Frog Baby Film Festival 2019 was another excellent showing of a  variety of expertly crafted student films. These films show a number of  varied perspectives, many of them taking risks on the ways we tell  stories. From dramas about just trying to get home, to comedies about  purgatory, to even experimental films that feel like Twilight Zone  episodes, this festival had it all. Although some films were stronger  than others, all of these films were deserving of the honor to be shown  at Frog Baby this year. This year truly highlights the creativity of  Ball State students in crafting narratives that have never been seen  before. - Tanner Kinney




Es

Winner: 

Best Screenplay

Directed by Maria Pizzo of Fringed

Leading the show is “Es,” directed by Maria Pizzo of Fringed. Es is  about a shy college girl who has a knack for poetry and, with the  encouragement from a friend and romantic crush, finds herself able to  audition for a poetry troupe. The film isn’t particularly mindblowing in  how it’s shot or constructed; that’s all well-done, but fairly  standard. However, the story of a person overcoming their anxieties  through the help of the little things in her life is something that  resonates strongly. Its showing of a clear lesbian lead, especially when  compared to the many male-oriented narratives in the festival, made it a  standout. “Es” is a fantastic sign of even greater things to come from  Fringed in the future. – Tanner Kinney




FHL

Directed by Connor Rush

The first of the two music videos brought a lot of personal flair to  the festival; the song, provided by rapper LJ, touches on everything  from his own mental health and struggle with suicidal thoughts to  oppression he and the people around him face, whether it be for their  color, gender, or their sexual orientation. It’s a powerful message, and  director Connor Rush does a great job capturing that. The greyscale  color scheme is a good fit for the dark themes of the song and allows  Rush to be quite creative with shadows in his shots. There are moments  in the video that aren’t quite as developed as others, but the short  film is a generally impactful music video that deserved at least some  recognition when it came to the award ceremony. – Jack Gillespie




Living Form

Winner:

Best Documentary

Produced by the Ball State Daily News

“Living Form,” produced by the Ball State Daily News and this year’s  winner for Best Documentary, tells the story of Jonathan Becker and his  career making theatrical masks. As we follow the production of one of  these masks, Becker takes time to talk about the importance of theatre  in today’s society and ultimately his own outlook on his work.  Impeccably filmed and paced, “Living Form” is an intimate portrait of a  figure who doesn’t need what he produces to make his presence known. – Trevor Sheffield




Say Yes to the Dress: Shakespeare

Directed by Grace Hill

The next film was “Say Yes to the Dress: Shakespeare.” The  three-minute short is exactly what it says on the tin; a parody of the  amazing reality TV show utilizing the confusing and sometimes petty  dramas of Shakespeare’s romantic pairings for comedic effect. It cuts  between many different, small scenes, like a normal promo for the real  Say Yes to the Dress, and the comedic timing of direct quotes mixed with  modern dialogue is spot on. The only disappointing thing about this was  that it wasn’t actually a real episode of the show, because that would  quite possibly be one of the most ambitious crossovers in history. – Tanner Kinney





25:00

Winner: 

Best Actor: Austin Keough

Directed by Austin Keough

“25:00” seems less like a short film made to stand on its own and  more like a significant scene from a great feature film. The minutes we  spend with these characters seem like they could be preceded by a good  thirty minutes of film. However, that is not a completely bad thing. The  characters depicted in “25:00” can be seen with all their development  very quickly within the short film; much of that is due to what may be  the best script of the entire festival. While the film is classified as a  drama, the conversations that our main character (played by Austin  Keough) runs into in the middle of the night toe the line between  relatable and absurd really well. It is all executed with quite an  amount of skill as well; Keough won the award for Best Actor for good  reason. – Jack GIllespie




Late Night Run

Directed by Daniel Wood

“Late Night Run,” directed by Daniel Wood, is about an eager young  woman starting to have second thoughts on the eve of losing her  virginity when heading to the local market to pick up protection. As the  deed (and the store’s clerk) loom closer and closer, she ultimately has  to make a choice. With impressive comedic timing tied to the story’s  immediately relatable awkwardness, this short manages to pack a lot of  slow-burn laughs in its’ five-minute running time. – Trevor Sheffield




Devil’s Advocate

Winner:

Best Sound Design

Best Direction

Best of Festival

Directed by Max Harp

The final film before intermission was the much-deserving winner of  Best of Festival, “Devil’s Advocate.” This film follows an office worker  of purgatory trying to get through his job in the best way he can:  drinking excessively and sending as many people down below as possible.  After breaking policy and sending a puppy to Hell (since, as we know,  All Dogs Go to Heaven), the Purgatory Clerk must grit his teeth and send  some seedy individuals up to maintain balance. The short was a constant  stream of laughter, with roaring from the audience so loud it actually  became hard to hear the movie. This was due to great performances all  around from the cast and a phenomenal script. Whenever this short is  available online to view, it’s definitely one to watch for yourself. If  “Devil’s Advocate” was in a line-up with professional-level productions,  it’d be impossible to tell the difference. – Tanner Kinney




