Still from First Match, Olivia Newman ’12 (director), Chanelle Elaine ’12 (producer), Veronica Nickel ’10 (producer), Kristi Lutz ’10 (co-producer), and Michael Toscano ’12 (Assistant Director)
Image courtesy of SxSW

18 Alumni, Faculty, and Students Screen Films at 2018 SXSW Film Festival

BY Fernando Iriarte , February 28, 2018

From March 9th to March 18th, 15 Columbia Alumni, one Student, and one Faculty Member will be among those showcasing their cinematic work at the renowned 2018 South by Southwest Film Festival.


Still from Write When You Get to Work

Still from Write When You Get To Work. Image courtesy of SxSW. 


The narrative feature competition has selected ten feature films from 1,408 submissions. Among them is Write When You Get Work, directed by Stacy Cochran ’91.


Synopsis: Write when you get work is a comedy of money and access, a NY love story set in the Bronx and at a pricey school for girls on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Years after they’ve parted ways, Jonny Collins pursues Ruth Duffy for love — and profit. The movie stars Emily Mortimer, Finn Wittrock, and Rachel Keller.


Also in the narrative competition, the film First Match will have its world premiere. Five Columbia alumni collaborated on this project: Olivia Newman ’12 (director), Chanelle Elaine ’12 (producer), Veronica Nickel ’10 (producer), Kristi Lutz ’10 (co-producer), and Michael Toscano ’12 (Assistant Director)


Synopsis: Hardened by years in foster care, a teenage girl from Brooklyn’s Brownsville neighborhood decides that wrestling boys is the only way back to her estranged father.


Director Olivia Newman was among the winners of Columbia's Blue List in 2015 and was part of the 2015 Sundance Screenwriting and director’s lab—a program designed to discover and foster emerging artists—with her film First Match.


Still from Unlovable

Still from Unlovable. Image courtesy of SxSW. 


Unlovable, directed by Alumna Suzi Yoonessi '06 is having its world premiere.


Synopsis: JOY (Charlene deGuzman,) a 20-something lost soul, realizes she has a problem and seeks help at a 12-step meeting for sex and love addiction. There she meets MADDIE (Melissa Leo), who becomes her sponsor. Maddie allows Joy to stay at her grandmother’s guesthouse if she agrees to go 30 days off boys, sex, and romance.


Still from Jinn

Still from Jinn. Image courtesy of SxSW.


Jinn, produced by alumna Avril Speaks ’03, is also having its world premiere at the festival as part of the official selection line-up.


Synopsis: Summer is a carefree teenage girl whose world is turned upside down when her mother abruptly converts to Islam and becomes a different person. At first resistant to the faith, she begins to reevaluate her identity after becoming attracted to a Muslim classmate, crossing the thin line between physical desire and piety.


Columbia University will also be represented in the narrative shorts program.


Tangles and Knots

Still from Tangles and Knots


Set in the height of summer in Sydney, Australia, Tangles and Knots—written and directed by Alumna Renée Marie Pretopoulos ’17 and produced by Alumna Kristin Frost ’16—tells the story of a unique bond between mother and daughter which becomes threatened when the mother helps her teenage daughter throw a party to impress new, more popular friends. Tangles and Knots was part of the Faculty Selects at CUFF 2017 and had its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival Generation Selection.


In the Drama Narrative Spotlight, a section of the festival slotted for high profile narrative features receiving their World, North American, or U.S. premieres at SXSW, the movie 6 Balloons, co-produced by Alumnus Geoff Quan ’08, will screen.


Still from Wild Nights with Emily

Still from Wild Night with Emily. Image courtesy of SxSW. 


Narrative Spotlight also has a section for comedy, romance, experimental and LGBTQI films where Wild Nights with Emily will play, written and directed by Alumna Madeleine Olnek ’08. The film took the top prize at the Champs-Elysées Film Festival in Paris in 2017. Alumna Alex Peace ’17 was a line producer for the film. Current student Max Rifkind-Barron, who is presenting his thesis film at Columbia this year, was a producer for the film.


Still from Don't Leave Home

Still from Don't Leave Home. Image courtesy of SxSW.


Adjunct Faculty member Shrihari Sathe co-produced the film Don’t Leave Home, which will premiere in the Visions selection of the festival, a place where “filmmakers are audacious, risk-taking artists in the new cinema landscape who demonstrate raw innovation and creativity in documentary and narrative filmmaking.”


Other alumni presenting work at SXSW include Jessica Daniels ’07, casting director of A Vigilante, which is part of Narrative Spotlight, and stars Olivia Wilde as a once abused woman, Sadie, who devotes herself to ridding victims of their domestic abusers while hunting down the husband she must kill to truly be free. 


And Karrie Crouse ’12, writer and director of the music video COM TRUISE "Propagation", a techno-dystopian vignette that could be a miniature episode of Black Mirror