by Tanner Kinney, Jack Gillespie, and Trevor Sheffield

Frog Baby Film Festival 2019 was another excellent showing of a variety of expertly crafted student films. These films show a number of varied perspectives, many of them taking risks on the ways we tell stories. From dramas about just trying to get home, to comedies about purgatory, to even experimental films that feel like Twilight Zone episodes, this festival had it all. Although some films were stronger than others, all of these films were deserving of the honor to be shown at Frog Baby this year. This year truly highlights the creativity of Ball State students in crafting narratives that have never been seen before.


Es

Winner:

Best Screenplay

Directed by Maria Pizzo of Fringed

Leading the show is “Es,” directed by Maria Pizzo of Fringed. Es is about a shy college girl who has a knack for poetry and, with the encouragement from a friend and romantic crush, finds herself able to audition for a poetry troupe. The film isn’t particularly mindblowing in how it’s shot or constructed; that’s all well-done, but fairly standard. However, the story of a person overcoming their anxieties through the help of the little things in her life is something that resonates strongly. Its showing of a clear lesbian lead, especially when compared to the many male-oriented narratives in the festival, made it a standout. “Es” is a fantastic sign of even greater things to come from Fringed in the future. – Tanner Kinney


FHL

Directed by Connor Rush

The first of the two music videos brought a lot of personal flair to the festival; the song, provided by rapper LJ, touches on everything from his own mental health and struggle with suicidal thoughts to oppression he and the people around him face, whether it be for their color, gender, or their sexual orientation. It’s a powerful message, and director Connor Rush does a great job capturing that. The greyscale color scheme is a good fit for the dark themes of the song and allows Rush to be quite creative with shadows in his shots. There are moments in the video that aren’t quite as developed as others, but the short film is a generally impactful music video that deserved at least some recognition when it came to the award ceremony. – Jack Gillespie


Living Form

Winner:

Best Documentary

Produced by the Ball State Daily News

“Living Form,” produced by the Ball State Daily News and this year’s winner for Best Documentary, tells the story of Jonathan Becker and his career making theatrical masks. As we follow the production of one of these masks, Becker takes time to talk about the importance of theatre in today’s society and ultimately his own outlook on his work. Impeccably filmed and paced, “Living Form” is an intimate portrait of a figure who doesn’t need what he produces to make his presence known. – Trevor Sheffield


Say Yes to the Dress: Shakespeare

Directed by Grace Hill

The next film was “Say Yes to the Dress: Shakespeare.” The three-minute short is exactly what it says on the tin; a parody of the amazing reality TV show utilizing the confusing and sometimes petty dramas of Shakespeare’s romantic pairings for comedic effect. It cuts between many different, small scenes, like a normal promo for the real Say Yes to the Dress, and the comedic timing of direct quotes mixed with modern dialogue is spot on. The only disappointing thing about this was that it wasn’t actually a real episode of the show, because that would quite possibly be one of the most ambitious crossovers in history. – Tanner Kinney


25:00

Winner:

Best Actor: Austin Keough

Directed by Austin Keough

“25:00” seems less like a short film made to stand on its own and more like a significant scene from a great feature film. The minutes we spend with these characters seem like they could be preceded by a good thirty minutes of film. However, that is not a completely bad thing. The characters depicted in “25:00” can be seen with all their development very quickly within the short film; much of that is due to what may be the best script of the entire festival. While the film is classified as a drama, the conversations that our main character (played by Austin Keough) runs into in the middle of the night toe the line between relatable and absurd really well. It is all executed with quite an amount of skill as well; Keough won the award for Best Actor for good reason. – Jack GIllespie


Late Night Run

Directed by Daniel Wood

“Late Night Run,” directed by Daniel Wood, is about an eager young woman starting to have second thoughts on the eve of losing her virginity when heading to the local market to pick up protection. As the deed (and the store’s clerk) loom closer and closer, she ultimately has to make a choice. With impressive comedic timing tied to the story’s immediately relatable awkwardness, this short manages to pack a lot of slow-burn laughs in its’ five-minute running time. – Trevor Sheffield


Devil’s Advocate

Winner:

Best Sound Design

Best Direction

Best of Festival

Directed by Max Harp

The final film before intermission was the much-deserving winner of Best of Festival, “Devil’s Advocate.” This film follows an office worker of purgatory trying to get through his job in the best way he can: drinking excessively and sending as many people down below as possible. After breaking policy and sending a puppy to Hell (since, as we know, All Dogs Go to Heaven), the Purgatory Clerk must grit his teeth and send some seedy individuals up to maintain balance. The short was a constant stream of laughter, with roaring from the audience so loud it actually became hard to hear the movie. This was due to great performances all around from the cast and a phenomenal script. Whenever this short is available online to view, it’s definitely one to watch for yourself. If “Devil’s Advocate” was in a line-up with professional-level productions, it’d be impossible to tell the difference. – Tanner Kinney


