After tossing their graduation caps into the air this spring, many college students might be unsure about their first steps into adulthood.
Not Ian Carr. After picking up his computer science degree from Pomona College earlier this month, the 22-year-old hopped on a plane to French Riveria to attend the Cannes Film Festival. There, a short film he produced, "Shelley," is being screened as part of the festival's esteemed Cinéfondation competition.
The 21-minute movie is one of only 13 films chosen this year from over 1,500 entries. Only two of the selections come from the United States, and Carr and his film's director Andrew Wesman are the only undergraduate filmmakers in the pool.
"I hear it's one of the prettiest places in the world, and all these heroes and filmmakers will be there—so to tan on the same beach as them will be amazing," said Carr excitedly last month, exiting his dorm room after screening "Shelley" on his desktop computer.
The film, which initially began as his childhood friend Wesman's thesis project at Harvard University, centers around a 14-year-old girl who commits a ghastly murder with her boyfriend by her side. The filmmakers said their aim was for the film to explore the young couple's wildly differing reactions to the crime in its aftermath.
If it hadn't been for Wesman's own girlfriend, the relationship-thriller might have never even made it to Cannes.
"I woke up one day and looked online and saw it was the last possible day to enter the festival," recalled Wesman via telephone from Boston. "I walked to the UPS store and it was President's Day, so the postage was really expensive and I thought, 'nah, it's really not worth it.' But my girlfriend forced me to send it."
A few months later, on a mesa in Zion National Park during a spring break road trip with Carr through the Southwest, Wesman noticed an e-mail on his Blackberry. He hesitantly opened it and learned "Shelley" had been accepted into the festival.
"I was speechless for about ten minutes," said Carr. "And then I just smirked for the rest of the day. Andrew was like, 'you realize that we just got accepted to Cannes, right?' I think I was shocked."
It was the kind of honor that had been far from Carr's mind last summer, when he flew cross-country to Cape Cod, Mass. There, Wesman's family allowed the pair and their production crew to film "Shelley" in their vacation home. For eight days, Carr took on producing duties: barbequing for the crew, keeping everyone on a rigid time schedule and even pushing around heavy dollies.
While Wesman may have had a thesis on the line, Carr's only vested interest in the project was a passion for film—something he'd shared with Wesman throughout his childhood in San Francisco, where the two grew up next to one another. In high school, the friends would often work on their own film projects together. They asked their parents for cameras at Hanukkah, or on their birthdays and used the equipment to film their ideas. Later, they began submitting their work to small film festivals and took classes at the California State Summer School for the Arts.
Today, the stakes are a little higher. During his last few weeks at Pomona, Carr has scrambled to get ready for Cannes—having the film print made for a 35 millimeter screening and having the movie's color and sound retooled at professional Hollywood labs. The ultimate prize at Cinéfondation is, after all, pretty big: 15,000 euros and a standing acceptance of the filmmaker's first feature film into the festival's official selection.
"It'd give our careers a boost, to say the least," said Carr, who plans to look for a job in Silicon Valley after the festival while Wesman heads to film school in LA, where he plans to work on future films with his friend. "Perhaps this might help us in the future secure jobs, and hopefully we can use it as a stepping stone to continue making better, more ambitious films. But it's just an honor to even have it screened. To me, it's so thrilling that this began as a single phone call where we threw around some ideas, and a year later, it's an elaborate production that's playing at a film festival."