By George Tatoris
Journalism and interactive multimedia (IMM) double major Sorraya Brashear-Evans spent the night of Sunday, April 10, glued to a computer. She slept not a wink — her deadline was on the horizon.
In a few hours, she would need to hand in her film for Campus MovieFest (CMF), a national college film festival that gives teams one week to produce, shoot and edit a film. The four best from each college will be screened at a film and video game event called Terminus in Atlanta this year. Brashear-Evans only just wrapped up filming for her entry, “Raine,” about a super-powered renegade, that same day in Loser Hall. The script was a year in the making, taking inspiration from “Avengers: Age of Ultron” to hip-hop albums to Brashear-Evans’s own life experiences.
“If I had to describe it, I would say that film is like my teenage angst in five minutes,” she said. “Plus, she has powers.”
One scene called for a hospital setting — Loser’s nursing wing made a perfect fit. But, when she asked to film in Loser, she was told she could only film on Sunday, a day before deadline. Her actors, who included IMM adjunct professor Kevin Cassel, rehearsed the scene so they could get it right in as little time as possible.
But the job was not completed quite yet. Brashear-Evans was on a team of her own. Every little job most people spend a career mastering — editing, special effects, sound — fell on her shoulders. By the time her film was finished, she was exhausted.
In the end, the effort paid off. Brashear-Evans’s film was one of four to win a Jury Award during the CMF finale on Monday, April 18, in Mayo Concert Hall. There, an eager audience of movie makers and fans alike were seated to watch the 16 best films chosen from a total of 67.
“I wasn’t surprised (when she won) because I thought she did a good job,” Cassel said.
The other three winners were “Jasper,” a dystopian thriller from the mind of junior communication studies major Ian Cooley, “The Return of Barbra Jackson: News Reporter Extraordinaire,” a comedy sequel to a 2014 entry by senior communication studies and IMM double major Folake Ayiloge and “Lucidity,” a science-fiction drama from junior IMM majors Chris Lundy and Ryan Laux, whose special effects wowed crowds at CMF finales for two years in a row.
Lundy and Laux weren’t the only veterans. In fact, Brashear-Evans worked with Ayiloge’s team last year, but decided to go solo because she wasn’t sure of her script.
“I had the script, but it took a while for me to really believe in it, so I didn’t want to slow (Ayiloge) down,” Brashear-Evans said. She also wanted to prove to herself she could make a film.
Ayiloge’s “Return of Barbra Jackson” received the most laughs of the night, but the film ended on a sad note — the title character’s final broadcast.
The ending was symbolic for Ayiloge, who, like the character she potrays, will soon end her career as Lions Television’s (LTV) Station Manager.
“LTV has had an incredible impact on my college career, and I wanted to include that in my final CMF film,” Ayiloge said. “It’s only fitting that this video ends in the same space that has been my home away from home over the last four years.”
After her debut in 2014, Barbra became a campus cult classic. According to Ayiloge, students would greet her with Barbra Jackson-isms like, “And with a hoot, I’m an owl.” When the clueless reporter first appeared on-screen this year, the audience erupted into raucous applause. With this latest addition to the Barbra Jackson mythos, Ayiloge hoped to display her skillset and make the character more relatable.
“Watching both the original and ‘(The) Return of Barbra Jackson,’ you get the opportunity to see how I’ve matured as a writer, director and editor over the last two years,” she said.
Ayiloge wasn’t the only movie-maker whose talents improved thanks to Campus MovieFest. Lundy and Laux have entered effects-laden films since their freshman year, each film improving on the special effects of the last. This year’s film, “Lucidity,” is about a couple using technology to connect with each other after a tragic accident. Junior communication studies major Gracemarie Loretta, who starred as one half of the central couple, was nominated for the Silver Tripod Award for best actress for her performance.
“We had combined a lot of ideas to form the general idea of using a technology as a way to basically speak to someone for the last time before they pass away,” Lundy said.
Using green screen effects done by Laux and a voice changing effect created by Lundy, the pair turned their actor into an unnerving robotic hologram.
“My favorite thing is when it really starts to break up in some spots,” Lundy said of his work, which earned the duo a nomination for best special effects at Terminus. If they win, it will be their third straight victory in that category.
Not every contestant was a veteran. Despite his remarkably short acting career, senior IMM major Michael Yadvish received a best actor nomination for his role in “Jasper” as an assassin with a heart of gold.
The director, Cooley, discovered him just three months ago while they were working together on a WWII film. Though Yadvish’s part was small, Cooley thought he would be perfect as “Jasper’s” protagonist.
“He’s this assassin — this ruthless assassin — but he’s still human,” Yadvish said about the character.
Yadvish directed his own top-16 film, as well — “Fight-or-Flight” — about one man’s action-packed fantasy fight with a burglar. The film featured choreographed fights scenes — the topic of his senior thesis.
“The choreography is something I’ve been doing for a long time,” Yadvish said. “I did karate for over 10 years.”
A mix of experience and skills went into the MovieFest this year, but there was one common factor: not one was a film major. The College doesn’t have a standalone program, making CMF essential to any student looking to enter a career in film.
It’s already working for some. Even if they win for best special effects this year, Lundy and Laux aren’t going to be in Atlanta, Ga., to receive their award — they’re going to Hollywood for a DreamWorks internship.
Meanwhile, Brashear-Evans will graduate without having taken a single film class. But then again, neither did one of her heroes: Quentin Tarantino.