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NIU hosts Reality Bytes student film festival

The Northern Illinois University Department of Communication is preparing to raise the curtain on its popular Reality Bytes Independent Student Film Festival at the Jameson Auditorium, located inside Cole Hall.

Free and open to the public, the 12th annual festival will feature student-film screenings from 9 to 11 p.m. Monday and Wednesday.

NIU alumnus Robert Katz, an acclaimed film and television producer and production executive, will be the special guest speaker from 7 to 9 p.m. April 11, the final night of the festival. During that time, Katz also will announce the Reality Bytes awards.

Katz has more than 23 years of experience in film production, development and finance, and he has substantial access into the executive and creative communities within the motion-picture industry. He has worked on more than 25 movies alongside some of the industry’s most highly accomplished writers, directors, actors and crews.

Katz’s feature film credits include “Crash,” which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2005, along with “Law Abiding Citizen,” “The Illusionist,” “The Painted Veil,” “One Hour Photo,” “Seabiscuit” and the experimental film “Slipstream,” which was written by Anthony Hopkins. Hopkins also directed and starred in the production. Katz arranged for six NIU students studying under Laura Vazquez, a professor of media production and theory, to work on “Slipstream.”

Katz recently served as president of Dimension Films for Bob and Harvey Weinstein, where he oversaw all aspects of the famed company, which produced blockbuster franchises such as “Scream,” “Scary Movie” and “Spy Kids.”

NIU’s Reality Bytes film festival was established in 2001 by Vazquez to give film students the opportunity to competitively screen their work. She serves as festival director.

“Year after year, we see growth in film festival submissions and in the quality of work from high school and college filmmakers – evidence that independent filmmaking continues to thrive,” Vazquez said in a news release.

The film festival this year has received more than 70 submissions from high school, undergraduate and graduate students from across the United States and around the world.

Fifteen short films have been selected for screening, including documentaries and fiction films. The selected films vary in genre from comedy to drama to animation and focus specifically on strong storytelling. Each film category also will include a “Best in Show” award. There also will be a “Best in Show” award for the high school film category.

More information about the festival is available via Twitter and Facebook (where you can join the Festival Event) or by contacting Carrie Foor, lead logistics coordinator, at

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