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  • NYS Writers Institute

Announcing winners of the Albany Film Festival Short Film Awards

We're pleased to announce winners of the inaugural Albany Film Festival Short Film Contest.

Entries were limited to films shot primarily or significantly on location in New York and/or a film where one or more of the film’s principal/creative personnel is born in New York, a current or former New York resident, or an alumnus or current student at a school located in New York.

Winner of the Best Overall Short Film is "A Very Simple Objective" by director Brandyn Johnson, a UAlbany alumnus who is currently studying for an MFA in Film Production as a George Lucas Scholar at the School of Cinematic Arts (University of Southern California). He will receive a $500 cash prize.

The Best Overall Student Short Film Award goes to “Building a Stage,” directed by three young filmmakers with connections to UAlbany: 2021 graduate Sydnie Heslop, 2020 graduate Emily Panganiban, and PhD candidate Jeff Aldrich. They will receive $300 cash award.

Winners of the Best Comedic, Best Dramatic, Best Experimental, and Best Documentary Short Film winners will each receive $150.

Congratulations to the winners and a special thank you to all the filmmakers who shared their work with us.

Albany Film Festival poster created by UAlbany student Mehr Sharma, who received a $300 prize.

Best Overall Short Film

“A Very Simple Objective”

Brandyn Johnson |

Q: How does it feel to be awarded best overall short film?

"So cool! This was the first film I made in grad school. What was supposed to be a quick assignment turned out to be a year-long project (in between classes and other film projects). I'm just really glad I actually finished it and that people enjoyed it! It was a fun, but tough one to make.

I graduated with a B.A. in Doc Studies (2010). (Hi Susan, Gerald, and Sheila!) UAlbany was a great place, I learned a lot about the foundations of storytelling there. That's what was so cool about the Doc Studies program. Although I concentrated on Photography and Audio, I was able to learn from students and staff that were exploring story in a variety of different ways. It was definitely a springboard for me as I moved toward further strengthening my understanding of filmmaking. UA was a very dope place!

*Sidenote--I just received the 2021 Cinema Audio Society Student Recognition Award!"

Watch "A Very Simple Objective"

Best Overall Student Short Film

“Building a Stage”

Directors: Sydnie Heslop, Emily Panganiban, Jeff Aldrich

"Wow this is amazing news! Emily, Jeff, and I are ecstatic and grateful for this achievement." -- Sydnie Heslop, UAlbany Class of 2021, Film & Performance Studies

(From left, Sydnie Heslop, Emily Panganiban, Jeff Aldrich)

Best Comedic Short Film (tie)

“Sibling Rivalry”

Don Colacino, director/producer

"It’s an honor to receive the Best Comedic Short award from the Albany film festival! I’m grateful to the talented cast - especially Maya Jairam and Richard Ortner - and dedicated crew who made the film a success, and a lot of fun to make."

“Earth Day 2030”

Joe Murphy, director

"Very gratifying! We made 'Earth Day 2030' to get people, through humor, to think critically about environmental problems coming soon and to spur us to action today.

Our team is so glad Albany Film Festival audiences liked the movie, and we are honored to receive the award in light of the other wonderful and funny movies in this category."

Best Dramatic Short Film


John Robert Hammerer

"I'm in shock! Thank you so much for the award! Having grown up in the Capital Region, it’s immensely gratifying to see “Severance” connect with audiences through the Albany Film Festival. I couldn’t be happier!”

Best Experimental Short Film

“Die Groteske”

Gemma Gallucci, director

“It feels really great being awarded this title. There were so many setbacks during our shooting process, but I’ve always been proud of the final result.

I’m glad other people appreciate 'Die Groteske' as much as I loved making it.”

Best Documentary Short Film

"Gifts of Life"

Michael Drucker, director

“On behalf of everyone involved with ‘Gifts of Life’, I’d like to say we are thrilled and honored to have been selected as Best Documentary Short Film at this year’s Albany Film Festival. Organ donation saves lives.

We are grateful to the Albany Film Festival for featuring our film and sharing its message. I will be donating the cash award to the charity who funded the film: Hearts for Russ."


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