Gavilan’s Film and Television students celebrated for creative contributionsby Jan Janes on Nov 12, 2020
On a balmy fall evening, dozens of Gavilan College film and television students gathered to view the final productions of 22 student-produced films and learn who won the 2020 Gavvys.
Gavilan filmmakers celebrate after watching the Film Showcase. (photo Grant Richards)
The third annual Film Showcase, held in the backyard of instructor Grant Richards, had plans to fill the college theater last spring. The pandemic created mid-semester havoc with productions, the students collaboratively prevailed through summer and the event was postponed until fall.
Special awards were presented to:
- David and Vernon Butterfield, a father-son team, for Best Documentary
- Rhenen Dominguez, for Best Choreography
- Rufus Cunningham, for Best Audio Mixer
- Gio Silva, for Best Film Series, Runners
Sophie Warren, left, won 2020 Best Actress.
Samantha Bettencourt, right, won 2020 Best
Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay.
Samantha Bettencourt pivots from psychology to filmmaking
A lifelong fascination with storytelling, combined with writing short stories and scripts, opened the path to filmmaking in high school, where Bettencourt was involved in theater and helping friends make films.
“I made my first film when I was a senior,” she said. “That’s when I learned how to direct and edit.”
After graduating from San Francisco State University with a BA in psychology, she decided it was not for her. She met Richards two years ago and changed her career focus to filmmaking.
“I chose Gavilan College because it had the best film program,” said Bettencourt. “It was the best decision ever. I’ve made more films that I would have dreamed of, and have met really talented filmmakers at Gavilan.”
The program is structured to build interaction and collaboration. Students who come in focused on a specific role find themselves thrust into all the others.
“We are a hands-on film program, which is incredibly rare to find,” she said. The class has access to top-of-the-line equipment, including red cameras, provided by lead instructor Richards.
For the 2020 Gavilan Film Showcase, Bettencourt produced, wrote, directed and edited two films: The Film Class and Hell of a Life. She has been involved with the program for two years, and Fall 2020 will be her last semester.
“I think I’ve learned more in this film program at Gavilan College than I would’ve learned at any top film school,” said Bettencourt.
Grady Fiorio, won the award for 2020 Best Editor.
Grady Fiorio fell in love with filmmaking at age 13
A stage performance in middle school, and a subsequent conversation between school parents, led to Fiorio’s chance.
“My mom heard about this program at Gavilan, STAR Arts, that had a six-week theater program, and I told her that didn’t sound like my gig,” he said. But, she said, they also have a video program. “And I fell in love with filmmaking.” He completed the program that year and returned for two more summers, learning from professionals.
Recently he worked with Gio Silva and Giggly Dickens Productions on a small zombie movie, Runners. “It came off the ground faster than people expected,” he said, staying with the production to work on the sequel in 2018 and the recently wrapped Runners 3.
“I did all the special effects on it, was on set all days, worked as a director and as an extra,” Fiorio said. Silva introduced him to the Gavilan instructors, and Fiorio has been enrolled in the film and television program classes for the past three years.
Fiorio wrote and directed two films for the current showcase, The Genre Project and Atonement.
“In the Genre Project, multiple directors are given the same script and have to adapt it to a completely different genre,” Fiorio said. He chose a 1970s psychedelic vibe, where a woman asks ‘Hey, what’s that in your pocket?’ A man pulls out two tabs of acid, and viewers watch them trip out from the couple’s perspective.
With Atonement, Fiorio wrote and directed a drama about the Catholic priest abuse scandal.
“I had been working in the news, and almost every other day a new scandal, with a new priest, would be announced,” he said. “I had this idea for a while. This is a real situation, and people are getting to skate by.” The two male characters in a confessional, one confessing and one listening, reveal similarities between the confessor and the priest.
Reflecting on his award and involvement in film and television, Fiorio expressed his appreciation for Gavilan's program. “I got my first opportunity on a feature film because of Grant Richards,” he said. “To have a feature film credit at 19 under my belt is amazing.”
“We’re all students, we can’t pay each other, but we can help each other,” said Fiorio. “These people are like family to me, they really care and want each other to succeed. This program is such a good community for that.”
Tim Ahlin, left, and Grant Richards, right, announce the winners at the recent
Gavilan instructors bring professional film and television chops to the classroom
Richards, who has taught at Gavilan for more than two decades, has guided the Film and Television program for several years. He holds multiple degrees, including an MA in English from Sacramento State and an MA in Film from San Francisco State.
He grew up in Gilroy, and Richards’ father taught English at Gavilan, including a class called Film and Fiction.
“How cool is that?” he said. “Watch a movie, read a book, analyze and compare,” something he’s been doing since age 10. He has also produced many short and full-length films and written screenplays for Hollywood.
“I love my job and working with the students.” He considers himself more a guide and facilitator. His style mirrors the mentoring that returning students offer to beginners in the program. He and Ahlin teach multiple classes together.
“These aren’t typical classes with lectures,” he said, “And they are better with both of us there.” Every semester, students learn film history and culture, fundamentals of camera, lights and audio, stretch into screenwriting, expand into editing and directing.
As a teen, Ahlin was on the hunt. “When I graduated from Live Oak High School and looked at the Gavilan course catalog,” said Ahlin, “I did not know what I wanted to do with my life.” He saw the TV production program listing and thought, “Well, I like watching.”
One class in, and that was all he cared about. He credited James Frazier, who taught video production, and Fran Lozano, who taught Intro to Cinema, for changing his life.
Ahlin graduated from Gavilan, received his BA in Film and Television from San Diego State University. He returned to the Central Coast to work at local news station KSBW8 as chyron operator for live news, later as production manager for OMG in Monterey, and now works as multimedia director for Christopher Ranch. He recently received his MA in Adult Education.
He began teaching at Gavilan three years ago. “Students can tell any story, and our job is to inspire,” said Ahlin. “Every single role a student takes can translate into future work.”
“Television and film are white, male-driven industries,” he continued. “A great thing about the Gavilan program is how well it represents the campus, every type of student is in the program, and you see it in the Film Showcase.”
More than 1,000 people watched the live stream of the event in late October. You can still view the 2020 Film Showcase here.
And if you’re interested in joining the talented community of students creating award-winning work, registration for Spring 2021 classes begins next week at Gavilan.edu.