FilmFest 2011 boasts best-ever student films

Posted April 04, 2011

At the 7th annual FilmFest premiere, student filmmakers showed what was possible with a little creativity, a lot of hard work and excellent equipment. This last week, student participants met with a panel of judges from the entertainment industry.

Judges included Dusty Bennett ('03), president and producer of Takeoff Productions in New York; Randy Brewer ('93), owner of Revolution Pictures in Nashville; and Kris Young, teacher of screenwriting at UCLA and the LA Film Studies Center.

"FilmFest is an important event for students," says Sandra Amstutz, student co-chair of the event. "It gives them an opportunity to practice and develop skills outside of a traditional film program. It gives them a chance to create, to manage production, work as a team, and develop compelling stories. This is experience that will help them in the creative world and in the business world."

The winning films at FilmFest were announced at the premiere.

  • "Hazel & Jack," directed by Lawson Soward and produced by Caitlin Bardford, took home awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Producer.
  • "Smile," directed by Ben Weaver and produced by Nathan Vail, earned the People’s Choice Award and Best Original Composition.
  • "The Reunion," directed by David McMichael and produced by Trevor Cochlin, won Best Independent Film.
  • The screening also included Best Picture for last semester’s 24-hour FilmFest, "Pages," directed by Jordan Havens and produced by Ben Weaver.

"This was my first FilmFest and the competition was impressive," says Weaver. "A handful of films could all have taken best picture. Not only was this a chance to make movies, but it's also a place to meet other filmmakers who want to do the same thing. In the future we can look for opportunities to work together."

One of the factors that made this year's competition so successful was the opportunity for students to use Canon professional equipment and participate in workshops with Paul McAniff, professional video specialist from Canon. Students had access to the popular 5D digital SLR camera now being used by many filmmakers wanting greater control over exposure, as well as Canon's professional lenses.

"FilmFest was exciting to be a part of this year due to the beautiful photography in a lot of the pieces," says Brewer, whose studio has filmed award-winning music videos for artists such as Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift. "I was impressed to hear Canon provided cameras to the participants. I use the Canon 5D in music videos I shoot with major artists and the increased image quality really showed in the student films."

Soward, who has participated in FilmFest before, agreed that this year's competition was stronger because of the better equipment available to students.

"This year's FilmFest was the best it’s ever been due in large part to Canon's coming and providing high-end cameras. That reflected so much in the work," says Soward. "There are so many talented people at ACU who want to tell these great stories, and being able to tell it in a way the equipment reflects the amount of passion they have about it."

Read more about this year's FilmFest experience in the Optimist article.