Three CWRU students’ films to be shown at the Short. Sweet. Film Fest.

From left to right: Studio 300 members Maizy Windham, Patricia Carrig and Benjamin Nestor visit Liminal Space Productions, an equipment rental warehouse, to check out high-end cameras.
From left to right: Studio 300 members Maizy Windham, Patricia Carrig and Benjamin Nestor visit Liminal Space Productions, an equipment rental warehouse, to check out high-end cameras.
Courtesy of Studio 300

For the creatively minded, especially those interested in film and video production, a chance to celebrate is around the corner as Cleveland will host its annual Short. Sweet. Film Fest., from Feb. 28 to March 3. The Short. Sweet. Film Fest. will be at Atlas Cinemas Shaker Square 6, with student film screenings on Feb. 29. Tickets are available online and at the door.

The festival was founded 13 years ago by Case Western Reserve University alumni Alex Pavloff and Michael Suglio, the latter of whom is the executive producer of the festival and current lecturer in CWRU’s Department of Theater. The festival has humble beginnings, beginning as a one-day affair by a brewery in Ohio City. As the festival gained popularity, it moved to The Atlas in 2023.

“Alex and I just had this idea of doing a film festival to really showcase up-and-coming talent and student filmmakers,” Suglio explained. “And so the vibe is [that] many of the people who attend are either students or aspiring filmmakers or people who want to get into film. And this year is showing nearly 300 short films.” This year’s showings are from local colleges such as Cleveland State University and Cuyahoga County Community College and also from schools as far away as Los Angeles.

Three films are being shown this year from CWRU: “Stick to the Script,” “Old Friend Cleveland” and “Wild Horses.”

“So this year is the year; we have three films from Case Western students. Usually it’s a good year if we have one, [but] we have three,” Suglio said about CWRU’s involvement in this year’s film festival.

“Stick to the Script,” directed by Saar Zutshi while working for NFL Films, is about “a guy doing that type of job 9-5 every day and eventually just losing his mind” with a lot of the dialogue coming from “all the interns just chatting at the office.”

“After talking about it at work, we decided to shoot a short film essentially making a parody of the nature of corporate office jobs. I spent a week writing the script and the next week redrafting as well as preparing a shot list and getting approval to shoot. So less than two weeks from the conception of the idea, we were filming,” Zutshi said. The film was shot on his iPhone, and by the end of the summer he submitted it to the Short. Sweet. Film Fest.

“Old Friend Cleveland” and “Wild Horses” were produced in the 2022-2023 academic year with CWRU’s filmmaking club, Studio 300. Executive Director and third-year environmental studies and environmental geology student Patricia Carrig notes that they “foster a space on [CWRU’s] STEM-oriented campus where students are encouraged and supported to explore the niche world of short filmmaking.”

“Basically, students come to us with an idea or a script, and we do what we can to help them make that idea into a short film,” Carrig said about how the club promotes filmmaking.

Carrig joined Studio 300 in the beginning of 2022. “You’re constantly putting out fires, solving problems that you never could’ve planned for and occasionally butting heads creatively with other people who are just as passionate as you are about making something that you’ll be proud of,” she said.

“Wild Horses” was directed by Max Schroder, a 2023 CWRU graduate who majored in cognitive science. The film is inspired by the Rolling Stones’ song of the same name. Using the lyrics, he wrote a script and it got approved for production.

“Shooting itself was incredible, there was a great amount of teamwork and everyone was on the same page. The atmosphere on set was very positive and contagious. Everyone was invested in making the best film possible, and I would love to work with every single person in the cast and crew again someday,” Schroder said about the experience of producing his film.

Similar views were expressed by Alan Sunil, a master of business administration student and one of the project’s crew members. “The film provides the platform within which diverse perspectives can be explored, and that provides the way for the diverse stories and views that engage, confront, and inspire me,” Sunil said.

“Old Friend Cleveland” is a bit more of a personal piece, as explained by the director, writer and lead actor, Isabela Carroll, who graduated CWRU in 2023 with a degree in English. “Old Friend Cleveland” is about a graduating college student named Mal who feels immense pressure to move on to the next stage of life, specifically leaving her hometown of Cleveland. It’s about the gnawing feeling in your 20s that you never know what you’re doing and you’re somehow never doing it right,” Carroll said. “I wanted to write a love letter to Cleveland that commemorated my time here. I was raised here and hated the idea of going to CWRU because I was ready to get out like everyone else. However, over the four years of college, I heard countless peers make fun of Cleveland while secretly confessing to me that it wasn’t so bad. This story was a way to poke fun at that sentiment and capture a rediscovered love for this place.”

Carroll said that the most difficult part of production was writing the script, and she relied on her crew members greatly for the film.

Fourth-year computer science student Alexander DelGarbino, the director of photography for Carroll’s film, chooses to work on films as “it can create life-experiences for viewers, making it a very powerful medium.” Maizy Windham, crew member and fourth-year dance, theater and English student, said that she works on film as it’s “perhaps the most limitless of art forms. It combines infinite elements of expression and requires comprehensive collaboration to produce a holistic work.”

Suglio said producing a film isn’t impossible and that people want to help. He said, “I think if you’re passionate about it, people are attracted to other passionate people, you know, and so you’re passionate to tell a story visually. I think other students will want to help you in your work.”

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