BisonBison Film Festival announces winners

Ponca City Now - April 9, 2018 12:34 pm

The 2018 BisonBison Film Festival concluded March 31 at the Poncan Theatre with the presentation of
the three Awards of Excellence, each with a $1,000 cash award for the winning filmmakers.

The Awards of Excellence were presented to:

  • Nicolas Saenz for his comedy “Darkness in the Shadows” rated PG. When a kid detective is trapped inside a film noir, he must solve one last case to break his curse. Nicolas is a student finishing his last semester at the University of Texas Austin as a radio-television film major and is now trying out the whole Los Angeles thing working as an unpaid intern. He would like audiences to know he like comedies, being goofy, pretending to take himself seriously, and world peace.
  • Joseph Tesfaye for his social commentary “What Do You See” rated PG-13. In the film, Saleem Aboubaker finds himself in a tough spot when robbing a couple, but the audience gets a inside look on how this young man is not only affected by his surroundings, but molded by it. He is just desperate, but he still has hope for his future. Joseph is an undergrad majoring in Film/Video in the University of Texas Arlington. His story comes from receiving a letter from a friend in jail. His father was irate that he received a letter from an inmate from jail and refused to listen. Joseph made this film, so others would understand that not all inmates are “thugs” or “horrible people.”
  • Joshua Gallas for his historical drama “1917” rated PG-13. In the film, an Ottoman soldier flees his home country during The Great War (World War One) and attempts to bury his past, while struggling to find his place in America. Joshua got his start in the film/video world as a teenager making videos with his brothers. This led him to earn his BFA in Film/Video and continuing towards a MFA at The University of Texas at Arlington. Josh strives to inspire, educate, comfort, provoke, and encounter audiences with stories by shining light on areas of life and culture that many people look past.

Joseph Tesfaye, right, accepts Award of Excellence for his film “What Do You See” from juror Chris McIntosh.

Joshua Gallas, accepts Award of Excellence for his film “1917” from juror Suzannah Levett Zody.


Juror Shane Konicki announces Nicolas Saenz for an Award of Excellence for his film “Darkness in the Shadows.” Saenz was unable to attend.

Both Tesfaye and Gallas attended the film festival and received their awards of $1,000 each. Saenz sent his regrets but was unable to attend due to his internship.

A total of 50 entries from 23 schools across Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri and Arkansas were received for the BisonBison Film Festival. After much deliberation, 28 films were selected to screen at the festival. Twenty-one of the films were shown March 30 and the remaining seven on March 31 in the historic Poncan Theatre in downtown Ponca City.

All the student filmmakers attending were given opportunities to interact with the audience for Questions and Answers after blocks of films. After-parties were held both nights at Ground Round and Brick House Grille where the filmmakers, Board members, jurors and audience had a chance to network and share ideas.

In addition to the screenings each night, the Festival included workshops March 31, which
were free to the public, held at the Phillips 66 Fourth Street Clubhouse.

Trish Avery, the regional representative from the Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, addressed some of the misconceptions about  the film industry unions, the SAG/AFTRA program to help student filmmakers, and about industry contracts.

Ryan Belgardt, local film producer-director, discussed how films are accepted into the distribution system, his experiences with distribution and advice for the beginning filmmaker.

This was followed by an open panel discussion with all three BBFF jurors:

Shane Konicki, broadcast journalist from Wichita KWCH Channel 12, and an independent filmmaker; Chris McIntosh, a previous BisonBison Award of Excellence winner and now with The Actor Factory in Norman OK, as Young Performers Academy instructor, film editor and casting director; and

Suzannah Levett Zody, Executive Director at Brown County Playhouse Performing Arts Center in Nashville, Indiana, where she is head of programming, producing live plays, musicals, concerts, youth theatre and showing movies.

The jurors answered questions about the judging criteria, advice on creating story lines, and encouraging the student filmmakers. The Ponca City Rotary Downtown provided a lunch for the students, volunteers and workshop presenters. Student photographer Tara Fredrick was the official photographer for this year’s festival.

More than 100 people attended the entire festival which would not have occurred without the support of the following sponsors:

  • The Ponca City Arts and Humanities Council,
  • Ponca City Tourism,
  • the Oklahoma Arts Council,
  • the National Endowment for the Arts and the Oklahoma Office of Film and Music,
  • Albright Insurance,
  • Ann Bandy State Farm,
  • Equity National Bank,
  • Evans and Associates ,
  • Graf-X- tina Graphic Services,
  • Heather Cannon Honda,
  • Jack Bowker Ford,
  • Hall of Heros,
  • John Kramer, CPA,
  • Lewis and Associates,
  • Loftis Wetzel Insurance,
  • Phillips 66,
  • Ponca City Energy,
  • Ponca City Main Street,
  • Osage Casino,
  • Quality Water,
  • RCB Bank,
  • and many “Help-A- Student” sponsors whose funds allowed any college student with a valid ID to attend for free.

The BBFF Board of Directors wants to express its gratitude to all those involved in the event, including all the student filmmakers who submitted films, the various school faculty who encouraged the students, the family and friends who supported the students.

The BisonBison Film Festival is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization with the mission to recognize, promote and showcase the work of emerging filmmakers enrolled in colleges, universities and trade schools in mid-America: Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Texas and Arkansas. More information can be found at: or BisonBison Film Festival on Facebook.


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