Walking the red carpet: Campus Movie finalists advance to nationals

By Demi Manglona

Judges for the Campus Movie Festival held a film screening at Falk Theatre on Feb. 18 to determine winners and finalists.

For 2019’s Campus Movie Fest, the prizes for UT’s top directors included placement in the Prime Video Category, which adds the student’s film to Amazon Prime if they succeed in the national event. The grand prize winner of the Prime Video Category will receives a bundle package of Amazon products, like Amazon Echo Plus, Fire TV cubes and gift cards.

Of those placed in the Walt Disney Studios Women in Film Category, three finalists will have the opportunity to talk with Disney representatives. They will also attend workshops focused on women in film.

These are the finalists for this year

17 Hours by Tamsen Simpson

Although this is her first year participating in CMF, Tamsen Simpson, sophomore film and media arts major, started creating short films early in high school. She received recognition at film festivals such as Life Screenings Film Festival and Reel Short Teen Festival in 2018 for her film titled Reflections.

Simpson’s debut CMF film, 17 Hours, was voted one of the two winners among the four finalists. Her prizes included placement in Prime Video Category and The Walt Disney Studios Women in Film Category.

17 Hours revolves around a love triangle gone wrong. Her film addresses the obliviousness of the main character, which ultimately leads to her demise. The sophomore director said she wanted to invoke shock to the audience, while piquing their interest from the opening scene.

“The whole message behind the love triangle is that you never know who’s trying to get your attention before it’s too late,” said Simpson.

The film opened with an extreme wide shot, taken with a drone, of a girl floating atop water at the beach. While thinking of concepts a week prior to the festival, this was the only scene Simpson envisioned. With the help of her five crew members, Simpson created a story around the mystery of the floating woman, working the plot of 17 Hours backwards from the opening scene.

Despite the technical creativity, Simpson said shooting at the beach was the longest and most stressful part. Her crew struggled with the wind, waves and other beachgoers.

“I think what made my film stand out to the judges was the whole full circle ending, sparking that initial wonder about how she got herself into the ocean,” said Simpson. “Definitely strategically plan out how you’re going to execute your idea visually, and have a set plan because doing the whole pre-production to post- production thing in a week is hard.”

Lost Angel by Mya Effiong

Junior graphic design major Mya Effiong came to UT as a film major, but changed her major route to fit her animation style. Effiong combined her passion for design and drawing with film, creating a narrative animation for her first winning movie, Lost Angel.

The film narrates the story of a young girl searching for her family in a desolate neighborhood. Throughout the film, the musical scoring changes from a haunting and pained melody into an upbeat composition like the music in silent films. The mood behind the animation’s theme stays the same. Behind the childlike style of the animation and cheerful tune, Effiong reveals that ICE has deported the girl’s family.

Coming from a family of immigrants, Effiong said that the issue of deportation impacted her view of America.

“I was just hurt by what was going on,” said Effiong. “I just felt like it happened, and then it was talked about, and then it was forgotten. It was just something that was still on my mind for a long time afterwards.”

The goal of the film was to remind viewers that the issues of immigration are still relevant — despite how fast the topic came and went. Effiong focuses on the young girl’s story instead of generalizing American immigrants. Along with the Prime Video Category and the Walt Disney Studios Women in Film Category prizes, Lost Angel placed in the Elfenworks Hope in Social Justice Category, which focuses on inspiring hope and change.

“I thought if I brought [the topic] back up, but not in the same way everyone heard about it at first, it would be more memorable,” said Effiong.

Effiong plans to make more films about justice and hope with her dark storytelling style.

The Bridge by Malak Krayem

Malak Krayem, film and media arts major, wanted to diverge from her usual documentative style and experiment with a narrative for her CMF submission. Krayem received her first camera in middle school and has been filming music videos and montages ever since.

Last summer, she shadowed fashion bloggers during Paris Fashion Week, documenting her trip while filming interviews and fashion shows.

Documentary-style movies were her expertise until she attended a screenwriting class last semester, where she learned how to build better narratives and plots. This semester, Krayem has created four short films, including The Bridge, that earned her one of the top four spots.

“Initially I wanted to do a documentary,” said Krayem. “But that’s not what I wanted to do. That’s just what I know I can do.”

Her film concept derived from a class assignment which prompted her to build a story based off of anything; around any kind of door. Utilizing the gate in Plant Park, Krayem created a two-minute scene with a comedic plot twist.

Krayem said she attempts to evoke laughter through simple goofiness. There are images and concepts that are universally humorous, like wacky, prolonged smiles and aloof characters. Krayem uses both as a transition segue from the film’s frantic action to the punchlines. To produce a proper comedic plot twist, Krayem said she tries to identify what the audience knows before shattering their expectations with an outlandish outcome.

“If you know you want to do something for CMF next year, start practicing,” said Krayem. “Start making little skits and little videos just to test it out. Just to make sure that when the time comes, you have full control over your equipment and that you understand the amount of time you need for your film.”

Repetition by Amanda Stover

After two years of attending multimedia training in high school, freshman music major Amanda Stover tried her hand in stop motion with her debut film Repetition. The three minute real-life animation shows the monotony of mental illness in everyday life.

“For people with mental health issues, life can tend to feel incredibly repeated and dull,” said Stover. “As someone with depression and anxiety, the world can feel like it’s standing still and there’s no escape; everything feels numb, heavy and love.”

Along with being one the finalists, Stover placed in the Prime Video Category and The Walt Disney Studios Women in Film Category. Stover’s video was the only stop motion movie amongst the 16 finalists, according to the director.

The film cycles the same scene three times before breaking the loop, but Stover included an uplifting sequence after the credits.

“To anyone out there that feels like they are living life in a loop, do not give up. You will break through this,” said Stover.

Demi Manglona can be reached at demi.manglona@theminaretonline.com

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