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Film festival features flicks of 909

Karleigh Neff
LV Life Editor

The lights in the Benson Auditorium dimmed, and the audience silenced in anticipation. Sixteen short but brilliant films were about to play, representing the talented local filmmakers at this year’s 909 Film Festival last Friday night.

Pitzer College in Claremont has been putting on the 909 Film Festival for four years now, designed to showcase local filmmakers and their vision, according to Eddie Gonzalez.

Gonzalez is the assistant director of production at Pitzer and started the festival four years ago when he noticed there were no film festivals around the 909 area.

Five out of the 16 films were produced by La Verne students, alumni and faculty. “September” was produced by University alumna April Hava Shenkam. The silent film was short but simply beautiful, showcasing a black and white version of Paris and the love of a young girl and boy.

Jetske Wauran, senior communications major, produced and shot two different short documentaries about local La Verne ceramic businesses. They informed the audience of the art and history behind them.

“We just wanted to make it fun,” Wauran said. “So we tried to feature a lot of the art and the history behind it. We also tried to make the music flow with the film.”

“House of the Dead” was produced by junior liberal arts major Alexander Clague. The film was a prelude to the classic video game “House of the Dead” located in many arcades. In the film, a young man fell asleep while playing the game and while dreaming went on a shooting rampage. When he woke up, he was lying on the ground with the video game gun still in hand.

“I created this story based on the music in the video,” Clague said. “I wanted it to be like ‘Grand Theft Auto,’ but then we decided to go with ‘House of the Dead.’”

Lastly, “Trane & Miles” was produced and written by Scott Essman, an adjunct communications professor here. Essman’s film paid tribute to two of the biggest names in jazz, Miles Davis and John William Coltrane. The actors who played Davis and Coltrane brought the film to life, Essman said.

“Youtube was my best friend when preparing for this film,” said Travis Hinson, who played Davis. “I had to study Miles a lot to make it perfect.”

Essman said his vision for the film started months ago when he first worked with Hinson and knew right away that he could play a great Miles Davis. His passion for the music and the musicians made the film very successful. Essman’s team won the audience applause award at the end of the night.

“I just love Miles Davis,” Essman said. “He has influenced so many musical styles. He also brought around all these young musicians and he trained them, like Coltrane.”

Other films not produced by La Verne affiliates were also awarded at the end of the night. Jim Lujan’s cartoon film, “Prince of Pomona,” won Best 909 Movie and kept audience laughing. It revolved around a local Pomona resident who wanted to be just like Prince, even though he lacked musical talent.

“The Heavy,” a film by Dean Werner, won best cinematography. It followed a boxer tangled between two women. He could not decide between the two and took a beating in the ring as his own form of punishment.

The 909 Film Festival will be held again next year, showing even more original and creative short films by local filmmakers.

Karleigh Neff can be reached at

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