The Guerilla Film Society was the only student club I ever wanted to be a part of. When I arrived at Biola in 2001, a fresh-faced freshman eager to make his mark, I quickly succumbed to the gravitational pull of GFS and its charismatic co-founder, Stew Redwine. Here’s how Stew remembers the origins of the club:
When I arrived at Biola in the fall of 2000, one of the first things I did was ask Dr. [Thom] Parham if there was an on-campus film club. The answer was no. So I started talking to other students about starting one. I remember one of the first conversations was over lunch at the cafeteria with Rob Jaeger and Sean McCauley. Then we started meeting on Wednesday nights in the Production Center at 9 or 10 pm. It was simple, we met up and talked about what we were doing and what we wanted to do. We created opportunities to make stuff together. We produced short films for other activities on campus. We volunteered to host the film festival. We gave ourselves a name—The Guerilla Film Society—spelled with one “r.” Because we didn’t know any better and that was 99% of the magic. We had no idea what we were doing and that meant we had no idea what we couldn’t do. So we did it all.
Stew soon handed over the reins to Don Thompson, an equally magnetic leader who recently co-wrote and produced the critically acclaimed thriller Blood on Her Name. Under Don’s vision, the club’s program encompassed watching and discussing classic movies (a mantle now carried by The Essentials film club) and once gained notoriety for tacking several “Che Gorilla” posters around campus, which were quickly and justly taken down by campus authorities. Our “revolution” was never political in nature, of course, but rather philosophical: We wanted to overthrow the idea that film school was only useful for landing jobs in the entertainment industry. We made and studied movies for the sheer love of it, and for the community, which was robust and centralized in the days before Facebook and YouTube.
And then there was The Biola Film Festival—the only regular showcase for student work in those days. I can’t imagine how many thousands of dollars have been spent putting lipstick on Sutherland Hall to celebrate the movies made by CMA (formerly FTR, formerly RTF) majors over the years. It was a source of pride and iron-sharpens-iron competition for everyone. I myself was the proud recipient of a Best Comedy statuette presented by Scott Derrickson in 2003, shortly before his ingenious horror film, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, made him a bankable name. Everyone—students, parents, industry professionals—was invited to the premier film event of the year. And GFS was always on the front lines making it happen.
For over a decade, GFS endured and served as a fulcrum for several generations of Biola film students, eventually acquiring an extra “r” in its name. Attendance inevitably thinned out when Biola’s CMA program expanded and social media dispersed the conversation, although it was still able to attract some important guest speakers, including Zach King. The last meeting occurred sometime in the fall of 2015 under its most recent president, Robert Carlson. The Facebook group is currently hovering around 500 members, although nothing new has been posted for years.
You could argue that the Guerrilla Film Society never really died; it just went underground. So, it’s heartening to an old alum like me to see the name pop up again in the form of a film fest that represents the unbridled creative spirit of the student populace. The Guerrilla Student Film Festival picks up where The Biola Film Festival left off, and during a time when inspiration and community are sorely needed. My hope is that this student-led event matures into an annual tradition that combines a movie-mad passion for the art form with a platform for showcasing the most creative and energetic work of its members—the “guerrillas” among us.