California State University, Dominguez Hills alumnus Todd Smaretsky (Class of ’10, B.A., digital media arts, television option) wasn’t going to enter the 2010 CSU Media Arts Festival film, video and interactive media competition. But now he’s glad he listened to the encouraging words of his professor, Dr. George Vinovich, coordinator of the Digital Media Arts Program.
Smaretsky took home first place in the television category at the festival’s awards ceremony held at CSU Fullerton on Saturday, Nov. 6, for his public service announcement (PSA), “Letting Go of Anger.” He received a monetary prize of $500 and a Rosebud Award. The DMA program also received $250.
“I’m honored and grateful,” Smaretsky said. “I feel the program at Cal State Dominguez Hills has really prepared me. Motion picture is my form of expression—and hope to use it as a voice. This award is further validation that I’m doing the right thing.”
The 34-year-old joking refers to himself as a “late bloomer” college student. Originally from Ohio, Smaretsky moved to New York to attend college after high school, but left school in 1997 to go into the ministry. But after a decade of ministry work, Smaretsky decided it was time to follow another love, filmmaking, and enrolled in the DMA program at CSU Dominguez Hills in 2008.
“Filmmaking is something I always wanted to pursue. I believe it is a gift God has given me,” he said.
About his hesitation to enter his work in the 2010 CSU Media Arts Festival, Smaretsky says it was partially to do with fear of rejection, but also because his work tends to be Christian based.
“I felt worried that they [judges] would have preconceived opinions about it,” he said, adding that he ultimately decided to face his fears and his own preconceived notions of what others might think based on his professor’s encouraging words. “Dr. Vinovich really pushed me to do it. He really believed in me.”
The CSU Media Arts Festival competition serves to highlight the talented film, video and interactive media students from the 23-campus CSU system and give them an opportunity to present their work for critical review and recognition. This year, a panel of CSU faculty and industry professionals reviewed 131 submissions from 15 campuses and selected 32 finalists for consideration in the categories of animation, documentary, experimental, interactive, music video, narrative, television, feature screenplay and short screenplay.
Smaretsky submitted two entries, both of which made it to the final round. In addition to submitting the PSA, he and fellow CSU Dominguez Hills classmates Calvin Ko (Class of ’10, B.A., digital media arts) and Jeff Yamahata (Class of ’10, B.A.) submitted a project in the music video category. It placed fourth at the awards ceremony.
The 30-second PSA is a spot on anger management that Smaretsky shot and edited as a class project for Professor Vinovich’s DMA 322 TV Directing II. His concept for the video was anger as a weight that impedes one’s ability to move on. The video features a man who has collected a heavy sack of rocks and is attempting to lug them up a mountain. It is only when he decides to release the sack that he is able to reach the top.
“What I liked about Todd’s PSA from the start were the camera angles,” Vinovich said. “It’s a good spot and makes its point…. It’s visually compelling. It was always one of his strengths: lighting, composition, and camera work.”
For the music video, the Christian song “Better Than I was Before,” by musician J. Brian Craig was used. The song is about being at a low point in life and finding faith. Smaretsky, Ko, and Yamahata chose for the video a storyline that features a man failing as a father and husband but who Smaretsky said is “desperate to love his family,” and in finding his faith is able to be a better man.
Smaretsky said he knew Craig from church, and when Smaretsky approached him about doing a music video for a class project, he learned another connection.
“It was interesting because J. Brian Craig (Class of ’97, B.A., digital media arts/audio option) was an audio DMA major,” Smaretsky said. “Now years later he’s using his gift [producing his songs].”
Since graduating in May, Smaretsky has been hard at work on several projects, including a video for a preschool, a skit for comedian Mark Malkoff that was shown during the keynote at the BlogWorld conference last month, and a documentary about mixed martial arts called “The Fighter.”
“I’m learning a lot,” he said. “It feels good to be busy. I hope it’s just the beginning. There’s a lot I want to do.”
A rough cut of the winning television PSA as well as the music video that was a finalist in the festival can be viewed at www.vimeo.com/toddsmaretsky.