This past weekend marked the second annual Reelies awards show and film festival. The event was started last year after the Reels on Wheels club reimagined the Sarah Lawrence College film festival that had existed in previous years. Nick Ransom (’17), who was involved in the original creation of the Reelies in 2016, said that the awards show started with the idea to do a faux-Oscars night. They wanted trophies, a red carpet, and formal attire.
When they first started the event, they had no idea how it was going to turn out, or if it would be popular at all. Ransom was pleasantly surprised. He said that last year they had “plans for what probably should have been forty people. But then everyone and their mother showed up. It became this big success on campus. They talk about it on the tours now.” Ransom said that he and other members of the club have been thrilled with the popularity of the event so far.
The Reelies were just as well attended this year as they were in 2016. Tickets sold out, and the Donnelly Theater in Heimbold was filled. People from the waitlist were turned away.
Najah Diop (’17), who was also involved in the organization of the event, said that she felt overall, the Reelies went well this year. “We had a couple of sound issues but I think this year was definitely a step in the right direction.” Diop added that since this is only the second year of the Reelies, they are still working to improve the event.
Ransom said that his overall goal for the Reelies is for the event to serve as motivation for people in the film department. “I hope people say to themselves, ‘I want to win a Reelie next year, so I am going to work extra hard on my film. I’m going to do as many cinematography gigs as I can because I want to get nominated. I want to win a trophy.’” Ransom admits that he bought the trophies on the Internet for about $4, and there is also no prize money awarded to the winners. Ransom said, “It’s all bragging rights.”
There were fourteen categories for awards including: best actor, best sound, and best picture. Ransom explained the two-tier system used to pick the winners. After gathering all of submissions, the Reels on Wheels team take each film and “put it into everything that it could possibly win, and then we watch everything and then we give everything a score, a one through five. Then we crunch the numbers and give everybody an average. From those averages, we pick the top five and those are the nominations. We then send those nominations to professionals in the industry that were referred to us by faculty members.” From there, the industry professionals pick the winners.
Diop, who won the Senior Achievement award, said the recognition was an honor. “A lot of it I owe to my film peers. Without them, I wouldn't have had the space to create the work that I wanted to do,” she said. “All that I do is for the love of the craft (and occasionally for a conference). But mainly because I love film, and I love helping those around me.”
In addition to the awards ceremony at night, the club held screenings of the student films during the day. “It is important because students here, in general, don’t get a lot of opportunities to showcase their work to their peers unless their peers are directly in their class,” said Amanda Wall (’20), who helped organize the event. Wall said that these film screenings provide a way for students work to get shown. Wall also said that she thinks sharing work this way helps build community.
There was some controversy around the event. On social media, people made comments about the lack of diversity among the nominees. This was referenced throughout the awards show by the host of the event, Julius Powell (’18), and by a few other presenters as well. Annie Willis (’19), a member of the Reels on Wheels team said, “It’s a reflection, not of just the Sarah Lawrence film program, but directing and film in general. There is a lack of people of color, lack of women, or any minority. And we want to show more of that,” she said.
Duncan Richards (‘19) said that after winning a Reelie, outside of feeling gratitude and excitement, “I also was glad to just be included. I was thankful that my hard work was just as rewarded as my cisgender (more specifically white male) counterparts in the film department,” Richards said. “That said, the Reelies should seek to a better job including and supporting POC, Trans, and Queer stories.”
Later in the week, Diop reflected on the Reelies as a whole. “There is some room for improvements,” she said. “At its core its an event that celebrates the spirit of collaboration.”
Nora Thomas (‘19)