Television and Film Arts (TFA) program sophomore Grace Philips won first place in the narrative film category at the SUNYWide Film Festival held April 10-12 at SUNY Fredonia.
Philips wrote, directed, and produced the short film Scuba-Tap Man, a coming-of-age story about a young man’s choice between pursuing his dream of being a tap dancer and fulfilling his mother’s dying wish for him to become a marine biologist.
“Grace has proven to be a terrific storyteller,” said TFA program director Jeffrey Hirschberg. “We are very proud of this significant accomplishment and look forward to what she will do next.”
The festival judges considered 116 student films overall. Philips’ film emerged as the winner in the narrative category out of 41 films. Additionally, two films by TFA program alumni were selected as part of the festival: Gabriel Simon’s film Siren, for which he received an honorable mention, and Kraig Adams’ film Perfect Paths. Several Buffalo State students and TFA alumni participated in both films.
Scuba-Tap Man emerged from a class assignment to make a short film without dialogue. She decided to make the film in the Butler Library, an aesthetically pleasing building she fell in love with the minute she stepped inside. On a Friday night and a Saturday morning last fall, Philips and her crew created a story of redemption and hope all within the four-minute film that includes one tuxedo-clad actor tap dancing and browsing the library’s marine biology section and another wearing a scuba suit.
“The library staff was very accommodating,” Philips said. “They offered to help us in any way.”
Buffalo State students who worked on the film included: Joey Springer, director of photography; Osman Shire, producer; Madison Amey, producer and boom operator; Robert Sherman, tap man; James Toback, scuba-tap man; and LeeAnn Philips, mother.
Philips, who grew up in Williamsville, said she never made a film before college. Since entering Buffalo State’s TFA program, however, she has contributed to many film projects. She said she appreciates the small class and program size.
“In other film programs, it’s easy to get lost,” she said. “The TFA program has really allowed me as a filmmaker to learn about and practice multiple disciplines of filmmaking. I’m grateful to the program professors who have allowed me to put my pen to paper and transcend that paper to produce images of this art form we know and love as film.”