Through the CMF, students are given equipment to make their own short films and submit them in a national contest. Four winners from each school go on to a national competition in Hollywood where they can win a Golden Tripod Award or a $15,000 prize.
“We’re providing aspiring filmmakers with an opportunity to use their creativity,” said Erika McCoy, promotions manager for the Campus Movie Festival. “[They’ll] put together a short five minute film that most probably would not have been able to do easily anyway, without spending tons of money on the latest equipment.”
Any student can enter the contest, and when they do, they receive an Panasonic HD camera, sound equipment from Sennheiser, and a Macbook with Adobe Creative Cloud software. They have these supplies for five days, during which time they must make a short. The only constraint on their creativity is a five minute time limit.
Austin Rhyne, a senior majoring in telecommunication and film, created his first submission for the Campus Movie Festival this year. Titled “Our Daily Bread,” Rhyne describes his work as the story of a struggling young woman forced to make a tough choice.
“She has to decide what choices she makes for herself and her family,” Rhyne said. “It was good, I was very proud of it, especially for having done it in a week.”
This strict deadline was hard to work with, especially because Rhyne only had help from one friend.
“Our friends were at Sundance, or making their own films, [or] people were getting sick,” he said. “It was a struggle.”
Despite working with less than a skeleton crew, Rhyne was confident in his skills. He said the essential experience of making a movie was the same.
“You lose a lot of sleep, you drink a lot of coffee, you go to bed at 6:30 a.m. the day it’s due and turn it in later that day,” he said.
The inspiration for his story came from two sources. One was a quote the director heard over Christmas break – “sometimes people cry not because they are weak, but because they have been strong for too long.” The other was the process of making the leap from college to adulthood.
“I was noticing these moments of parents and their children. And I’m in college, and a senior, about to go off in the real world,” he said. “And I was like, ‘kids, hold onto those moments with you and your parents, and parents, hold onto those moments with you and your kids, because they’ll be gone before you know it.’ ”
Rhyne is an aspiring professional who one day hopes to produce or direct family features for Disney or Pixar. But not every person submitting films to the festival has ambitions in the movie business.
“A lot of these students are not in film school, they just have an interest in film, or they want to give it a shot for the first time,” said Erika McCoy.
Many students submit works in a secondary contest, the Elfinworks Social Justice category. Entrants in this contest typically create documentary features about big issues facing society, and are allowed to exceed the five minute run time of the general contest. The top prize for this category is $15,000.
The promotions manager said many students get involved once and then enter the contest each year they are in college. If their work is chosen to screen at the larger festival in Hollywood, they open themselves up to network and gain professional experience in the epicenter of the film industry. Even if they only place in their schools competition, they are still put on a mailing list that helps connect aspiring directors to professional opportunities.
“It’s not just, oh, we get our film shown at the theater at the school, and that’s the end,” McCoy said. “They do have career opportunities after that.”
So what will Austin Rhyne do if his project is screened tonight?
“I get super self-conscious and pretend that I have no idea what’s happening when anything I’ve ever worked on is shown,” he said. “I just don’t pay attention to it. I will just zone out when and if that happens.”