The Student Academy Awards recognized this student-directed film


Andrew Opitz first came to George Mason University as a freshman over a decade ago. After taking a hiatus from school, he graduated from the Film and Video Studies (FAVS) Program in May 2023. Opitz’s film, Jazz, which he directed for his senior capstone, was a semi-finalist in the Student Academy Awards Alternative/Experimental category.

“Jazz started years ago when I first came to Mason as a student. I would be driving, and little ideas would come into my head, but they were very skeletal, shallow ideas,” said Opitz.
Film and Video Studies students at the Best of Film at Mason 2023. Photo by Emily Schneider.
Film and Video Studies students at the Best of Film at Mason 2023.
Photo by Emily Schneider/CVPA

"Film was the first art that swept me off my feet. Music inspires me just as much,” said Opitz, who enjoys listening to different eras of music from the 40s to the 70s.

Opitz describes the film as a story about a jazz musician, “trying to get to a show and we’re under the impression that he’s playing in front of thousands of people at this theater,” said Opitz, “but when we get there, he’s playing on the street. That little twist that he is technically playing at that theater and in front of lots of people who are passing by was all I had. The hard part was fleshing it out.”

Opitz’s film, along with seven of his classmates' films, was featured at the annual Mason Film Festival, hosted by FAVS program director Cynthia Fuchs.

Although Opitz’s film received much acclaim after its release, he and his team faced challenges throughout the filming process.

“There are problems every which way you turn, especially with student films where it's very spur of the moment and you do what you can. Problem solving is probably the biggest job of a lot of the people on the set. That's the nature of filmmaking,” said Opitz. 

Andrew Opitz during the Q&A portion of Best of Film. Photo by Emily Schneider.
Andrew Opitz during the Q&A portion of Best of Film.
Photo by Emily Schneider/CVPA

Iana Lee, a senior film and video studies major with a concentration in producing, joined the production team of Jazz in the early stages after signing up at one of Mason’s production fairs.

“Mason has a great filmmaking community. Everyone is very much motivated to be making films and everyone wants to get involved, which is very helpful when you need to pull people together for a film crew,” said Lee. “The professors at Mason are knowledgeable and experienced in filmmaking. They will support you through the process and that was what I needed, so we're supported from all sides of the community, which is nice.”

Rebekah Wingert-Jabi is a Peabody Award-winning filmmaker and adjunct professor in Mason’s FAVS Program. 

"There is deep talent and ability among the film students at Mason,” said Wingert-Jabi who helped the students to make small edits including color and sound adjustments to their films. “These tweaks can make the difference between a film that is almost where it needs to be and a film that is polished. Andrew had the patience to go through that tedious process with Jazz, and it clearly paid off."

“It’s been a saga getting to the finish line, but I finally did it,” said Opitz.