Retne

Winner: 

Best Color Grade

Best Editing

Best Cinematography

Directed by Dylan Query

Of all of the films that were within the “Alternative/Experimental”  category, “Retne” was the one that embraced that label the most. It’s a  short, dialogue-less piece that relies solely upon the camera work,  soundtrack, and the actor’s body language to build tension among the  audience. Thankfully, director Dylan Query played his cards right, as  the tension felt throughout “Retne” is the best part of the whole film.  The arresting nature of the film makes up for the rather confused,  unclear story and/or message that the film is trying to convey. – Jack Gillespie




The Dotted Line

Winner:

Best Comedy

Directed by Tommy Garrett

“The Dotted Line,” directed by Tommy Garrett, follows a midnight  confrontation with the Devil that turns the Faustian Bargain on its  head. When a student makes a request of Satan that’s anything but normal  (by HIS standards), the two are forced to work out the conditions of an  already loaded contract. Clever premise aside, the actors completely  sell you on their characters and present the audience with a unique take  on Ol’ Beelzebub that you weirdly can’t help but relate to. – Trevor Sheffield




Jewel Therapy

Winner:

Best Actress: Janae Robinson

Directed by Cardinal Film Works and Talon Cooper Reed

Following “The Dotted Line” was “Jewel Therapy,” a comedy about a  young man finding a way to overcome his “jeweling” addiction. In the  film, “jewels” are treated as a hard drug, with an anonymous therapy  group to help those who struggle with their addiction. Best Actress  winner Janae Robinson in particular puts in a fantastic performance,  completely selling the kind of hyper-crazed addict this film wanted to  create. An unexpected twist at the end served to be the best joke of the  short, being so absurd that it actually works perfectly. It was a fun  little short, and a great showing from Cardinal Film Works. – Tanner Kinney




Completed Years

Winner:

Best Production Design

Directed by Nick Kinder

While it was one of the shortest films at the festival, “Completed  Years” was one of the most touching films as well. While the clever base  concept of the film isn’t exactly taken in complex direction with the  story it’s trying to tell, it is executed almost flawlessly with some  excellent shot composition. Each shot is so picturesque; it’s almost as  if they are moving paintings rather than your average video recording.  It’s short, sweet, and does exactly what it wanted to do to a T. – Jack Gillespie




Superfoot

Winner:

Best Alternative/Experimental

Directed by Ian Mitchell

“Superfoot,” directed by Ian Mitchell and winner of best  Experimental/Alternative Film, follows a trio of housemates as they deal  with the excessive partying of their neighbor. What starts as a night  of tuning out the rager outside descends into madness, rabbits, and the  search for a functioning A/V cable. Spawned from the personal life of  its director, this film takes the viewer on a visual spirit quest  through the perspective of our generation, all capped off with one of  the most satisfying payoffs of the night. Undeniably, Superfoot was a  stand-out selection of the night. – Trevor Sheffield




The Gravedigger

Winner:

 Best Drama

Directed by Blake Conner

“The Gravedigger” was a film that was scripted during a single class  period in an attempt to craft a fully-fledged horror film in under five  minutes with no dialogue—and it succeeds in doing that beautifully. With  masterfully composed shots and tight editing, the film creates a sense  of tension through nothing more than creepy visuals and a fantastic  soundtrack. The fact they convinced an old man to let them bury him is  crazy enough, but just how well executed it is cannot be stated. This  horror short puts many big, modern horror films to shame. – Tanner Kinney




When the Fire Starts

Winner:

Best Music Video

Directed by Nevin Markitan

While “FHL” seemed to go for a more rough aesthetic for its themes of  mental illness and suicidal thoughts, “When the Fire Starts” went for  more of a familiar type of rap music video. With some rather ambitious  shots featured throughout the video and an overall polished look,  director Nevin Markitan executed a perfectly solid accompaniment to the  song by rapper Willis. All the video is truly lacking is a strong voice  that separates it from the average rap music video. – Jack Gillespie




Cornfed Derby Dames

Directed by Gywn Hultquist

“Cornfed Derby Dames,” directed by Gwyn Hultquist of Fringed, takes a  peek at Muncie’s first all-female roller derby team, the titular Dames.  While the documentary was the shortest selection of the entire night,  clocking in at around 2 minutes, it more than delivered in getting the  word about the team in an energetic and engaging manner. – Trevor Sheffield




The Melody

Directed by Jae Krause

The final film of the night was “The Melody,” a short drama based on a  real violinist and student of Ball State. The usage of an amateur actor  playing himself worked out surprisingly well (as who else could tell  his story but him?), and the direction of the film deserves props. It  essentially tells a condensed version of a story that’s familiar to many  people, especially those who were fans of Whiplash, which the  director directly compared his short film to. While it does have issues  with the structure of the narrative and could’ve used a couple more  minutes to develop the conflict, a touching ending tied off both “The  Melody” and the Frog Baby Film Festival in a nice little bow. – Tanner Kinney




Featured Image: Frog Baby Film Festival

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