Film Festivals: Not All Champagne and Paparazzi

Director Derek Pastuszek (left) and lead actor Kofi Bamfo at the White House screening of [solitary] last month.

Director Derek Pastuszek (left) and lead actor Kofi Bamfo at the White House screening of [solitary] last month.

Derek Pastuszek went west to learn how to make movies. Now a movie he’s made has him traveling to film festivals at all points of the compass. There, the excitement of premieres and celebrity glitz are balanced with the work of finding an audience for the short film he completed last November.

Pastuszek, a 2008 graduate of Strath Haven High School, wrote and directed the 17 minute short film [solitary], a dramatic exploration of the stark and hallucinatory life of a prisoner in solitary confinement. [solitary] has been selected for a number of international film festivals, at which it has won significant awards.

“Festivals vary,” Pastuszek said. “There are big ones like Sundance, Tribeca, Cannes (where the film was accepted into the short film corner) and smaller festivals with more focus. I’m looking for the right place for this film to land, and at every festival I’ve been to, there have been opportunities.”

So far, Pastuszek’s film has screened at film festivals in Vail, Co., Greenwich, Conn., Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. [solitary] won the grand prize in the student film category at the Cinegear Expo in L.A., and the grand prize (student narrative category) in the March on Washington Film Festival. The awards ceremony for the last included a screening of [solitary] at the White House on July 20.

“I enjoy talking about my work, but there are a lot of people at these things tooting their own horns,” Pastuszek said. “Most of my focus should be on writing, less on the networking, but we as filmmakers have our own career agendas, and I have a lot of balls in the air.”

Pastuszek majored in Film and English at Boston University, then went to the American Film Institute for an MFA in screenwriting. He has worked on feature films and TV pilots, written a feature film that is being shopped around, and now is working on a “tiny budget feature film that I could make myself.”

Future fests include Kolkata Shorts International, Southampton Film Festival in England, Hollyshorts Film Festival in Hollywood, and the Massachusetts Independent Film Festival in Cambridge.

The film is under consideration for the Philadelphia Film Festival in October, which, if it is selected, would provide a chance for local friends of Swarthmore native Pastuszek to view a screening without traveling to Cannes or Kolkata.

Once Pastuszek has completed his run of the festival gauntlet, he can finally sign distribution and broadcast deals and release the film.

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