By Anna Woods, Managing Editor
Manhattan College is now home to award-winning student filmmakers, Samantha Gaddy and Roberto Estrada. The two students have been awarded the Audience Choice award from Lift-Off Global Network’s First-Time Filmmaker Session for their short film.
Their film, titled “Seen,” was an assignment for the field and post-production course taught by Michael Grabowski, Ph.D. It was the result of a semester-long assignment allowing students to produce their own short film from start to finish.
Coming in at less than a four minute runtime, “Seen” tells the story of a teenage girl who has a crush on a boy that she sees at a park one day. She excitedly tells her friends and family about him but they lack interest in her thrill. The next time she sees the boy she gathers up the courage to introduce herself. When she does the boy asks her if she can see him, and when she responds he asks, “So how long have you been dead?”
Gaddy is a senior communications major with a concentration in sports media production and has used her skills working on other projects, but this is her first time creating a short film.
“I guess it was the first film. It’s not the first video production I’ve done. I’ve made music videos for a couple that was getting married … They wanted to imitate Jay Z and Beyonce and then we recreated it,” said Gaddy.
Gaddy also used her talents on campus in sports media.
“I’ve also worked with the women’s basketball team here, and we created a commercial that aired on ESPN. Yeah, that was my biggest highlight. I love that commercial. It was only 30 seconds long, but I got three hours of footage to make a 30 second commercial,” said Gaddy.
Gaddy said that she only submitted the film as an extra credit assignment for the class and never imagined finding success with the film.
“We submitted because Dr. Grabowksi offered it as an extra credit assignment … So I was like, ‘Okay, extra credit. How can it hurt, right?’ And so I just went on the website that he recommended, and I found the Lift Off Festival, and it had free entry. So I just submitted it. And the rest was kind of history,” said Gaddy.
Gaddy explained that the official title of their award is the Audience Choice award.
“So there were really almost 200 other films that were in my program, and the audience has to rent the collection, view it. And then they vote on whose film they like the best, and mine was one that came out on top. That was actually really mind blowing and I did not expect that at all,” said Gaddy.
Grabowski explained that this curriculum is fairly new and was updated right as the pandemic hit. He was thrilled that Gaddy and Estrada found success at the festival and encouraged other people to put themselves out there, because you never know what may happen.
Azziana Solomon, a senior communications major with a concentration in media production and a minor in film, starred as the lead character, Azrael, in the film.
“This was my experience being in an acting role,” Solomon said. “I usually work behind the scenes on productions. When Samantha came to me with the project and asked for me to lead, I just had to say yes. She had the entire production so well organized. Even during the outdoor shoot when I would get super cold everyone on set was so kind and patient. I felt so lucky.”
Solomon truly dove into her character and felt that her character has a deeper message.
“Azrael is such a lost soul. I think she is just looking for someone to see her and hear her.
She spends so much of her life letting people walk right over her. I think in a way she is a cautionary tale to those who are too passive in life,” said Solomon.
Solomon was thrilled upon the announcement of their award.
“When I heard our film was in the final round of nominees I was filled with joy. I was not too surprised knowing the lengths that Samantha went to perfecting the film. Her vision and dedication is phenomenal. I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of something here on campus,” Solomon said.
“I am so happy to be a part of a project that was so beautiful. I feel lucky to work with
Samantha and Roberto. I could not have asked for a better director and production team. Even though the film didn’t win [as an overall finalist], to me it will always be the number one. It was a remarkable experience and I will never forget it.”
Gaddy shared that this whole experience helped realize her own abilities and full potential. She encourages other students to follow their passions and not let themselves stand in their own way.
“Do things that you love, and stuff will happen,” Gaddy said. “I took the class because I knew I loved to edit. When it came time to work on the film, there was a lot of heavy lifting, there was a lot of other work that needed to go in so editing could occur. But I felt so grateful doing all that work, because when it came time to edit, it was like I knew everything that happened because I was in charge of it. It really just kind of opened my eyes to what I could do. It just kind of showed me my potential, and I feel grateful for that.”