The big hairy animal that’s native to the United States plains is not a buffalo. In fact, it’s a bison, and its scientific name is BisonBison. This is where the BisonBison Film Festival got its name. The name reflects how, like the Bison, the BBFF doesn’t want new filmmakers to go extinct as they are both important aspects of our culture.
One UMKC student and another recent graduate had their films accepted into this year’s festival, which took place over the weekend.
Senior Kyle Womelduff, 26, was accepted with his film “The Book.”
“The Book” follows the tale of a young man torn between pursuing a developing relationship with a librarian and reading the most incredible book he’s ever found.
Womelduff’s inspiration for the story came from a friend of his who passed away in 2017, hence its themes of life, loss and death.
“It was really rough directing this film, but I think it was very poetic,” said Womelduff.
Womelduff described how strenuous the shooting process was saying many problems arose. These ranged from a three-day shoot becoming a five-day shoot, to having the weather get too cold for the actors.
Womelduff’s passion for film came at the very early age of about 8 or 9. He idolized George Lucas and would watch the original “Star Wars” trilogy on VHS. He received his first camera at age 10 and made his first film, a fictional historical drama about Hitler’s last day with himself as one of the actors.
“I love film because it’s an all-enveloping art form, and I love the challenge,” said Womelduff. “Making films doesn’t just help me tell my story, but I hope it can help others see the stories they have.“
The director of photography on “The Book” was Jeffrey Mundinger with production design by Selena Gonzalez-Lopez.
Womelduff hopes to ultimately become a director and writer.
Recent graduate Jeffrey Mundinger, 27, had his film “Kostym” accepted into the BBFF. He served as the writer, producer
The film subtly follows a former tailor, now costume designer, being visited by an old friend. That old friend has something he wants to say, but struggles with having the inability to say it.
“The film has themes about identity and who we are,” said Mundinger. “It’s about the people we love and them having an open ear about who we are.”
One of Mundinger’s favorite things about the movie was the scenic design.
As a kid, film was his escape from the mundane and scary world he lived in. He found philosophy in film before he could even comprehend what it all meant. He grew up in Warrensburg where he and two other schoolmates would keep themselves entertained by shooting movies.
Mundinger’s advice for upcoming filmmakers is to “be super devoted and to find the balance in things,” even if that means sacrificing money and time.
BBFF President Christina Rich-Splawn said the BBFF’s aim is to be a student-only film festival where future filmmakers are prioritized and given a chance to compete against other students, rather than competing against more professionals who already have their foot in the door.
The BBFF also helps filmmakers learn how to present themselves in public as first-time filmmakers.
If a student has their film selected for the BBFF, they are required to participate in an audience Q&A.
The BBFF also provides feedback on the films they receive, whether they are accepted or not, to help the students better themselves as filmmakers. Free, open-to-the-public workshops on aspects of filmmaking not necessarily taught in class are also presented.
When looking at the films they receive, the BBFF looks at pacing, originality, predictability, the visual style, performances, technicalities (sound, lighting) and so forth.
Additionally, through a sponsorship program, any college student with a valid student ID is able to attend the BBFF for free.
The BBFF has received grants from the Oklahoma Arts Council and The National Endowment for the Arts.
The BBFF is a working board, and it takes an enormous amount of people to operate the film festival. The organization is slowly taking small steps to become a bigger and more established organization as the years go by.
Womelduff is currently working on a project titled “Neon Nicodemus,” which explores graphic street culture and what it’s like being an African-American artist.
Mundinger plans to make another short, half of it shot in the United States with the other half shot in the Philippines. This will likely bring great opportunities for cinematography and scenic design.
Interested students are encouraged to keep an eye on the BBFF for future internship opportunities not currently available.
For more information on the BisonBison Film Festival, go to bisonbisonfilmfestival.org.
Update: At the 2019 BBFF on April 6, Jeffrey Mundinger won an Award of Excellence for his short film “Kostym.”