Legerdemain, a film created by students in associate professor Lou Rera’s TFA 420: Producing Short Films II class won the Audience Award at the third annual SUNY-wide Film Festival held October 13-15 at SUNY Fredonia.
David Van Keuren (pictured), wrote, directed, and produced the film and plays one of the main characters. Van Keuren, along with Travis Carlson, who plays the other main role; Gabriel Simon, director of photography/editor; Riccardo Herrera: producer; and Joe Wachowski, second unit director; made the film during the spring 2011 semester.
Legerdemain, which means “sleight of hand,” focuses on the relationship between two pickpockets and raises the question of whether it’s wrong to pursue talents society considers morally unacceptable. A haunting musical score, created by Van Keuren’s friend Isaac Tayrien, accompanies the film. Of the 70 films submitted to the festival, Legerdemain was one of 21 selected to be screened. Rebecca Ormond, an award-winning filmmaker and associate professor at Webster University of St. Louis, chose the winners. The audience also voted, and picked Legerdemain as its favorite.
“We are all very excited about the win,” said Van Keuren, 27, a May graduate who is now living in New York City. “We put something out there and got evidence that it’s good.” In addition, he has been pleased the film has gotten more than 1,000 view on YouTube.
“I encouraged David to enter,” Rera said. “ I felt from the very first frame to the end frame, it had a level of quality over what I (usually) see. It had great precision and attention to detail.”
“I’m extremely pleased they got it in the festival and thrilled they won. It’s validation from the audience, the other filmmakers, and the faculty there that this was the best film at the festival.”
Other awards went to student filmmakers in animation, documentary, experimental, and narrative. A first place winner and honorable mention was chosen for each category.
Van Keuren said he likes old movies, and The Bicycle Thief and Pickpocket influenced the creation of Legerdemain.
The popularity of the film is helping Van Keuren as he tries to break into the competitive world of directing and producing in New York. He’s working on a script now for a feature-length film he would like to make with students from Buffalo State.
Rera added that the win also validates the work of the television and film arts (TFA) program, which accepts only 15 students a year and prepares them for a variety of careers in the entertainment industry.
Van Keuren, who transferred to Buffalo State for its TFA program, said he is indebted to the program’s instructors. Along with Rera, he thanks assistant professor Meg Knowles, “who gave me lots of opportunity and great experience.
“I wouldn’t be in here in New York,” he said, “without her support and guidance.”