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Campus MovieFest reels in student films

At the 84th Annual Academy Award ceremony last Sunday Michel Hazanavicius, director of “The Artist,” took home the Oscar for Best Director. Though he has reached the pinnacle of success, everyone in the film industry has to start somewhere.

Campus MovieFest (CMF) returned to USF last week for its fifth year, giving aspiring student filmmakers the chance to familiarize themselves with filmmaking technology, network with influential figures in the film industry and win an array of prizes – including editing software, cash and iPod Nanos.

The festival began 11 years ago when four students from Emory University decided to hold a competition for fun. Since then the fest has expanded across the U.S. and the United Kingdom.

CMF Marketing Manager Diane Payes said the contest is important for students who want to pursue filmmaking as a career.

“It gives students around the world the ability to work with their peers and opens up the door to a lot of internships,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to learn how to use the equipment and put together a movie. It gives students the ability to take it to the next step and offers tons of opportunities and help.”

Filmmakers had a week starting Feb. 21 to create a five-minute film and were provided with Apple laptops, Panasonic HD camcorders and free assistance to learn how to operate the equipment from CMF representatives.

After making it to the top 16 out of 51 entries his freshman year, Isiah Miller, a junior majoring in television production, hopes to win and make it to the finals in Hollywood this year.

He said he used the knowledge he gained through his prior experience to his entry for this year, “Death at Park Place.”

“It’s about a couple that plays a game of Monopoly that goes horribly wrong,” he said “I’ve been doing (film work) since my senior year in high school, so I had some knowledge coming into (CMF), but I learned how to use Final Cut (last year).”

Marcelo Martindale, a senior majoring in television production, entered “The Other Place,” a fantasy film.

“It’s a very subjective kind of movie,” he said. “It’s like an experimental film more than an actual story. It’s more music than fiction – it’s about moods and feelings.”

Martindale said his experience in editing and directing played an important role in his method of creating his film and expressing his concept.

“I think visually because I’m an editor as well, so I already think about what I want the shots to be,” he said. “It started with what I wanted to see visually and then I built my story around that.”

His film required special effects and CMF helped him learn how to use green screens and optical flares to put together his piece.

Carl Bivona, a senior majoring in creative writing, said the hardest part of creating his film, “2 1/2 Actors Looking for a Director,” was limited time.

“I think if a short film is going to be effective, it has to cause a great deal of emotion in the viewer, whether it be laughter, nostalgia, a tear or a sprinkle of the three,” he said. “Accomplishing (this) in under five minutes with only a week of production is certainly a feat.”

In his third year entering the contest, Bivona said he benefited from being prepared.

“This was my first time writing the full screenplay before launch week,” he said. “The production ran more smoothly this year, and it really shows in the final cut.”

Filmmakers who move onto the next round of judging receive complimentary tickets to CMF in Hollywood to attend filmmaking panels, workshops and an award ceremony with prizes distributed to the winners by celebrity hosts. Last year’s included Elizabeth Banks, John Cho, Jack McBrayer and Jeff Goldblum. The winner of Best Picture is invited to show his or her film aboard Virgin America as an in-flight movie and at the Cannes Film Festival.

The categories include Best Picture, Best Comedy, Best Drama and the Elfenworks Social Justice Category, which focuses on social injustices and offers $10,000 in prizes. Last year at the Grand Finale, the final stage in the competition, the film “Blind Eye” by USF senior marketing major Chris Stevens received the Elfenworks award. CMF will also have Best Actor and Best Actress awards.

Winners will be selected Thursday at 9 p.m. in the Marshall Student Center Oval Theater by a panel of judges consisting of USF students and faculty. Judges will select the top 16 films to show, and winners will be chosen for the different categories.