I’ve been to three student screenings in the past week: the USC and CalArts Experimental showcases in LA, and the School of Visual Arts showcase in Manhattan. Every screening had its usual share of spectacular, average and unwatchable, but this post isn’t about the quality of the films. Rather I wanted to talk about the lengths of the programs.

The USC screening was around 90 minutes with no intermission. This was long but tolerable. The CalArts Experimental program was just over ninety minutes with a fifteen-minute break in between. This was an enjoyable experience. (Even better, I hear the CalArts Character Animation Producer’s Show runs around sixty minutes nowadays. Perfect!).

But then, last night, there was the SVA animation department screening (their computer art department is separate and has a different screening) . This screening was over four hours long and no intermission. To put that into perspective, that’s longer than Gone with the Wind, and believe me, most of these films were no Gone with the Wind. Needless to say, I survived only a fraction of them.

It boggles the mind as to what the school was thinking when they arranged a screening of forty-two shorts. Screening forty-two animated shorts in a row is a bad idea even if they’re not student films. Sadly, it’s also a disservice to the very students that the screening is supposed to be promoting and celebrating. The excessive length guarantees that only a handful of professionals from the animation industry will attend. That’s why the most effective year-end school screenings, especially those that are open to industry professionals and media, are heavily curated affairs that showcase a school’s best efforts. There is a time and place for showing all of the films, and that is typically a more private affair for the students themselves.

SVA dropped the ball in one other big way. Whereas both USC and CalArts rewarded audiences with food after their screenings, SVA sent home the exhausted audience on an empty stomach. Unlike other schools which offer food after every student film screening, SVA hoards its food for a fancy invite-only party that follows an awards ceremony for the entire film department. Thankfully, I had already treated myself to Chipotle in the middle of last night’s screening so it didn’t really matter. But unless they reduce the length of the program to a more sensible running time, I’ll certainly think twice about attending in the future.

Share your experiences of student film screenings in the comments.

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