St. Louis International Film Festival offers many connections for the Webster community

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Webster University left its mark on the St. Louis International Film Festival (SLIFF) once again. The 32nd annual festival took place this year from Nov. 9-19, showcasing nearly 300 films throughout the St. Louis area, including Webster University. 

Hi-Pointe Theatre on the night of the Awards Ceremony. Photo by Alyssa White

SLIFF started in 1992 as an all-volunteer organization run by a small group of women, including Kathy Corley, now a longstanding board member for Cinema St. Louis (CSL). Before SLIFF, Corley graduated from Webster University and returned to teach in 1985. She currently works as an adjunct professor in the media arts department.

“There’s a really good cross-fertilization connection. Over the years, when I taught film studies and film history classes, I brought my students to SLIFF,” Corley said. 

Corley reflected on taking her students to Damien Chazelle’s first feature film, “Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench.” Chazelle would eventually direct the Academy-Award-winning film “La La Land.”

Chris Clark Presenting at the 2023 SLIFF Awards Ceremony. Photo by Alyssa White

Chris Clark is the artistic director for SLIFF and obtained his communications degree from Webster. Clark surveys films, specifically narrative films. He works specifically with studios, distributors and sales agents worldwide, accepting around 10% of films submitted.

“As a graduate of Webster, it has put me on this path without knowing this was the destination. I often see old classmates presenting films, and I have lifelong friendships with filmmakers that have stemmed from my experience at Webster,” Clark said.

Webster Film Series is St. Louis’ only year-long film series. They operate on a small staff, including Webster Alum Angela Guo, who previously had a film in the SLIFF shorts program. 

Pete Timmerman, the current director of the Webster Film Series, has been teaching at Webster for 16 years and has worked as Webster Film Series Director since 2018.

“SLIFF is very important. I push my students and friends to go,” Timmerman said. “I knew a student who went to SLIFF and met a Pixar Animator, kept in contact with him, was able to get a tour of Pixar and she now works at Disney.”

Ben Scholle is a filmmaker who grew up in Webster Groves. He directed the short documentary “Student of the Game” shown at SLIFF.

When I was growing up, I made videos with my friends, and now I get a ton of amazing support from the larger St. Louis area film community. Of course, I have a lot of memories of the Webster Groves arts community. I think in that sense, I was able to quickly connect with Lydia when we found out we were working on similar projects,” Scholle said.

Lydia Wood, a local Webster Groves artist, is one of the subjects in Ben’s documentary. This story focuses on Wood’s artwork series depicting victims of gun violence. 

“I had never been in the art community before moving here, and now I live in a neighborhood where my best friend two doors down is also an artist. It’s one of the most encouraging environments,” Wood said.

There have been many notable attendees and filmmakers at SLIFF who would go on to have very successful careers, such as Christopher Nolan, James Gunn, Jenna Fischer and Gavid Hood, director of the Academy Award-winning film “TSOTSI.”

This year, Webster professor Michael Long, alum Michael Deeken and professor Joshua Johnson worked on films shown at the festival. Faculty members James Tudor and Natalia Kaniasty served as jurors for the festival.

SLIFF is the largest film event in the Saint Louis area, and it broadens the local film community to an international level. And the connections that SLIFF offers could make you the next big internationally acclaimed filmmaker.

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Alyssa White
Staff Writer | + posts