The Power of ‘Words’ Earns CMF Jury Award

A Narrative From a Campus Movie Fest Victor


I watched as his legs swung, back and forth, back and forth, ever so slowly and eerily. Lying down on my stomach to catch just the right angle of his limp and lifeless body, I aimed and took my shot– camera shot, that is.

If someone were to ask me two weeks ago what goes into the process of creating a short film, my only ground to stand on would have been paved in memories of poorly executed middle school video projects. Now, however, I’m a Campus MovieFest Jury Award winner and my short film, Words, is continuing on to the national finale in Atlanta, GA.

Campus MovieFest (CMF) is a weeklong event that takes the form of a social experiment in its ability to judge how well a group of college students can perform while simultaneously deprived of sleep and hyped up on a competitive high. The event kicked off in the Vaughn Center lobby on Wednesday, Feb. 3, when students were invited to sign up as teams and check out equipment. CMF supplied those interested with Panasonic Lumix cameras, MacBook Pro’s loaded with Adobe editing software, and other necessary camera accessories. It’s basically a dream come true for those whose dreams of Hollywood stardom far surpass the reach of their checking accounts.

Naturally, I was completely oblivious and wrote the entire event off as a showcase for film students: people who actually have some inkling of what they are doing. It wasn’t until Thursday, when my best friend Anthony Nicolo, a junior exercise science major, was helping with another friend’s film, that we even considered filming one of our own. The typical pessimist that I am, I wrote the event off yet again seeing the time limit as impossible – especially given that we would be coming so late to the party. It wasn’t until Friday, after my 2 p.m. class, that Anthony finally convinced me to just go for it and shoot a movie with him.

So we signed up, just he and I, a two-man creative team/film crew/production company. We checked out a tripod, used my Nikon (a Nikon that my highly-lacking photography expertise definitely does not warrant), and started brainstorming. Anthony and I decided to play on our strengths: he, the professional dancer and past-youtuber with an affinity for iMovie editing, and me, the girl with a car, a camera, and a knack for writing dark stories.

Although a comedy sounded like a fun option, we came to the conclusion that, if done improperly, we would just look cheesy and unprofessional. We quickly came to the second conclusion that anything we created, if done improperly, would look cheesy and unprofessional. Anthony and I decided to pull from real life, because it seemed that if we stayed close to reality, the fiction wouldn’t be so unbelievable. We thought of the words we had been called in our lives, and words that we might have used to describe other people. We wrote a list of words like “asshole,” “bitch,” “fat,” “ugly” and “pussy.” Then I wrote those words on Anthony, and he danced, and he portrayed the effect of those words, and somehow it worked. Someway, somehow, we created something that we were both proud to tack our names onto.

The entire week was a whirlwind consisting of Anthony and I sending constant texts and snapchats about “scene transitions” and “creative commons music” and cataloging the amount of times we played and replayed the final product. We became slightly obsessed with our film; it was our creative child and we loved it. Our concept and filming were completed on Friday, Saturday was devoted to editing, and, by Sunday morning, at around 2 a.m., we had a movie. We submitted Words on Tuesday afternoon, waiting impatiently all day Wednesday, and, finally, got dressed for Thursday’s red carpet finale in Falk Theatre.

On Thursday night, we sat in a crowd of other students who had spent the past week just as devoted to their brainchildren as we had become. These proud producers, directors, cinematographers, writers and actors all sat together, silently (and some not so silently) hoping to see their movie show up on the big screen. We all knew that 43 movies had been submitted, 16 would show at the school finale, and four would continue on. The odds felt pretty heavily weighed against us, so Anthony and I did not even fully expect to have our movie play at the finale.

Each film was beautiful in its own right; they told dramatic stories of loneliness, of heartache, and of the state of the future, and they showed comedies of special agents, of group projects, and of tolerance. With every video that came up on screen, my heart sank a little lower– seeing our chances shrinking smaller and smaller. Then it played, up on the screen for everyone to see, I squeezed Anthony’s arm as our names appeared. Maybe everyone felt that way when their films appeared, maybe we just get overly excited, but our heartbeats synced up to the sounds of our video. After it played, the audience sat in silence for a moment. We hoped that moment was born of shock rather than disappointment as we searched the theatre nervously. The eventual clapping was a true relief.

When Anthony won the award for best male actor, we screamed. He kept repeating that he wasn’t an actor, that he didn’t understand. When the hosts called the top four films, one at a time, we were not certain if his actor win meant good news for our movie or if it meant that Words already had its one win for the night. These top four films would continue on to nationals in Atlanta, GA., with the possibility of making it to the Cannes Film Festival in France. When our movie was called, we screamed again, this time a bit louder. We were both shaking, laughing and on the verge of tears. It wasn’t the prettiest thing.

They asked us to make a speech and all we could muster was some very awkwardly loud nervous laughter and something about us not being film majors and being very happy. What we did not mention, and what we would have mentioned had we been in our right minds, is how much our film meant to us and how much it meant that other people understood our message and appreciated our little creation.

Campus MovieFest might not be Hollywood, and the finale last Thursday night might not be the Academy Awards, but, for our little team of the boy that likes to dance and the girl that happens to own a camera, we were Leonardo DiCaprio and that was our Oscar.   

To watch Words, and other UT CMF entries, click here.

Bianca Lopez can be reached at

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