Sonoma State University filmmaking duo invited to Cannes festival

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.


Two Sonoma State University students, invited to show their short films at the Cannes International Film Festival, are looking forward to their days in the sun on the French Riviera in May, meeting top filmmakers from around the globe.

The two-week, invitation-only festival, generally considered the most prestigious in the world, will screen two films by Alex Bretow, 23, a senior at Sonoma State, and Mary-Madison Baldo, who goes by “Madison,” a junior.

The films — “Snake Eyes,” a 25-minute drama about revenge, and “Rampage,” a five-minute horror film — will be presented as part of the annual Cannes Short Film Corner program, which features work by film professionals from all over the world.

“In the Short Film Corner, our films will be up against every other short film in the festival — professional, student, everything,” Bretow said. “So we’ll be right there with the best of the best. No one from Sonoma State has ever gone, so we’re the first.”

The festival jurors will pick a winner of the prized Palme d’Or award in both the short film and feature-length categories at the Cannes event, which will run May 13-24.

“Snake Eyes” was shot outside Los Angeles last fall, during a visit to Baldo’s parents, using L.A. actors and crew members hired for the project, as well as the young filmmakers’ own core group of North Bay film students and professionals. “Rampage” was filmed in Forestville.

Both of the movies were written by Baldo, co-directed by Baldo and Bretow, and produced by their own Rohnert Park-based film company, Baldo-Bretow Pictures, founded two years ago after the pair met at a film festival on the Sonoma State campus.

“Two of my films won awards, and after the festival, Alex came up to me and said he wanted to work with me on something,” Baldo said. We exchanged numbers and we didn’t talk for a few weeks and then a competition came up and called him. And we haven’t looked back.”

Last fall, Baldo and Bretow teamed up to enter the Campus Movie Fest at Sonoma State and won both first and second place. Of 16 films in the festival, five were created by Baldo-Bretow Pictures. Their entries included both “Rampage” and “Snake Eyes,” which was broken into several shorter segments for that festival.

Judges for the nationwide Campus Movie Fest program, which includes the Sonoma State event, included both Bretow and Baldo among the top 26 student filmmakers who were invited to attend the Cannes festival.

The winning films by Baldo and Bretow also will be entered in competition at the Campus Movie Fest national finals in Los Angles in June.

“The Hollywood festival is all the best student films in the country, of which two are ours,” Bretow said.

Despite their youth, Bretow and Baldo are not newcomers to film. Baldo, originally from New York, is the daughter of animation director Mark Baldo, who worked on the original “Ice Age” film, released in 2002, and now works for Disney in Los Angeles.

“I’ve been around film ever since I was born,” she said. “He used to take me around the office, so I was very aware of the process and what goes on. It got me behind the scenes. He was constantly teaching me.”

The closing credits of “Ice Age” include some drawings Baldo did as a young girl.

“He came home one day with a pile of paper and said. ‘I want you to draw the characters.’ The other studio kids also contributed.”

Bretow, originally from Oakland, has been working as a production assistant and assistant director on professional films, TV shows and commercials shot around the Bay Area since 2011.

“I work for an Emmy Award production company called Bodega Studios, based out of New York, with an office in San Francisco,” he said. “I also freelance, working on production crews. I worked on the feature film ‘Chasing Mavericks’ in Half Moon Bay, and commercials for Microsoft, Sony and Yahoo.”

Ed Beebout, an associate professor in communications at Sonoma State, said he has known Bretow for three years, and only recently met Baldo.

“Alex has never been anything less than absolutely passionate about filmmaking,” Beebout said. “More importantly, he’s not afraid of working hard. I know he and Madison are constantly seeking out new opportunities to learn and grow.”

Sonoma State University doesn’t offer a film degree. Bretow’s majors are business and computer science, and Baldo is majoring in English and early childhood education.

Bretow and Baldo have raised $5,300 of the $11,000 needed for airfare to France, transportation while there and hotel costs, as well as festival accreditation, tickets and workshop fees. They hope to raise as much as possible by April 10 to meet some early deadlines. Their fundraising site is

You can reach staff writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or Read his Arts blog at arts.blogs.pressdemo​

Show Comment

Our Network

Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Emerald Report
Spirited Magazine