Campus MovieFest

College campuses are a breeding ground for new and revolutionary ideas. However, students are often short-handed on the money and professional connections needed to present their ideas to the right people. This can cause a lot of ideas to never escape the dorm room, especially with a hard-to-break-into industry like film.

Student team prepares their film for the College’s CMF competition. (Jaqueline Ilkowitz)

Fortunately for students at the College, Dan Costa, a co-founder of Campus MovieFest, had an idea in college to provide students at his school, Emory University, with the resources necessary to create a five- minute short movie in one week. After 12 years of working on Campus MovieFest, the program has now spread to 50 schools, including the College.

“We wondered what would happen if we provided the tools and training for our fellow students to make short movies in a week. We gathered up laptops and cameras, didn’t sleep for a year, and fortunately had a few administrators who trusted us,” Costa said. “We were blown away when 1,500 students walked down the red carpet to see their short stories on the big screen.”

To help facilitate students’ film opportunities, CMF provided the College’s students with a laptop loaded with moviemaking software including Adobe Creative Suite 6, a Panasonic HD video camera, training and support, according to J.R. Hardman, the CMF campus rep for the College.

“The tech support was very helpful, and all of the workers seemed like they were right out of college and were very cool,” said Jaqueline Ilkowitz, sophomore communication studies major and member of Talking Piñata Productions, a student team in the College’s CMF competition.

With the necessary tools to create a movie at hand, students are able to test and develop both their filmmaking and managerial skills.

“Participants are taught real-life skills about planning, producing, directing, acting and more.  It’s a great opportunity to understand what happens in bigger productions,” Costa said.

The one week deadline allowed every student to gain exposure in the different roles. “We did all of the filming in one day, and everyone had to do a little bit of everything,” Ilkowitz said.

Dedication to providing supplies and support to help students gain valuable experience has allowed CMF to not only grow, but to also help inspire and find potential talent for the film industry.  “We’ve got some amazing past participants that are doing incredible things in the industry,” Costa said. “We’ve had participants win Student Academy Awards and MTV Music Video Awards, attend the top film schools, see their commercials air during the Super Bowl, produce their first feature films and much more.

One of CMF’s initiatives that helps participants achieve success are the opportunities presented for participants to speak with industry professionals.

“Participants get face-to-face interactions with industry leaders who give advice on getting started in the industry. TCNJ participants are invited out to Hollywood for workshops, networking and awards,” Costa said.

The CMF experience is not unique to the College, but they make efforts to reach schools both small and large.

“We work hard to ensure a diverse group of schools get to participate each year in CMF, both in terms of geography and school size. We love seeing student bodies at schools of all sizes get excited about showcasing their students’ creativity on the big screen, and we’re thrilled to be at TCNJ this year,” Costa said.

“This was definitely an awesome experience, it’s not very often you get huge companies to come to small schools,” Ilkowitz said.