Spooky Film Festival Puts Students’ Short Works on the Big Screen


Parker Viale, a DVC freshman majoring in film, took home two top awards from last month’s Spooky Film Festival hosted at the college. Viale’s latest production, “Hidden Above,” won the Spookiest Film (or Best in Festival) and Audience Choice awards after receiving votes from more than half the audience.

Viale had already produced seven short films, but said this was his first time ever submitting a production to a festival.

“What’s unique about the Spooky Film Festival is that it’s a free event where filmmakers can showcase their work and meet other filmmakers,” he said.

The 7th annual Spooky Film Fest took place on Oct. 27 at DVC’s forum, located under the library, and was the first time the event has been held in-person since the pandemic. The festival drew submissions from high school and college students across the Bay Area.

The sole requirement: their films could run no longer than 15 minutes.  Categories included best awards for comedic performance, dramatic performance, directing, screenwriting, editing, sound design, and cinematography, as well as the top honor for Spookiest Film.

But just because the films ran short in screen time didn’t mean they were fast to produce. For example, “Best Buds: Into the Nightmare” took filmmaker Ryan Calhoon nearly 200 hours to make. The movie won a special category award for Best Ensemble Cast at the Las Positas Film Festival.

“This was my labor of love,” said Calhoon, 27, a DVC music industry studies major who wrote, directed, edited, produced, and acted in the film, as well as doing all of the sound recording and mixing. “The process was fun but very time-consuming. It was definitely worth it in the end.”

Calhoon, who has produced six films, is currently working on sound recording for a feature film, Vigilant Justice, and sound mixing for two other short films, “Chemistry” and “Declan’s Legend.”

Tony Alfaro, director of the Spooky Film Festival and a film teacher at Las Positas College in Livermore, graduated from DVC in 2017 as a film major and was also part of the school’s film club. He won his first film award in 2013 when he took home Best in Festival honors from the 9th Aspiring Minds Film Festival at DVC.

Alfaro said this year marked the first time that all films streamed at the festival were made locally, and his goal was to help merge school programs to connect the region’s talented network of filmmakers.

“There are so many great people over here and so many great people over there, I really want to help them work together,” he said. “Film is an art. By giving the students opportunities, they are able to express themselves at the festivals.”

The next Aspiring Minds Film Festival will happen Dec. 8, with submissions due Friday, Dec. 2.

For students like Viale, the DVC film program is providing essential tools and knowledge to help open a career pathway to filmmaking.

“DVC’s film department is very important to me because it allows me to take my first steps towards achieving my film degree,” Viale said.

“Events like the Spooky Film Fest are really the heart and soul of the DVC artist community.”