On Friday, May 3 the seniors of the MSU Film program will display their best work yet — their senior thesis films — at the 14th Annual Tracy Awards. Held at the Ellen Theater in downtown Bozeman, this year’s Tracy’s will showcase a selection of the 12 films that most senior students have spent the better part of a year working on. Although simply completing a senior film is a major accomplishment and a requirement of the program, only five films will be considered for this year’s awards, making the selection an honor in-and-of-itself.
Film student Vanessa Naive worked as the production director of the Tracy Awards last year and, as this year’s director, has learned a lot from the experience. Just as in the film world, preparation is key. “It’s all about knowing what you want to do throughout the year and what you can get done,” said Naive, a senior. “The more you have set up in advance, the easier it’s going to come.”
For this year, Naive focused on an overhaul of the voter feedback system. She articulated how the need for honest, unbiased feedback prompted many students to ask for a change. In previous years, the audience was polled to decide the winners — a process that became overrun with joyous relatives and relieved parents.
The new system employs three film industry veterans who will decide the winners of categories such as “Best Cinematography” and “Best Picture.” This year’s judges include Mark Vargo — an MSU alumnus whose special effects and camera work on Hollywood hallmarks such as “The Green Mile” and “Ghostbusters” earned him an Academy Award nomination, Scott Chestnut — a fellow MSU alumnus and Hollywood veteran with editing credits on “Rounders” and “Joy Ride,” and David Pickeral — the CEO of Artists New Media.
By procuring such stellar judges, Naive hopes to achieve more balanced feedback for the chosen films. “They offer a good balance between new media and industry standards,” Naive said. University film students often feel starved for industry interaction, and the acquisition of these industry insiders is a step in the right direction. Indeed, Naive noted, “If they remember your film, you might even get a job later on.”
The films up for nomination this year are as varied as the students who created them. Two films that have garnered noted interest are “Deer Father” and “Google Docs.” “Deer Father,” written and directed by Alex Brinkman, follows the supernatural story of a man who finds his father re-incarnated in the form of a wounded deer, while “Google Docs,” directed by Fallon Walker, profiles two friends who use Google to perform brain surgery.
Individualism is key when creating, a concept Naive is a strong proponent of. “You need to be able to write what you know. If it’s not coming from a place of truth in yourself, it’s not going to resonate.”
Her own senior film, “The Little Princess,” is also being submitted to the Tracy’s. Inspired by ideas of voyeurism and the bystander effect, “The Little Princess” explores what happens when people witness unethical situations — something that fascinates Naive.
There are three screenings of all 12 films, from Monday, April 29 to Wednesday, May 1 at 5 p.m. in the Procrastinator Theater. It is at these screenings (which cost $2) that the viewers will vote to decide the winner of the “Audience Choice” award. An additional free screening of all 12 films will take place at the MSU Black Box Theater at 1 p.m. on Friday, May 3.
The Tracy Awards themselves will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, May 3 at the Ellen Theater. Tickets are $10 for students and $13 for adults and are available before the event online at theellentheatre.com or by calling 406-585-5885. Tickets are also available at the door the night of the awards. An after party for those 18 and up will be held at Santa Fe Red’s.