Mar 28, 2017
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Oaklander in Cannes
by Tracey Brown
The Cannes Film Festival 2010 and Laney, a community college in Oakland with a modest film department and a television studio, now have a commonality - Garry Newkirk. A recent graduate in media communications/production and performance with highest honors, Newkirk was chosen to join the Cannes Student Filmmaking Program by Real Ideas Studio, on the basis of the documentaries he produced and uploaded to his YouTube channel.
"I saw a flyer about the contest on the bulletin board of the Theater Building and applied online. I'm told they went to YouTube to look at some of my stuff, and then they arranged a call during which I was asked some very pointed questions," Newkirk said. He was grilled about the roles of director and producer and various situational "what ifs."
Ten days later, he was told he was going to Cannes in the middle of May to participate with ten teams of students creating documentary shorts for a screening by Real Ideas Studio in the Marché du Film, where film industry types from all over the world schmooze, buy and sell film rights, find co-producers, and network. Newkirk's team included students from Pakistan, Brazil, Canada, and Greece.
While most of us can only dream of attending Cannes, where celebrities grace the red carpet and frolic on the beaches, it became a reality for Newkirk and may even change his life. He was able to network, attend workshops and screenings, and have one of his own shorts entered into the Cannes Short Film Corner.
"My team came in second place," he said by email from the French Riviera. "My director got best director. You can see the film, 'Being France,' at Vimeo.com. I'd call, but my phone bill is going through the roof."
Telling the stories of those who would otherwise be ignored is what got Newkirk noticed. He began doing this in documentaries about groups such as Home Away From Homelessness, a nonprofit organization for homeless families, and The Janet Pomeroy Center, a nonprofit organization serving the disabled. Newkirk's subjects also included the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito and "Latin Eyes," an Emmy-winning television show about Latino culture, for which Newkirk served as the director of photography and co-producer of the pilot along with Andres Pruna.
Newkirk's journey to Cannes has been a long one, since he is not of average college age. After he left the Navy in 1974, he became a nurse. In 1980, Newkirk enrolled at Laney and began a sports internship at KPIX Channel 5, leading to a position there until he was laid off in 1985. Newkirk continued as a nurse until 1997, a year that proved to be a turning point; he sustained a back injury and stopped nursing. He began rehab, entered the Regional Occupation Program, and found the need to tell stories of others who were having difficulties in life. These documentaries became a passion for Newkirk.
Originally from Philadelphia, Newkirk credits his mother with introducing him to diverse cultures and developing his empathy for others. "My mom took me to black churches, and I grew up singing Negro spirituals," Newkirk said. He already has an AA in Social Science from Laney and currently is an intern in the Program Services Department at KTVU and editor of Laney Media Club's newsletter.
Tracey Brown is a writer for the Laney College Tower news:
Posted on Aug 13, 2010 - 02:44 AM