Retne

Winner:

Best Color Grade

Best Editing

Best Cinematography

Directed by Dylan Query

Of all of the films that were within the “Alternative/Experimental” category, “Retne” was the one that embraced that label the most. It’s a short, dialogue-less piece that relies solely upon the camera work, soundtrack, and the actor’s body language to build tension among the audience. Thankfully, director Dylan Query played his cards right, as the tension felt throughout “Retne” is the best part of the whole film. The arresting nature of the film makes up for the rather confused, unclear story and/or message that the film is trying to convey. – Jack Gillespie


The Dotted Line

Winner:

Best Comedy

Directed by Tommy Garrett

“The Dotted Line,” directed by Tommy Garrett, follows a midnight confrontation with the Devil that turns the Faustian Bargain on its head. When a student makes a request of Satan that’s anything but normal (by HIS standards), the two are forced to work out the conditions of an already loaded contract. Clever premise aside, the actors completely sell you on their characters and present the audience with a unique take on Ol’ Beelzebub that you weirdly can’t help but relate to. – Trevor Sheffield


Jewel Therapy

Winner:

Best Actress: Janae Robinson

Directed by Cardinal Film Works and Talon Cooper Reed

Following “The Dotted Line” was “Jewel Therapy,” a comedy about a young man finding a way to overcome his “jeweling” addiction. In the film, “jewels” are treated as a hard drug, with an anonymous therapy group to help those who struggle with their addiction. Best Actress winner Janae Robinson in particular puts in a fantastic performance, completely selling the kind of hyper-crazed addict this film wanted to create. An unexpected twist at the end served to be the best joke of the short, being so absurd that it actually works perfectly. It was a fun little short, and a great showing from Cardinal Film Works. – Tanner Kinney


Completed Years

Winner:

Best Production Design

Directed by Nick Kinder

While it was one of the shortest films at the festival, “Completed Years” was one of the most touching films as well. While the clever base concept of the film isn’t exactly taken in complex direction with the story it’s trying to tell, it is executed almost flawlessly with some excellent shot composition. Each shot is so picturesque; it’s almost as if they are moving paintings rather than your average video recording. It’s short, sweet, and does exactly what it wanted to do to a T. – Jack Gillespie


Superfoot

Winner:

Best Alternative/Experimental

Directed by Ian Mitchell

“Superfoot,” directed by Ian Mitchell and winner of best Experimental/Alternative Film, follows a trio of housemates as they deal with the excessive partying of their neighbor. What starts as a night of tuning out the rager outside descends into madness, rabbits, and the search for a functioning A/V cable. Spawned from the personal life of its director, this film takes the viewer on a visual spirit quest through the perspective of our generation, all capped off with one of the most satisfying payoffs of the night. Undeniably, Superfoot was a stand-out selection of the night. – Trevor Sheffield


The Gravedigger

Winner:

 Best Drama

Directed by Blake Conner

“The Gravedigger” was a film that was scripted during a single class period in an attempt to craft a fully-fledged horror film in under five minutes with no dialogue—and it succeeds in doing that beautifully. With masterfully composed shots and tight editing, the film creates a sense of tension through nothing more than creepy visuals and a fantastic soundtrack. The fact they convinced an old man to let them bury him is crazy enough, but just how well executed it is cannot be stated. This horror short puts many big, modern horror films to shame. – Tanner Kinney


When the Fire Starts

Winner:

Best Music Video

Directed by Nevin Markitan

While “FHL” seemed to go for a more rough aesthetic for its themes of mental illness and suicidal thoughts, “When the Fire Starts” went for more of a familiar type of rap music video. With some rather ambitious shots featured throughout the video and an overall polished look, director Nevin Markitan executed a perfectly solid accompaniment to the song by rapper Willis. All the video is truly lacking is a strong voice that separates it from the average rap music video. – Jack Gillespie


Cornfed Derby Dames

Directed by Gywn Hultquist

“Cornfed Derby Dames,” directed by Gwyn Hultquist of Fringed, takes a peek at Muncie’s first all-female roller derby team, the titular Dames. While the documentary was the shortest selection of the entire night, clocking in at around 2 minutes, it more than delivered in getting the word about the team in an energetic and engaging manner. – Trevor Sheffield


The Melody

Directed by Jae Krause

The final film of the night was “The Melody,” a short drama based on a real violinist and student of Ball State. The usage of an amateur actor playing himself worked out surprisingly well (as who else could tell his story but him?), and the direction of the film deserves props. It essentially tells a condensed version of a story that’s familiar to many people, especially those who were fans of Whiplash, which the director directly compared his short film to. While it does have issues with the structure of the narrative and could’ve used a couple more minutes to develop the conflict, a touching ending tied off both “The Melody” and the Frog Baby Film Festival in a nice little bow. – Tanner Kinney


Featured Image: Frog Baby Film Festival

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