Connor Censak, a SUNY Oswego senior majoring in cinema and screen studies, is among the recipients of the 2023 Lake Placid Film Festival Student Summit Scholarship.

The scholarship, awarded to eight to 12 undergraduate students annually, offers students the opportunity to attend the Lake Placid Film Festival in late October.

Censak said that the impetus to apply for the scholarship and the festival came from an Oswego alumnus familiar with the scholarship, and a desire to attend more film festivals.

“An alumnus, who is a friend of mine, came back last spring and was encouraging students to apply for the scholarship,” Censak said.

“I’ve been meaning to go to more [film] festivals; I’m from Rochester, and that’s the only one, so after this, I’ll have gone to two,” Censak said.

The scholarship offered by Adirondack Film is not a conventional scholarship. Recipients of the scholarship do not receive funding toward their education and instead receive an invitation to attend a student summit at the 22nd annual Lake Placid Film Festival from Oct. 26 to 29. The three-day festival includes a dinner, screenings of both normal-length and short films, workshops of student work and a concluding awards ceremony for recipients of the Student Summit scholarships.

“The scholarship is really an all-access pass to the festival,” Censak said. “It’s a different kind of scholarship, not direct money toward schooling.”

The scholarship allows recipients an opportunity to attend in lieu of purchasing festival passes, which range in price from $25 single-day passes to $350 annual passes. The scholarship allows recipients to enjoy the event, expound on their passion for the art of film and make potential future career connections, Censak said.

“It’s a great opportunity to meet a lot of people, and see a lot of great work,” Censak said.

Passionate student filmmakers

According to the Adirondack Film website, the Lake Placid Film Festival Student Summit’s intended audience is motivated college and university students “who have a passion for film and are open and ready to learn more about the industry through hands-on workshops and exclusive screenings of the latest in independent and international film.”

The application for the summit required prospective applicants to write a 750-word essay “on a film about which you feel strongly,” and asked that in addition to or in place of analyzing the formal elements of the film, to discuss “your personal connection to the film.” 

Aside from the scholarship itself, Censak was interested in applying due to the application’s prompt and format.

“Honestly, I just enjoy writing about films that I like, and for the essay, it seemed easy enough to voice my opinion on something I like, so it seemed like a good opportunity,” Censak said.

Censak’s chosen application essay topic, the 2019 Martin Scorsese film “The Irishman,” is at the heart of his passion for film. His first viewing of the film began prior to his college career and inspired his field of study.

“It was around the time I was starting to get into film,” Censak said. “It was my senior year of high school, and I was taking an ‘Intro to Films Studies’ class, but it got cut short because of COVID.”

“During quarantine, I watched a ton of movies, and that movie opened my eyes to the possibilities of the form and I really liked it,” Censak said.

Censak hopes that attending the festival will provide connections with others with a similar interest in film, and ultimately sees the festival as a way to see more film firsthand and appreciate the work of others.

“My hope would be to meet some new friends, and some new people who have the same passion that I do and hopefully see a lot of great work from small-scale productions to maybe some larger stuff,” Censak said. “But I hope to have a good time at the end of the day, enjoy myself, and have a good experience.”

Censak looks to the film festival with hopes of finding inspiration and direction for a future career that uses film as a means of telling stories.

“It [film] is something I really like, and I wasn’t sure where it was going to lead me, but what interests me most is screenwriting; I like the storytelling aspect of it and the characters ... so hopefully I will have some sort of career related to writing [for film],” Censak said.

-- Written by Ethan Semeraro of the Class of 2023