February 20, 2004
By Michelle Dombeck
Not everyone took Juliana Brafa '05 seriously as she and Todd Bieber were creating "One Number 2," a 20-minute digital film that traces the path of a lone No. 2 pencil that connects the lives of 23 people. She knew that she and Bieber, a Bloomsburg University graduate, had written, directed and produced a good movie. But its value was something they had to prove.
"There's a stigma about student films," says Brafa. "It's hard to get people to take you seriously, especially when you're trying to ask them for donations."
But things changed after "One Number 2" was accepted into the Marco Island Film Festival in November. Brafa and Bieber didn't think their little movie would go as far as it did. Fifty-six films were competing at the international festival in southwest Florida, and during the festival, award-winning actress Patricia Neal received Marco Island Film Festival's Lifetime Achievement Award.
"When we finished the final edit in September and October, things weren't happening for the movie. We just thought things hadn't worked out," Bieber says. "Then it got into the festival and got a whole new life."
Some of the best film schools in the nation had submitted entries for the festival, so the pair considered it quite an honor to be accepted at all, let alone win first place in the student division.
"It's hard to know when to stop pursuing a project and when it's done," Brafa says. "When we thought this movie was done, it took off."
The magic of "One Number 2" is in its originality. Rather than trying to mimic traditional Hollywood films, a practice that often fails miserably in student films, Brafa and Bieber wanted to tell a different kind of story.
Departing from the theme of a central character, "One Number 2" instead has a central object — a No. 2 pencil.
After winning at Marco Island, "One Number 2" continued its success and was accepted into the Muskegon Film Festival. Competing against more than 60 other films, all of which had won at other festivals, "One Number 2" took home second place.
"I don't accept the argument that Bucknell doesn't have a good environment for supporting film," says Eric Faden, assistant professor of English and film studies at Bucknell. "Students here have the opportunity to be exposed to a lot of different cinema. And when students are exposed to different types of cinema, they make different types of movies. So it is not surprising that when students turn to production, they win film festivals because their films are unique."
Film combines many different types of art — writing, photography and theater — and it is that very combination that Brafa enjoys so much about film. But as Faden says, "it's quite involving to master all those arts and combine them together."
Students don't necessarily have to go to a film school to master those elements or learn how to produce a good movie. "In film school, you're taught to work in a very specific, commercial way. Given the interdisciplinary nature of film at Bucknell, students have appreciation for more alternative ways to approach filmmaking," says Faden, who helped Brafa and Bieber while they were making their film.
It is easier to re-shoot scenes at a lower cost with digital film, so the medium allows inexperienced artists to make movies without needing large budgets. Brafa and Bieber, who are well acquainted with this medium, are teaching a class in digital filmmaking at the University's Craft Center.
Brafa and Bieber think digital film was vital to their success, as it helped keep the cost "One Number 2" down to only $800; somestudent films screened at festivals come from prestigious film universities and have budgets between $20,000 and $30,000.
With the success of "One Number 2," Brafa and Bieber are planning to create another film this summer. Although they're not yet sure which script they'll be producing, the two, both of whom are from the Lewisburg area, say that it will be about small-town life and have qualities similar to "One Number 2."
And now that Brafa and Bieber have proven both their and their film's worth, people are already coming to them with donations for the next movie.
For more information about Brafa and Bieber's award-winning film, point your Web browser to www.onenumber2.com. Visit www.flexibleframe.com
to learn more about their production company.
Michelle Dombeck is a junior at Bucknell and chief copy editor at The Bucknellian, the university's student newspaper.