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Film Student Dave Silver Wins Top Prize for Short Films at Sundance Film Festival

By Loralee Nolletti

Gasline, by Dave Silver, is set in the suburbs of New York in the midst of the second gas shortage

Dave Silver, graduate student in the Film Division of Columbia's School of the Arts, won the Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking, the top honor for American short films, on January 19 at the Sundance Film Festival with his thesis film "Gasline."

Chosen from 2,100 entries, "Gasline" was one of 79 short films featured at this year's festival, which ran from January 10 to 20 in Park City, Utah. The Short Film Jury Prize, sponsored by American Express, was awarded to a film of outstanding achievement and merit. In the short film category (films under 30 minutes in length), the entries were judged for their individuality, artistry and charm.

According to the Sundance Institute, the short films are exhibited before features or combined in feature-length programs and are thought to capture the creative burst that is the essence of independent filmmaking. Short films are a way of introducing new talent as they demonstrate the power of a filmmaker's storytelling.

"I know that what is more important is what I've actually learned at Columbia, recognition aside. I'm thrilled with the award, as you can imagine," said Silver. "But my future as a director will have more to do with the years I've spent with some very special and talented teachers than recognition for one short film. I'm especially thankful to Nick Proferes, Bette Gordon, Anthony Bergman, and Lenore deKoven. Columbia taught me the tools for dramatic storytelling, without which I would never have gone to Sundance."

"Gasline" is a drama set in the suburbs of New York, in 1979, in the midst of the second gas shortage. Ben Crosby, the film's protagonist, owns a gas station, and he is running low on gas. Over the course of a very bad day, Ben faces angry customers, indifferent wholesalers, an attendant with an attitude, a failing marriage, a woman from his past and a vulnerable son. He tries to navigate a path through it all and comes within inches of surviving with his world intact. This film also received the Kim's Video Award at last year's Polo Ralph Lauren Columbia University Film Festival.

Commenting on the film, Dan Kleinman, chair of Columbia's Film Division, said, "'Gasline' is one of the best-directed student films I have seen in my 30 years of teaching. All of us in the Film Division are proud of what David has accomplished and expect great things from him in the future."

As a student of the Film Division, Silver has served as assistant to the directing faculty and a directing fellow. Prior to film school, he was a creative director at Ogilvy & Mather, a worldwide advertising agency, where he won numerous awards including Finalist at the Cannes International Advertising Festival. Silver returned to film school in 1998 to pursue a career as a film director. He grew up in New York during the 1970s, and received his BA in Philosophy from Wesleyan University. Silver has recently completed work on two feature length screenplays: a horror/thriller about a bioengineering experiment gone haywire and a dark comedy on the American West.

Columbia was well represented in the feature and short film categories this year. Two other current students in the Film Division, Amalia Zarranz with her film, "Tall Girl," and Claudia Myers with her film, "Buddy and Grace," had their short films featured. In the feature category, two alumni had their works presented: Bertha Bay-Sa Pan (MFA'99) who directed "Face" and Ernesto Foronda (MFA '00) who co-wrote and produced "Better Luck Tomorrow," developed from his thesis script.

"In the last two years, Columbia short films have won the three most prestigious short film festivals in America, the Next Wave festival, the Palm Springs International Short Film Festival, and now the shorts competition at Sundance. In addition, Columbia students have won the most sought-after student film prize in the United States, the Student Academy Award, four times in the last five years. And all of these awards went to different films," said Kleinman. "The student filmmakers, of course, deserve the credit, but I'm pleased that there is increasing recognition given to our dedicated faculty and the distinctive filmmaking curriculum we have developed in the School of the Arts."

Published: Jan 24, 2002
Last modified:Sep 18, 2002


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