Carnegie Mellon University

CMU International Film Festival

From the Classroom to the Big Screen

Students Bring Carnegie Mellon International Film Festival to Life with Generous Support

By Sarah Burke

The Carnegie Mellon International Film Festival doesn’t just bring unique films and stimulating discussions to Pittsburgh. It also gives students a chance to use their education to create world-class events.  

“Film is my passion, and it’s what I intend to build my career around,” says Peter Geyer, the festival’s head student coordinator. “I feel so fortunate that I am able to work all year on events featuring films that people can’t watch anywhere else.”

Donor support is key for the festival’s success. After launching a CMU Crowdfunding campaign last fall, the students raised $4,742, which provided critical support for marketing and promotion efforts.  

As a CMU business student with a minor in film and media studies, Peter applies skills from his coursework to the festival’s marketing, development and corporate relations strategies.

He explains: “Not only do we want to choose the best films we can find, but we also consider how marketable each film would be, what communities we can involve and what themes are most relevant to the festival and current societal issues.”

The 2019 festival, “FACES OF WO/MEN,” featured 17 films from around the world that explore the complexities of gender. Screenings and events took place from March 21 through April 7 at a variety of Pittsburgh venues with a total of 2,600 attendees.

Peter says he loves how the festival sparks dialogue and offers filmgoers an opportunity to consider new ideas and perspectives.

“Hearing all the reactions from the audience has been very enjoyable,” he says. “It is because of the donors that we are able to inform the city of Pittsburgh about the festival and bring as many people as possible.”

Like the interdisciplinary culture that is encouraged across campus, students involved in the festival come from many academic departments. Meijie Hu, a sophomore in the School of Design, says that serving on the festival’s design committee has honed her artistic skills. She’s also learned to communicate and collaborate effectively with students from other disciplines. 

“The festival has been a gateway that connects me to the greater world,” she says. “The films are inspiring and diverse, and most importantly I love working with everyone.”

For School of Drama student Brenna Power, the film festival has fostered her creativity — and inspired her to continue stepping outside her comfort zone.

She says she was “extremely excited” when her film, “Well Managed,” was selected for the festival’s Short Film Competition at Regent Square Theater.

“It’s always wonderful to see your work validated on the big screen,” Brenna says. “Taking the leap from actor to director was one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done, but it has also been the most fruitful.”

Brenna says her CMU education has shaped her understanding of narrative and what makes a compelling story.

“When I found out my film had been chosen, I felt encouraged to continue creating my own work,” she says. “I would encourage everyone to step outside their boundaries and take advantage of all the resources CMU has to offer.”