina Picone

NEW ORLEANS – Loyola University New Orleans senior and English major Caterina Picone has won Best Film Inspired by Shakespeare in the 2017 Shakespeare Film Festival for her short film, “Ophelia,” which she wrote, directed and produced two years ago in an Introduction to Digital Filmmaking class at Loyola. Set on the New Orleans lakefront, and co-directed and photographed by Loyola junior and digital filmmaking major Nick Ramey, the film explores what happens when method acting takes over the actor.

         Distinguished British actor and director Sir Kenneth Branagh will present the award to the Loyola students at Shakespeare’s New Place in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, on Saturday, Sept. 23.

         Branagh, who selected the winners, will also give the students a critique on the film, which will be screened for the public and is a finalist for the festival’s top prize, Best Short Film. Their film is the only film from the U.S. to be screened at the festival. Grants from Loyola’s College of Arts and Sciences, Department of English, and Department of Digital Filmmaking will generously fund the students’ travel to London.

         “This is overwhelmingly exciting for us, and we are thrilled to be able to attend the festival to accept our award from Sir Kenneth Branagh,” said Caterina Picone. “It’s an incredible honor not only to receive the award but also to have the film screened where Shakespeare lived and wrote.”

         Organized by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the Shakespeare Film Festival was created to celebrate new films inspired by the bard, William Shakespeare. As part of the upcoming festival, which runs Sept. 21-23, the competition invited people to produce a Shakespeare-related film using any form of technology – from a smart phone to the latest professional camera equipment. This year’s contest drew nearly 250 entries from more than 40 countries including the United Kingdom, United States, Russia, Turkey and Iran – a record since the competition was launched in 2013.

         As winner of Best Film Inspired by Shakespeare, Picone is one of five winners for the festival, which offers filmmakers from around the world a platform to express their understanding and appreciation for Shakespeare’s works, life and times, utilizing the power of film to present their vision in a fresh and creative way for the enjoyment of wider audiences.”

         An English major, Picone developed her short film in a class she took at Loyola, Introduction to Digital Filmmaking. Taught then by retired department chair and Grammy Award-winning director Jim Gabour, and now by Extraordinary Professor of Digital Filmmaking Robert Racine, the class requires that students write, direct and produce a short film as their final project. Students in the class work as crew members on one another’s films. A cinematographer and one of Loyola’s top film students, Ramey agreed to shoot and co-direct the film. Both students had previous filmmaking experience and worked together to polish and improve the film even after the semester was over.

         “This began as a simple class project, but we took it very seriously and wanted to create a compelling and emotional film that could play on the big screen,” Ramey said. “We worked on this for many, many weeks, and we couldn’t be more honored to finally see it premiered. To be the only U.S. film selected as a winner in the 2017 Shakespeare Film Festival is pretty cool, too.”

         “During the two years he has been with our film program at Loyola, Nick has demonstrated a natural gift for both still and motion photography,” said Jon Vogl, associate director of digital filmmaking and film production liaison at Loyola. “He has become one of Loyola’s top-performing students and frequently shares his filming techniques and experiences with his peers. It’s wonderful to see his and Caterina’s talents and efforts recognized at this level.”

         “The English department is, of course, delighted by Caterina’s success, which demonstrates her skills and talent as a storyteller, writer, director, and filmmaker,” said John Biguenet, award-winning playwright and chair of the Loyola University New Orleans Department of English. “The award puts her work in an international spotlight — and reflects Loyola University New Orleans’ reputation as a premier arts education institution and a university that nurtures creativity. Our faculty works closely with students to develop their skills and individual talents, while grounding them with a strong understanding of craft. Critical thinking is a cornerstone of a Jesuit and Loyola education.”

         See the “Ophelia” trailer here


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