Making the Cut

Six schools, 48 hours, barely any sleep, 2,000 votes, one contest and we won!

The first ever SUNY-Wide 48 Hour Film Festival ended last week crowning SUNY New Paltz’s submission, “The Crypto Diaries: Part One – Lizard Man,” the victor.

Directed by sixth-year Aaron Brander, this film then went up against eight others made here on or around campus to be viewed by four judges who picked which was sent to face off against the other schools. All the videos can be seen at

While individual universities have definitely held competitions like this in the past, this is the first of hopefully many semesters that schools from across the state take part, according to third-year digital media production major Ryan Percy who organized SUNY New Paltz’s involvement. The other schools that competed in this Film 48 were SUNY’s Binghamton, Buffalo, Oswego, Plattsburgh, Alfred State and Cayuga Community College.

“I was worried people wouldn’t jump in, knowing it was a busy weekend,” Percy said. “It wasn’t until that Wednesday at the last minute groups signed up and it all came together.”

Nine digital media production students got together over the weekend of Oct. 16 and had “so much fun” filming and producing the six minute mockumentary set in The Gunks. The rules were simple. Each film had to be two to six minutes long, each group could only have two to 10 people, and each film had to incorporate three elements picked at random: a single flip flop, the name Jesus and the line “You’re tearing me apart.”

We follow Seth, a cryptozoologist played by third-year digital media production student and President of New Paltz’s Improv Club Seth Gliksman, on a script-less endeavor to convince us of the existence of the half lizard half human entity that is Lizard Man.

“Once Seth got involved it really began to take on a mind of it’s own,” producer and camera operator Heather Mezynski said.

The film opens on Seth, who knows the inner workings of the lizard-man, slapping a flip flop on a tree and calling out to the wilderness. He says he’s seen the lizardman and he tries and tries to bring the lizardman out of hiding for the camera.

“When we got to Salvation Army Saturday morning, Seth was already there getting into character before we even knew exactly what we were going to film,” producer and camera operator Casey Silvestri said.

Dan Williams plays the character of Dan, Seth’s friend and the director of the documentary they are ‘filming’ throughout the picture. With a straight face, he supports Seth and cinematographer Jesus, played by the film’s director of photography Chad Kofahl, who has serious doubt that there is anyone or anything to be found.

This group, which also included camera operator Dany Ramdhanie, audio engineer Joe Pallotta and sound designer Matt Brueckner, was put together by a Facebook post from Brander. After the kickoff event Friday night, they went back to Brander’s place and immediately began sifting through ideas to find the one that would consume their weekend.

“Everything that ended up in the film was something that we all agreed on as a group and something we all liked,” Brander said. “We decided to go with no music in the end, but there are five songs that were actually composed over that weekend by Joe and Matt. We did use one of Matt’s in the trailer.”

Of course the weekend was no walk in the park. With only two days, the crew had to pick an idea, film it and then edit the footage and audio clips, much of which was done Saturday night and Sunday.

“One challenge was definitely the audio because we didn’t have the final cut until 5:30 p.m. on Sunday leaving us with only an hour and a half to clean up the audio,” Pallotta said.

But the work paid off. While they did receive $500 in rental equipment from LensProToGo and t-shirts from Muckles’ Ink, both fest sponsors, the group agreed that the real prize was the experience and all-around great time. They hope New Paltz will keep up the winning tradition.