Highbridge Film Festival Judges Announced

A panel of judges with expertise in writing, directing, cinematography and distribution have been brought on board to make this year’s Highbridge Film Festival, Asbury University’s annual showcase of student filmmaking, one of the most educational and competitive yet.

The Festival, which will take place on April 20 at the historic Hughes Auditorium, features 12-15 short films that have been screened from dozens of entries by a faculty committee. The judges evaluate this select group of films for technical and narrative excellence, providing Asbury students and high-school students with the opportunity to have an industry professional evaluate their work.

“Most of our students really want constructive criticism from the judges, so we have made an effort in the past couple of years to give the students the unvarnished notes from our industry experts,” said Professor Greg Bandy ’76, who teaches in Asbury’s School of Communication Arts. “Their insights are based on real-world experience. You can't beat it, and to get this kind of input in college from a media veteran is invaluable.”

This year’s judges include Rodney Charters, the cinematographer for the hit television show “24”; Lana Corbi, a former executive with the Fox Broadcasting Company; Brian Godawa, a screenwriter, director and author; and Christopher Bessette, an internationally known director of “Trade of Innocents.”

Each judge brings to the Festival their expertise with different parts of the film production process, but they also have a general sense of what works and doesn’t work in a film as a whole.

“The judges' responses are usually twofold,” Bandy said. “First, you have to master the craft of visual storytelling. It's complex because there are so many components to it. Second, our judges always want to see students continue to develop strong, redemptive stories. Good stories lie somewhere in the tension between dark hopelessness and an overly sunny happy ending syndrome. The trick is balancing the tension of those two extremes.”

Highbridge Film Festival 2013 Judges:

Rodney Charters
Rodney Charters
Rodney Charters

A native of New Zealand, Charters grew up as the son of a photographer and grandson of the local newspaper’s printer. He attended the University of Auckland and the Royal College of Art in London, later finding a home in the Canadian and U.S. television industry. In 2001, he was approached by 20th Century Fox to shoot “24,” and shot all eight seasons, earning two Emmy nominations in the process. Since then, he has worked on the pilot of “Charlie’s Angels,” “Dallas” and the pilot for “Nashville.”

Brian Godawa
Brian Godawa
Brian Godawa

Godawa has worked in the media industry for more than 20 years as a screenwriter, director, author and speaker. His first feature film, “To End All Wars,” was awarded the Commander in Chief Medal of Service by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and was selected for the 2003 Cannes Film Festival Cinema for Peace. He has also established an in-house ad agency and a start-up boutique design firm.

Christopher Bessette
Christopher Bessette
Christopher Bessette

Bessette’s film experience has a marked international flavor, reflecting the work he’s done with producers in 13 different countries. Recently, he won “Best Feature,” “Best Picture” and “Best Director” at several film festivals for “Trade of Innocents,” a film shot in Bangkok that addresses themes of human trafficking and redemption. He also directed “The Enemy God,” a film covering generations of life and spiritual transformation in the Yanomamo people of Venezuela.

Lana Corbi
Lana Corbi
Lana Corbi

Corbi and her husband are currently owners of Strategically Armored and Fortified Environments (SAFE). Previously, she worked as Fox Broadcasting Company’s President of Network Distribution, helping to launch Fox Sports, Fox News and the Fox Children’s network. She also served as executive vice president and chief operating officer of Crown Media Holdings, Inc., and president and chief executive office of Hallmark Channel’s domestic channel.