Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Festival showcases student film


With Alabama’s hopes of a football national championship dead and buried, this semester UA students have their sights set on a new competition: Campus MovieFest.

The program, which started at Emory University 13 years ago, launched Tuesday at The University of Alabama for its seventh consecutive year.

Campus MovieFest provides students with all the equipment and support they need to make a short film. There are only two rules: The film must be under five minutes long, and it has to be shot in just one week. This may seem like a challenging prospect, but in this competition, Alabama students are proving to be rising stars.

Cayce Savage, a senior majoring in psychology and interdisciplinary arts, won Campus Best Picture last year for ‘Person-Able,’ the film she co-produced with her roommate. Savage and her team have taken part in Campus MovieFest for the past three years and plan to enter again this year.

“We had been really itching to make a short film but could never quite find the time.” Savage said. “Campus MovieFest was an excellent endeavour, because it’s an organized event, and you only have to devote a good week. That’s really all the time you need for many successful projects, really, but I don’t think many people realize that.”

Savage said she and her team were surprised that “Person-Able” won Campus Best Picture over UA graduate Connor Simpson’s “Manta,” which cleaned up at the national awards in Los Angeles, winning CMFH Best Picture, International best picture and MFA Best Director, to name a few.

“We were hoping for Best Comedy, but we weren’t exceedingly confident in our chances,” Savage said. “We were so certain Manta was going to win that we just mumbled confusedly to each other when it didn’t come up on the screen. We didn’t even realize it was our film.”

But not everyone has to be budding film protégés like Simpson and Savage to get involved with Campus MovieFest. Chris Dumas, a former UA student and promotions manager for Campus MovieFest, is working with participants on campus all this week.

“We want to make sure every student, whether they’re a film major, a psychology major, whether they don’t even know what they want to do with their life, all have a chance to make a movie,” Dumas said. “There’s actually more students competing who aren’t filmmakers than who are.”

The Campus MovieFest team offers technical support and advice, as well as renting free and state of the art equipment to all participants. Dumas has even given out his personal cell phone number in case participants run into difficulty.

“We’re completely accessible to participants if they need anything. We’ve even been called at 3 in the morning,” Dumas said.

Dumas said the time frame of the challenge shouldn’t put budding filmmakers off.

“The [short time limit] is a great learning experience for those looking to go into film,” he said. “It teaches you to work quickly and do all your pre-production and planning ahead of time.”

Veyonte Bynum, a freshman majoring in business, is one of several participants trying their hand at movie making for the first time this week.

“[Campus MovieFest] provides an opportunity for freshman such as myself to branch out, meet new people and get hands on experience,” Bynum said. “That way, I can see if it’s really something that I want to pursue after graduation.”

Vince Hill, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering, is also a first time filmmaker, but said he’s confident his strong theoretical knowledge will aid his project. The concept for Hill’s film is an action-packed thriller that combines romance with dramatic violence.

Hill said his main difficulty so far has been organizing his team.

“Getting people at the locations at the correct time might be an issue,” Hill said. “I had actual actors, but they both backed out, so I had to scramble to find friends who were willing to do it.”

However, inspired by his favorite director, Paul Thomas Anderson, Hill plans on using some quirky techniques to motivate his amateur actors into fulfilling such emotionally charged roles. “We’ve been reading through the script in different ways to help them prepare,” Hill said, “I’ve even had them mime the words.”

Participants are required to turn in their finished films Monday at 6 p.m., where they’ll be judged by a panel of UA faculty, staff and students. Then the top 16 films will be presented in a screening at the Ferguson Center Ballroom on Jan. 30. The films selected as Best Picture, Best Comedy and Best Drama will then go on to compete at a national awards ceremony in Los Angeles at a four-day workshop followed by a red carpet event.

Entrees are judged on a variety of qualities, including story, cinematography and how creative the piece is, but Dumas says the key to creating a good film is to express your passion.

“Don’t write a story that you think people are going to like; write a story that you like. Write the jokes that you think are funny.” Dumas said. “It’s more genuine. The people that make the movies that they are passionate about, a lot of the time, end up doing better.”

Successful participants in the past have had the chance to attend the Cannes Film Festival and have their films played on Virgin American flights as well as networking with top Hollywood bosses.

Dumas said with participation growing each year, students at The University of Alabama are becoming key players in the CMF national competition.

“There is a certain tenacity and drive that The University of Alabama has,” Dumas said. “I think it comes from a lot of the film students having a chip on their shoulder.”

As a former CMF participant from the University, Dumas has experienced firsthand an elitist attitude from the bigger film schools such as NYU or UCLA.

“[UA students] feel like there’s a lot to prove to these schools, and they plan all year to do so,” Dumas said. “Alabama students are particularly gifted storytellers, whereas some schools focus solely on cinematography.”

“Like with football, Alabama is always in the ranking”, Dumas said. “We’re always excited to come here and see who’s going to be that next person to really stand out from The University of Alabama. Each year it gets better.”

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