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Shooting to score

On Friday night, the red carpet will be rolled out at the Sun Dome for a night of films written, directed and edited by USF students.

This event is the finale to Campus MovieFest (CMF), a competition that took place on campus in early February. The finale will feature the top 16 movies and highlight all the other entries, with a chance to win door prizes.

CMF is the world’s largest student movie festival and is open to all students, regardless of filmmaking experience.

“The main goal of CMF is to throw a new and exciting event on campus, one that the students can actively participate in or just go watch,” said Brandon Chong, director of educational programs for CMF.

Students at a University Film and Video Association pre-festival meeting on Jan. 31 were excited about the competition. Following the meeting, the room was buzzing with film ideas and students recruiting each other’s help on their projects.

Although students at the film club meeting seemed excited, as did many members of the CMF Facebook group, not as many students participated as Chong had expected. When he spoke at the meeting the count of participating teams was at 79.

“The new record for the amount of teams is 100, so I’m hoping for 120 from this campus. UCF was at 85, and I know you want to beat them,” Chong said at the time.

USF didn’t set a new record or beat UCF’s participation numbers. Chong said that of the 80 teams that signed up to participate, only about 50 turned in movies.

For the competition, students were given one week and all the necessary film equipment to create a five-minute movie. It sounded like an easy task, but once classes, conflicting schedules, editing and uncontrollable variables like sunlight and traffic were added in, the activity became more of a challenge.

Students may have run into the same problem that senior Marie Thomas did. The political science and Africana studies major said that juggling the festival with classes and other commitments would be tough, but she was still determined to make her movie, even if it meant she had to shoot it all in one day.

Jesse Newman, a junior studying sociology and humanities, and Sarah Wilson, a sophomore studying mass communications, were up for the challenge, too. All the members of their team sacrificed something. Some missed classes and went without sleep, while others had to do a lot of extra driving to squeeze filming in between other commitments.

“It will be all worth it, though, when the film is finished,” Newman said during the contest. “And hopefully we’ll see our movie on the screen at the finale.”

Newman and Wilson spent the week making a comedy/drama called “The Wall.”

“The hardest part is organizing. Getting people this time of year, everyone has obligations. We’re not paying anyone so the script has to energize people,” Newman said. “In Hollywood they pay people, so you get lame movies. But if you have a creative script you can get people to stand behind it, even with no pay.”

Their script told the story of a guy whose girlfriend was stolen from him by his best friend, but Newman and Wilson twisted this typical storyline into something unique.

Most of the actors had never done a film before, so Newman and Wilson trained them on the set. “There was also little time to rehearse, so passionate performances were being pulled out of thin air,” Wilson said.

Additionally, conflicting schedules or the disappearing sun resulted in time crunches, so details of a shot had to be figured out on the set. However, Newman’s filmaking experience left him more prepared for other difficulties.

“One advantage I think we have is our experience. We know a lot of the subtleties that other teams have to figure out (which) cut into their time even more,” Newman said.

There were not many rules for the festival other than the length of the movie – it could not extend longer than five minutes – and 90 percent had to be filmed within the week. The movie could be a comedy, drama, horror, documentary, adventure, animation or even a music video.

“Unlike some of the 48-hour festivals, there’s no theme. We just want you make a great movie. Tell your story,” Chong said at the pre-festival meeting.

The submissions were cut down to a group of around 40 of the best films by CMF. Then a panel of USF students and faculty selected 16 from the remaining films.

The top entries from USF will compete against the top films from each of the other five participating Florida colleges. In early April, the top 16 in the state will be showcased at the regional finale.

The team leaders of the Best Comedy, Best Drama and Best Picture nationwide will be flown to Los Angeles to meet with top talent agents and studio executives. Fifteen participants in the national competition will also be chosen to intern at the Cannes Film Festival.

Winners also have the chance to have their movies showcased in a variety of media, including mobile video, in-flight programming and film festivals around the United States, including the 2009 Gasparilla Film Festival in Tampa.

The CMF finale will be at the Sun Dome on Friday, Feb. 29. The doors open at 7 p.m. and the show begins at 7:30.