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UT Filmmaker Wins Top Prize at Prestigious Cannes Film Festival (Update)

Update: Annie Silverstein's "Skunk" won first place in the Cannes Film Festival Cinéfondation competition.

Her film was singled out from 1,631 entries coming from 457 film schools worldwide. Silverstein's win comes with a €15,000 prize – that's more than $20,000. She is also guaranteed that her first feature film will be presented at the Festival de Cannes.

Original Story (7:17 a.m.): The Cannes Film Festival is one of the world’s most prestigious. Films that screen there are often instantly propelled to a level they might otherwise never reach.

Annie Silverstein is learning all about that first hand. She earned her Master of Fine Arts degree in UT's Radio-Television-Film Department in 2013. Her thesis film “Skunk” was one of 16 chosen from over 1,600 film school submissions.

Silverstein will find out today if “Skunk” will be picked as one of the top three.

Annie Silverstein stopped by KUT to talk about the journey of “Skunk.”

On Her Journey to Filmmaking:

"I fell in love with filmmaking in a backdoor kind of way. I didn't grow up wanting to be a filmmaker. I felt passionate about working with young people, particularly young people in challenging life situations, but through the act of teaching filmmaking as a tool for all these things – expression, cultural pride and so forth – I really fell in love with the craft of filmmaking."

On the Story of "Skunk" and Making it into a Feature:

"I'm interested in expanding "Skunk" into a feature. Not so much focusing on the story in the short but more the world and the characters and the kind of themes of sexuality and awakening to power dynamics between boys and girls and connection and seeking connection and finding connection in the wrong places – all those kinds of themes that the short explores – those are the themes that I would like to continue to wrestle with in the feature version."

On the Use of Little Dialog in the Film:

"For me, it's a visual art form so anything you can do to tell the story without words but simply by showing is a good thing in my opinion. So that's what I was trying to do. Also, I was a really shy teenager – you know they say you end up just writing about yourself, all characters are in some way you, it's a very narcissistic art form – so I was a very shy teenager who was often at a loss for words and so I think I instilled her character with some of that to show that there's a lot going on for her and there's still a story there but she's not saying very much through it – it's all kind of in her face and in her expressions and where she places herself."

On Working With Non-Actor Actors:

"Definitely in casting non-actor youth it was my interest in working with kids who really had access to raw emotions who hadn't been trained yet to 'act' in other words but could draw on their own life experiences... So, yeah, in casting we took the  approach of going to skate parks, going to youth groups, to after-school programs. Again, going back to my time as a youth worker, I just found kids who are really great in front of the camera or kids who are very artistic are kids who might have more trouble who might have more trouble in a traditional setting like school. That kind of gave me inspiration to seek out those types of kids and work with them."

On Using Rescue Dogs:

"It was a budget issue as far as working with rescue dogs. We knew we didn't have the budget to work with a professional movie dog trainer and, frankly, didn't know if we'd be able to make the film for that reason. So we were incredibly lucky to meet Tara Stermer – who is a canine behavior specialist in town."

Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.
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