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When Scrabble Comes to Life: Director Becca Farsace on Her Short Film 'Gus'

SVA continues its series highlighting some of the many outstanding projects by 2016 Alumni Scholarship Award winners. Next up is BFA Film student Becca Farsace on her short film Gus, about an elderly man and his caretaker who are engaged in a game of Scrabble when the words begin to take on a life of their own. Gus will be premiering at the Monday, May 9th evening screening in the Silas Theatre at the SVA Theatre as part of the 27th Annual Dusty Film & Animation Festival, which takes place Saturday, May 7 – Tuesday, May 10.

Tell us about your project.
Gus is a short film that follows an old man and his all-too-happy caretaker as they play a game of Scrabble. But the words begin to take on a mind of their own.

What inspired the idea?
About a year ago, I was reading short stories on the web when I stumbled upon “Death by Scrabble” by the British writer Charlie Fish. The story was short and sweet, and also took place in only one location. I thought, “This would be perfect to jazz up and put my spin on.” So I did and Gus was born. I remember contacting the writer and nervously telling him how much I wanted to change the story around. Being the creative guy that he is, he encouraged me to make the story whatever I wanted and needed it to be.

What most surprised you once you started working on the project?
I think I am constantly surprise by just how many people are willing and actually want to help me. With Gus I have had the pleasure of working with over 25 people. That is 25 people who gave up their time for my vision and little ol’ me. It has been so amazing to collaborate with friends from high school, to my SVA peers, to a voice over artist in Iowa. When I present this at the Dusty Film and Animation Festival, and everyone who has worked on my little project is in the same dark room watching what we created, it will be hard to hold back tears. I am just so grateful for these people and the opportunities I have had while making my thesis.

Was there a teacher or class that was essential for you?
Amy Taubin and Deborah Goldberg were my two favorite instructors here at SVA. I could go on and on about how amazing these ladies are, but I will let you figure that out for yourself. At the end of the day, I recommend taking some art history classes and philosophy classes. SVA is an art school and the education you can receive in art histories is out of this world. Don’t be afraid to explore.

What was a highlight of living and studying in New York City?
When you come to SVA, you aren’t really coming to a traditional college—you are coming to the real world (with training wheels). Living in the Big Apple has taught me about public transportation, social cues and money management.

What is your favorite #SVAspot in the city?
I am not a city person, never have been and never will be, so Central Park is my home away from home. More specifically, I love the Rambles. It is home to the bird sanctuary and some of the more private, secluded areas of the park. After long days on set, it is a perfect place to relax. Another New York gem is Governors Island. It has great views of the city, a cheap ferry ($2), good ice cream and a field of hammocks.

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You never know when you will need a sound mixer, voice over artist, director, editor or just a friend. There are some real gems around here, but if you sit and wait for them to find you it will never happen.

What is something you learned at SVA that you’ll always take with you?
I learned that in the end, if you don’t believe in your work, no one else will. Stand behind your work and your ideas. Here in the city it is so easy to let other people’s opinions or ideas crumble your own. If you want something, stop at nothing to achieve it. You are your own ship and only you can be the captain.

What advice do you have for next year’s students going through your program?
For anyone going into the BFA Film department here at SVA, I say meet as many people as you can. You never know when you will need a sound mixer, voice over artist, director, editor or just a friend. There are some real gems around here, but if you sit and wait for them to find you it will never happen. Be the person to say “hi” first and get yourself out there. SVA is an amazing school but you will only get out what you put in—so put in a lot!

What are your post SVA plans?
After graduation, I will be moving to Brooklyn and working for a production company. The sky is limit, though.

Can you sum up your experience at SVA in six words?
Where did all the time go?

This year, a record 67 students were chosen from a pool of over 300 applicants, and were awarded Alumni Scholarship Awards from the SVA Alumni Society worth more than $80,000 for thesis and final projects as varied as narrative film, etching, animation, painting and sculpture. For more information about the Alumni Scholarship Awards and to see a complete list of this year's recipients, click here.

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