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By Eva Lam

Film students at Ryerson can help confused parents understand the differences between movie ratings, such as PG and 14A, thanks to a new competition launched by the Ontario Film Review Board.

The competition, officially launched Tuesday at Ryerson’s School of Image Arts, will give students the chance to produce public service announcements that will play in Ontario movie theatres. The goal is to explain the province’s film classification system.

“The idea to hold a student film competition came to me about two years ago after receiving a number of calls from parents complaining about not understanding the film classification ratings, and in particular, the Parental Guidance rating,” said OFRB chair Janet Robinson, who oversees the government agency responsible for the classification of all movies played in Ontario theatres. She cited King Kong and The Wedding Crashers as two recent films that have been the target of ire from some parents.

“We’re looking for creativity and a fun way of explaining the five classifications (G, PG, 14A, 18A, and R), with particular emphasis on the Parental Guidance rating,” said Robinson.

The competition is open to all students enrolled in any of the province’s 25 post-secondary film studies programs. Students must submit storyboards of their 60-second public service announcement to the OFRB by March 31.

Five finalists will be chosen to receive up to $7,500 to produce their film, during which they will work with a mentor from the film or advertising industry. The finalists must submit their finished films to the OFRB by July 31, and up to three winners will be selected by a panel of industry judges as the top “Class Acts.” Winners will have their clips distributed to Ontario theatres to be shown before feature films.

They will also have the opportunity to have their work screened at an awards ceremony in September 2006, possibly during the Toronto International Film Festival. Minister of Government Services Gerry Phillips said Ryerson was the “perfect location” to launch the competition, citing its “world-wide reputation in image arts.”

“The film competition is quite unique, and a first for our government,” Phillips said. “We’re tapping the creativity of the many film, television and animation students across the province. “This is your opportunity, students, to shine.”

Third-year image arts student Chloe Rickald said the competition was definitely something in which she wanted to take part. “The prize is really good — the mentorship,” said Rickald, 22, who was one of about 20 students who showed up at the official launch. Megan Macdonald, also a third-year student, agreed. “Working with a mentor would be the most beneficial, just in terms of networking and getting some experience and insight from someone higher up in the industry.”

However, she expressed concerns at the competition’s deadlines, which will add extra work to her regular course load. “The timing’s kind of bad… (March 31) is like the height of the end of the semester.” Third-year film student Bill Allinson is also planning to participate in the competition and already had many ideas for his submission.

“The exposure’s the big thing; that’s the biggest draw,” said Allinson. “And the budget: $7,500 – that’s pretty mind-boggling.”

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