San Marin Grad Earns Place at Cannes Film Festival

Novato, CA…San Marin High School Class of 2013, Nik Oczkus, had ‘an amazing time’ at the Cannes Film Festival for two weeks in May. Nik’s 4-minute film, “To the Writers,” was one of the top four films that won the San Francisco State University Campus Movie Festival in 2017 and earned him a trip to the international film festival.

This is the second film for Nik to earn a trip to the Cannes Film Festival. His first film, “Polarity,” also earned a trip to the Cannes Film Festival but only two of the five collaborators on the film could attend.

“It was amazing and the best two weeks of my life! To be among peers who also love films and enjoy filmmaking was incredible. I saw 17 movies and the highlight was when Martin Scorsese came out and spoke about his film “Mean Streets” for 90 minutes,” commented Nik Oczkus.

Nik’s film, “To the Writers,” is about an up and coming writer who experiences a downfall and then a resurgence of inspiration. His peers at Cannes commented that the film embodied the struggles screenwriters experience. Nik wrote, directed and edited the film with fellow student Mitch Montgomery who also acted in the film. About 75 films from San Francisco State were submitted and four were chosen for the Cannes Film Festival. His film was shown at the Short Film Corner along with the many other short films.

Nik’s inspiration for filmmaking began at Pleasant Valley Elementary School. Growing up, he always had an affinity for films and movies. In his 5th grade class with Ms. Gina Yates, they had a project in which he made a diorama of the WWII Normandy beach landing. A classmate did the same project but made a short movie using army figures. This inspired Nik to pick up a camera and start shooting at home in a similar way.

In the 7th grade at Sinaloa Middle School, Nik was tasked with a multi-media project to shoot a music video. He collaborated with a few other students and made a video to the song “War” by Edwin Starr. This was his first experience with editing and he really enjoyed it.

At San Marin, he made an anti-drug video as part of his freshman health class requirement. Again, he really enjoyed making it and his fellow students liked it. The next year he heard the video was still being shown in health class.

In his Sophomore year in Mr. MacLeod’s English class, another assignment lent itself to another video project. The assignment was to adapt scenes from Shakespeare’s Macbeth so Nik made a 13-minute epic film on selected scenes. This is where his style began to develop in the Quentin Tarantino and Sam Peckinpah styles.

Word spread about this video guy at school and the idea of doing filmmaking as a career solidified. During his Junior and Senior years, many of his school projects were videos. In his AP English with Mr. Adam Williams, Nik did another project based on Walden’s Pond by Henry David Thoreau and where he really showed off his visual effects and cinematography skills.

Nik is a 2017 San Francisco State University graduate with a major in Cinema. At SFSU he enjoyed studying movies, how movies are made and how films can affect people, the history of movie making, the techniques on how to make films and how using techniques can affect the audience, telling stories without words, and visual storytelling. He is currently employed at NCTV, Novato’s local community television station.

The Campus Film Festival (CMF) is a nationwide festival awarding the top 4 films per school and 16 spots to the Cannes Film Festival. The rules of CMF include movies under 5 minutes, no nudity, and no copyrighted music.

“The Cannes Film Festival was amazing: walking in the streets and seeing famous people. Also, the camaraderie with fellow filmmakers was priceless. It was an amazing place and I hope to go back one day,” said Nik Oczkus.