Taking Zotfest online with recent alumnus Gary Giannoni III class of 2020

Department: Film and Media Studies

Post Date: September 23, 2020

News Details

GARY GIANNONI III, Film and Media Studies class of 2020, was Co-Director of the Film and Drama Alliance’s 21st annual Zotfest Film Festival, the longest running student run film festival in the UC system. With the sudden shift to remote learning and the cancelation of on-campus events in the Spring Quarter due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gary and his Co-Director, Tori Aquino were quick to adapt and take the festival online. Gary and Tori demonstrated true leadership as they continued to plan for the festival by calling for submissions, connecting screeners with films, and making the streaming of the festival accessible to all who wanted to watch. Gary had this to say about the experience:

“If you were to tell me August 2019 what ZotFest would look like, I’d be able to give you a pretty clear picture of the event. Well, if luck would have it, eight months’ worth of planning got thrown out the window. The Coronavirus Pandemic upheaved a lot of people’s lives in these last months, especially to the filmmaking community. This strife even trickled its way down to the celebration of ZotFest’s 21st Anniversary.
Before the Pandemic, I met every week with my Co-Director, Tori Aquino, on the ins and outs of how to put this film festival together. We interviewed interns, picked up committee heads, and garnered support from the faculty. We even pitched to ASUCI for them to sponsor us over $10,000, and if it wasn’t for this pandemic, I hedge my bets we would’ve gotten it. Yet, I want to look at the sheer willpower put in place to make this event.
Most people were surprised that we went forward with the festival. Tori and I even took a hiatus once the shelter in place orders took effect. I remember scrambling in my apartment to try and pack all my belongings because my parents and I didn’t even know if the state was going to allow travel. There was so much that people didn’t know, and there’s still a lot of things people don’t know now. I moved back home to Fresno, California for Spring Quarter and Tori moved back to Rancho Cucamonga. Eventually, after waiting for a few weeks, the ZotFest we planned so hard for was over before it even began.
However, that opened something new. We made the executive decision to have the festival online. The festival was scaled down tremendously. At the top of Winter Quarter, we had about 40 or so active people working to make this event happen. In April, we only really could manage around six or seven. The mentality of the festival was that, at bare minimum, to have a venue in which the hard work of the students could be showcased.
Because that was what really mattered: the student’s work. The films that were made this school year needed to be honored. The biggest thing I’ve taken away from this experience was that community matters. I made so many friends from being involved, and I wanted to make sure that my friend’s hard work could be recognized. Because what’s the point of making movies if no one’s going to see them?
On top of running through the hoops that was Zoom University, I juggled contacting dozens of screeners and judges for the event, making sure that they screened and rated the 50 short films submitted. 52 in all! The most films ever submitted for ZotFest. It truly warmed my heart knowing that even online, people wanted to get their voices out there. At the end of the day, I traveled back down to Irvine and livestream the festival. We tallied the votes live for the People’s Choice Award, and hours before the festival started, I was in my hotel room, tallying the votes for the Golden Anteater. It was a whirlwind in those 48 hours leading up.
Looking back, I’m proud of what my team and I accomplished. It was no small feat, and I had fun doing it. I’d like to especially thank my Co-Director Tori Aquino, Thoren Jorgensen, Yanit Mehta, Dylan Quintero, Professor Rony, Professor Dauchan, Professor Krapp, the Judges, the Screeners as well as to the whole ZotFest team. We’ll hopefully all see each other soon.”