NEW YORK CITY -- Almost exactly one year after I originally found out that I was a winner in the Canon U.S.A. "Project Imagination" contest, I received a huge, glossy invitation in the mail, which stated: "Canon and Ron Howard Cordially Invite You to the Global Premiere of the Project Imagination Film Festival" written across the top.
To sum up the entire experience, I'll go back to July of 2012 when I found out about the contest through a friend at Syracuse University who suggested that I enter. Without a clue of what was to come, I submitted a photo that I had made at Toggenburg Mountain in Fabius, N.Y., as a part of a series of photographs of night skiing. The particular photograph -- which I titled "Pause" -- was of a snowboarder who had fallen on his hands and knees beneath a patch of light. The contest split the photos into 10 themes, which included mood, character, goal and backstory, among others. After submitting my photo, it was voted into a pool of 30 winning photos in the backstory theme and then chosen by Ron Howard as one of 10 winners in the theme and one of the 91 winning photographs in the contest. Next, five celebrity directors -- including Eva Longoria, Jamie Foxx, Georgina Chapman, James Murphy and Biz Stone -- and five winning "regular people" film directors from the Project Imagination Film Contest, each chose 10 photographs (one from each theme) to inspire short films that they would direct. While my photo was not chosen for any of the films, I was still awarded a prize from Canon and an invitation to the film festival premiere in New York City.
The premiere was held at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall this past weekend and I was fortunate enough to attend. With my boyfriend as my guest, we arrived in time to see Jamie Foxx on the red carpet and a beautiful gallery of prints of all 91 of the winning photos. Once the red carpet was cleared, we were ushered into Alice Tully Hall, a beautiful theater with a huge screen set up at the front. Ron Howard and a representative from Canon walked on stage first to introduce the 10 film directors whose short films we would be viewing. It was interesting to see how the directors were inspired by each photograph that they chose and how the photographs were interpreted and incorporated (sometimes in a slightly forced "I need to incorporate all 10 images" way) into the films. The films ranged from a magical story about a little girl in a home for extraordinary children (Georgina Chapman's "A Dream of Flying") to a strange, creepy yet comedic story about an emotionally scarred man who works to "build" his perfect mate (Jamie Foxx's " And She Was My Eve").
Following the premiere of the films, a reception took place in the gallery. Here, winners and their guests were invited to mingle with each other and with the celebrity judges. It was amazing to be around such talented people and even more amazing to see just how humble and down to earth everyone was. The room was filled with celebrities including Ron Howard's daughter, Bryce Dallas Howard, what seemed to be half the cast of "Mad Men," singer Alicia Keyes, actress Alexis Bledel and producer Harvey Weinstein. Despite the varying levels of fame in the room, all of the guests were treated as equals and the environment was one where anyone could feel comfortable exchanging ideas and talking about their experiences with Project Imagination. The night ended with some photos on the red carpet and a few goodbyes to photographers and other finalists that I had met throughout the night.
Now that I have graduated from Syracuse University and work as the photographer for the Reformer, I am almost never around a community of photographers. I have missed the constant critique and feedback that I was lucky to have from professors and peers, so it was incredibly refreshing to once again be around a community of photographers and to see the passion and the creativity that everyone involved with this event had for photography and film. It was a wonderful reminder as to why I fell in love with photography in the first place. Being a part of the Project Imagination experience was incredible and it is something that I will certainly never forget.
Kayla Rice is the Multimedia Editor at the Reformer. You can reach her at 802-254-2311 ext. 270 or firstname.lastname@example.org.