The newest films by independent filmmakers Effie T. Brown, Ted Kroeber and Lincoln Ruchti, graduates of the Loyola Marymount University (LMU) School of Film and Television (SFTV), made their world premieres at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah last month.
Brown and Kroeber’s films were honored with awards and all three received accolades from film critics at the festival, according to school officials.
Rocket Science, the second film produced by Brown to be in competition at Sundance, was honored with the festival’s directing award in a drama, presented to the movie’s director Jeffrey Blitz.
The movie, a presentation of HBO Films and Picturehouse, tells the story of a teenager with a terrible stutter who enters his high school’s debate team in the hope of impressing the girl of his dreams.
“Rocket Science defies the gravity of generic moviemaking and spun an early-morning Sundance audience into ecstatic orbit here,” wrote film critic Duane Byrge for The Hollywood Reporter.
He also wrote that the movie is “brainy, quirky and splendidly unpredictable.”
Ted Kroeber’s Four Sheets to the Wind, the producer’s first film to screen at Sundance, received the special jury prize for acting, honoring the performance of Tamara Podemski “for a fully realized physical and emotional turn.”
Four Sheets to the Wind is the story of Cufe Smallhill, who finds his father dead, puts him in the family pond and begins his life in the big city of Tulsa.
“A captivating crowd-pleaser here at SundanceÖ the performances are richly subduedÖ Four Sheets enchants,” Byrge wrote.
Kroeber arrived at Sundance armed with three Independent Spirit Award nominations for his previous feature film, American Gun, including one for Best Feature.
Featured in the Independent Documentary Competition, Lincoln Ruchti’s Chasing Ghosts visits Ottumwas, Iowa, considered the video game capital of the world, and profiles Billy Mitchell, reputedly the first and only player to ever get a perfect score on Pac Man.
Included in the documentary is footage of the 1982 Video Game World Championship. Ruchti calls his film “a love story.”
“Director Lincoln Ruchti takes us on a wild ride through the lives of the first arcade celebrities, resulting in an eye-popping collage of retro-gaming goodnessÖ the colorful characters that he unearths along the way are this film’s true treasure,” wrote Adam Montgomery in the Sundance Program Guide.
The LMU School of Film and Television filmmakers at Sundance were honored at an opening reception in Park City hosted by the school’s dean, Teri Schwartz, and the National Geographic All Roads Film Project.
Four Sheets to the Wind was funded in part by a grant from the All Roads Film Project.
“I’m delighted that the Sundance programmers identified these three films and the remarkable talents of Effie, Ted and Lincoln,” Schwartz said. “The awards presented to Rocket Science and Four Sheets to the Wind are especially gratifying, and we couldn’t be more excited about the critical reactions to all three movies as our school continues to develop the next generation of great storytellers.”
Schwartz led a delegation from the LMU School of Film and Television community to Park City, which included top graduate and undergraduate students, along with Sony Transition After Graduation (TAG) Fellows, the school’s most recent top graduates who are now being groomed for professional careers through high-level internships in the entertainment industry.
The delegation participated in immersion activities and networking opportunities that a top festival such as the Sundance Film Festival provides, a school source noted.