Illustration by Louise Leong

The Santa Cruz Film Festival will present “Ramen and Beer,” the 2011 UCSC student showcase tonight, May 5, at the Del Mar Theatre. Compiled of 12 short films from selected student filmmakers of the film and digital media department, the film festival will share the talent of the next generation of filmmakers with the Santa Cruz community.

The showcase covers a broad range of narrative works, autobiographical pieces, documentaries and experimental films originally started as class projects in the film and digital media department. A few pieces were selected from each class and submitted into a year-long selection process by a showcase selection committee of students and faculty.

“These students are essentially the up-and-coming filmmakers of our day and age,” said fourth-year Nicolas Richard Kerr, a student on the showcase selection committee. “There is no pressure like commercial incentive, and it’s … a critical work that is much more thought-provoking [in comparison to major production films]. It’s interesting to see the potential that our department is producing.”

The title of the showcase, “Ramen and Beer,” was chosen to characterize the unique profile of a student filmmaker — a student who maintains a questionable diet, but harbors immense creative potential.

“As students, we’re living on the edge as far as financial means goes, and sort of have to struggle to create well-made work with constraints,” said Sarah Jaffe, maker of “Wikipedia to Pure Reason,” a film that explores the experience of surfing the internet. “Part of being a student filmmaker is learning the limits of getting your project financed and doing whatever you can to make it work with what you have.”

“I think a lot of the cool part is that there is no studio saying ‘yes’ and ‘no,’” said Christopher “Kip” Radt, a student filmmaker. “Your creativity can run wild.”

Radt made the autobiographical narrative, “Kip,” a story that involves literally going inside his head.

This film class assignment not only offered a spot in the limelight for selected students, but also provided a fun and experimental experience. Student filmmaker Douglas Smith had been planning his film, “Rise and Shine,” even before his 10-week class and has spent close to 100 hours working on it.

“I really just made the film for fun,” Smith said.

The comical plot follows a student who oversleeps and rushes to get ready for class while objects around her house come to life to help her get ready.

“It also happened to be the film I submitted for my film production class at UCSC, but I mainly wanted to try out a new style of filmmaking [stop-frame with live actors],” Smith said.

Student filmmaker Zak Lambert also enjoyed making his film, “O, Abby,” a love story between two young kids.

“I had a blast. I think of Robert Altman’s quote that filmmaking is similar to building sandcastles with your closest people … No matter how stressful the intermittent rainstorm, the rising tides, my non-functional homemade camera tools, or the cast of children with their on-set parents might have made things, that day was perfect. I’ll be the luckiest person alive if I can do this for the rest of my life,” he said.

The festival creates opportunities for the student filmmakers to make connections with more experienced filmmakers through pre-reception parties and meet and greets, and ultimately gives independent films the limelight.

“Apart from television addiction, mass media is often problematic due to the limited ideology that’s represented and provided to the people watching,” Lambert said. “So it’s a win for everybody when more storytellers are thrown into the mix. Independent films, as long as they’re daring, offer the satisfaction that sometimes other voices get heard.”