It’s hard to imagine anyone in Hollywood coming up with a better scenario than the one that unfolded for a group of video production students during their final semester at SUNY Fredonia.
“The Cryptid Cast vs. The Goopy Ganker,” the film they produced in the spring semester, won the “Best Short Film: Festival Director Award” at the 2022 Cannes Short Film Festival in July and won top-grossing honors at the Dunkirk Multiplex in the same week, these young filmmakers strode across the Steele Hall arena stage with diplomas in hand. It was among more than 80 films screened.
Their professor in the communications department in COMM 454: Fiction II, Associate Professor Roslin Smith, sums up the amount of work the students put into the film in one word: phenomenal. “Yes, (I am) very proud of them. It is difficult to screen a film locally, let alone internationally [at the Cannes Short Film Festival]and win a prize, especially at Cannes.
“It is difficult to screen a film locally, let alone internationally. [at Cannes Short Film Festival], and win a prize, notably at Cannes. – Associate Professor Roslin Smith
They represent Mrs. Smith’s first students to attend this festival, likely due to upfront costs and high rejection rates, so their cinematic triumph represents a first at SUNY Fredonia.
Backed by a strong student PR campaign, two screenings of “The Cryptid Cast vs. The Goopy Ganker” in Dunkirk sold more tickets than superhero film “Dr. Strange,” which played on an adjacent screen the same week.
The Cannes Short Film Festival (CSFF), held in the south of France, was established a decade ago as a showcase for young emerging talent and a celebration of the best in international independent short film. Its aim is to become a hub for the short film industry and one of the most innovative short film festivals in Europe. The CSFF is not part of the long-running and widely known Cannes International Film Festival.
Jackson DiCarlo, who shared directing and writing duties with Ben Anderson, was clearly surprised by the CSFF victory. “I woke up in the morning and saw the email on my phone while I was half asleep. I had to do a double take to make sure I was actually awake. I didn’t couldn’t believe it. I still can’t, kinda,” he recalled.
“We were all so proud of the movie when we finished it, but receiving this award was a huge honor that really cemented this achievement for us. It’s a big milestone for all of us and our careers right out of the gate. If there was ever any doubt about the bright future of our future, this award has certainly dispelled it,” remarked Mr. DiCarlo.
Nearly 50 students were involved in the production in one way or another, and most wore multiple hats. The main class crew of nine included: DiCarlo and Mr. Anderson, both director/writer; Nick Dohre, producer/director; Ryan Champlin, producer/assistant director; Jay Gleason and Alec Wright, both directors of photography; Sam Macintosh-Smith, editor/assistant camera; Kai Guilds, audio/public relations director; and Skyla Cedeno, costume designer/camera assistant. 19 other students were also part of the crew. DiCarlo, from Orchard Park, and Anderson, Jamestown, both majored in Communications: Video Production and had minors in Film Studies.
For nine members of the team, the film, which ran for 46:30, was their main project for their degree in communications: video production. Other students came from other classes and departments.
The cast consisted of Gemma Vodacek, Joseph Marciniak, Shawn Adiletta, Luke Brewer, Matt Neary and Jay Gleason, as Goopy Ganker.
“The story follows Kate Blair, an ambitious and aspiring podcaster, Ron Anderson, Kate’s co-host and much-needed voice of reason, and the ever anxious but endearing Alex Quincy who acts as the heart of the group” , DiCarlo explained.
The film’s tagline: “Out for Intrigue and Out of their League”
DiCarlo says the film shines as shining proof that anything is possible with enough dedication and support. “In the film’s own words, ‘You don’t stand a chance if you don’t take a chance.’ The plan to make this massive movie started because a small group of talented and driven students wanted to push it beyond,” DiCarlo said. “This team grew and grew as more and more friends and families lent a hand.”
The hard work of the team stands out in the film, DiCarlo said, and is a showcase of everyone’s best work. “Between the sets/locations, the audio design and the musical compositions, the film finds the tone to which it pays homage. The actors and their performances elevate the film to another level. Their characters come to life through the cast’s wonderful blend of reality and ridiculousness,” DiCarlo said.
“As a director, I’m so proud of what everyone has accomplished. Everyone brought their A-Game to the table, and as a result, we made a movie that exceeded all expectations, including mine.
The team was able to budget for the film through a successful GoFundMe campaign which, combined with the presentation of several campus events such as Rockin’ The Commons and the Lend-A-Paw Dog Walk, raised more of $2,500. The money was used in every part of the production, covering the costs of costumes, makeup, props, and festival submissions, among other expenses.
Script writing began in August 2021 and the team began pre-production in December, followed by casting in January 2022 and filming a month later. The project was screened for the first time on May 20 at the multiplex and a second time on May 21, one hour after Commencement. Seeing a line stretch out in front of the theater’s front door during the first screening was an awe-inspiring sight, DiCarlo recalls. Public feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Graduation was the targeted date for screenings so our family members who were traveling to watch us perform could also stay to see our film. Luckily it worked, but we were worried we’d have to do it at the theater to get there just in time.
“It’s been a whirlwind semester to say the least,” DiCarlo noted.
DiCarlo praises the management of the Dunkirk Multiplex for being super nice and accommodating in scheduling the film around several blockbusters airing on other screens. He would like to have another local screening.
“The Cryptid Cast vs. The Goopy Ganker” won’t sit on a shelf somewhere. It’s been entered into 18 film festivals around, and another local screening isn’t beyond the realm of possibility. More information is available on: the Instagram page: @cryptidcastfilm.
“If we can see a request, we will make it happen!” DiCarlo said.