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Student website unites aspiring actors, filmmakers

Two students launched Binghamton Film Initiative to bridge the gap between theatre and film students at Binghamton University

After a semester of planning and development, two Binghamton University students launched the Binghamton Film Initiative (BFI), a website that aims to connect filmmakers with actors at BU in order to encourage new projects.

Jared Biunno and Tyler Downey, two juniors majoring in cinema and theatre, respectively, spent the better part of the fall semester collaborating on an idea they shared: to bring together students in both the cinema and theatre departments in order to help one another create projects.

The idea stemmed from Downey’s frustration with the lack of interaction between the two departments. Though the two founders had experience in filmmaking, they had trouble finding students who would create new projects with them. Downey and Biunno decided to create a website that would facilitate better creative collaboration.

With the help of Michael Zagreda and Adam Heimowitz, both seniors majoring in computer science, the pair worked over winter break to work on making BFI a reality.

“The goal of the website was really to make it easy to modify over the years because we’re both graduating and we want to make it easy for people to use and change,” said Zagreda, who is also the president of BTV.

Similar to Facebook and other social media outlets, the site requires the user to register and create a personal profile. On individuals’ profiles, they would post the skill set they possessed — i.e., actor, filmmaker or scriptwriter — to make it easier for other members in search of people with those skills.

With the BFI, students interested in filmmaking could post project ideas and enlist the help of directors, writers, actors and more.

The two presented their official website to a crowd of approximately 20 students in the Gruber Theatre on Sunday afternoon.

Rather than relying on a PowerPoint or lecture, the actors presented a scene-by-scene visual presentation that introduced BFI to the audience. They demonstrated how they hoped their website would be used — from posting, contacting a user, meeting up and then getting started on the project.

“I was getting into theater, and I also wanted to do film,” Downey said. “I had many failed attempts of finding people who wanted to do film and it was so unstructured and organized that it bothered me. I didn’t really see an opportunity and also noticed that there was no real collaboration between anyone in the theatre department and anyone in the cinema department.”

Although one of the goals of the BFI is to help create a community between the cinema and theatre departments, all BU students are encouraged to use this website if they are interested in filmmaking.

“I have a strong belief that in every student, there is a desire to express themselves in some way. And even if they don’t think that film may be something that they want to do, I really feel inspired that BFI can reach out to those people,” Downey said.

Students seemed to enjoy the potential filmmaking opportunities that the website had in store.

“I’m in the theatre department, and I think this is a great way to get involved with other project with other students and it’s another way to perform,” said Amanda Jones, a senior majoring in theatre.

According to the founders, the success of the website could bring more projects to BU students, and possibly a film festival for works that were made with the help of BFI.

”We’re kind of trying to create a new energy and culture on campus of filmmaking. Get people into it, grow it, expand it and do stuff more heavily with it,” Biunno said.

Biunno and Downey said they’d like to see the program expand beyond BU.

“I want to spread it to other universities,” Biunno said. “I want to see if other film programs in the country can adopt this idea.”