Campus Movie Fest attracts student directors

Steven Nalley

In Hollywood, filmmakers often have months or even years to complete production.

At the University of Alabama, Campus Movie Fest only gives student filmmakers one week.

Campus Movie Fest culminated Thursday night in a “Red Carpet Finale,” which showcased 21 five-minute films produced by UA students.

One team led by Chris West, a senior majoring in telecommunication and film production, discovered a way to get even more out of their production week.

“They can only be five minutes maximum, but you are allowed as a team to make as many as you want,” West said. “We made three five-minute films that are in an epic style. We had special effects. We had three films with an overarching plot. I think that’s never been done in the history of the competition. They were all pretty surprised when we turned them in on Monday.”

West said he and his production team, Sprankle Studios, had made films for Birmingham’s Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival under an even shorter 48-hour time limit. Sprankle Studios also made it to the international level of the 2009 Campus Movie Fest, which West said freed the team to make something more ambitious.

“We didn’t feel the need to make a really polished film to get back to that point,” West said. “We got to a point where we thought. I feel like filmmaking is about challenging yourself. When you do that in a week, you run the risk of failure, of doing something too ambitious. This time, I felt like we could really push ourselves, and it would be okay.”

West said his trilogy, entitled “Multiverse,” one part of which won best drama, was loosely based on Dante’s “The Divine Comedy.” It features a man grieving over his fiancée who wakes up in another world and has to retrieve three items in three worlds to see his fiancée again.

“It’s basically meant to be an allegory for grief and how we deal with it,” West said.

West said he and two other editors worked tirelessly to add such special effects as matte paintings and a CGI cloud flyover to the film.

“There’s a point in the editing experience where you feel like, ‘This is the biggest failure I’ve ever done,’ but now I’m really proud of everyone on my team,” West said. “We stayed up for 36 hours editing it, and in the end, we came out with something everyone was really proud of.”

Nick Mahone, a senior majoring in telecommunications and film, has made several student films, including “Insight,” “Synthia,” “My Apparition” and a documentary on the UA theatre department’s production of “The Wild Party.” However, he said he had never taken part in Campus Movie Fest until this year.

“Ever since I was a freshman, people have been trying to get me to do this, and I was like, ‘No, no, I’m not going to do that,’” Mahone said. “One week is not long enough to do something that I felt had enough substantial value and that I would be happy with.

“Normally, I shoot dramas,” Mahone added. “I figured that was something I would want to do for CMF, but given the amount of time, the short amount of time that we had, I wasn’t able to come up with a dramatic idea that I felt would have had the same dramatic impact that I would have intended as opposed to what I might have done with a longer screenplay and more time.”

Mahone said he changed his mind about CMF when he came up with an idea that fit CMF’s time frame. Entitled “King, Me,” Mahone said his submission was “the ultimate showdown between checkers and chess.”

“I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but I knew what I wanted to do with it and I wanted to make sure to keep it very visual,” Mahone said. “The only dialogue that’s spoken is at the beginning and at the very end. It’s 95 percent silent.”

Mahone said that despite his initial doubts, he liked the results.

“I’ll just have to wait and see how the audience feels,” Mahone said before the Thursday night screening. “My crew didn’t expect it to turn out the way it did, and they liked it.”

“Head in the Clouds,” won the award for best overall picture.