Ten short films representing the work of more than 70 ACU students premiered to a packed Paramount Theatre during ACU’s 18th annual FilmFest gala April 7. The teams behind this year’s submissions included students from 15 different majors from across campus. At the event, awards were given in 11 categories including writing, acting and cinematography.
It was the first time since 2019 the event was held at the historic downtown theater, which made the traditional black-tie gala a first for most in attendance. The pandemic forced changes of venue for the 2020 and 2021 events.
Many of the films this year were also produced by first-timers new to FilmFest. Sophomores Kaden Vasquez and Ryland Mallett took home four production awards, including Best Picture, for their film “Face Down.” Sophomores Brenna Raffels and Holly Reichling led a team of newcomers on “Ruby Letters” and earned Best Production Design. Graduate student Trés Cox picked up the award for best cinematography for his first FilmFest submission “Sola Nocte,” which also won People’s Choice.
Vasquez was impressed by the Paramount Gala: “FilmFest was the first time a crowd has publicly watched something I helped to create. Before this, producing videos online, I’ve just had to hope that the final product would connect, but with FilmFest I got to experience an audience’s reaction first hand.”
Student teams also drew on the creativity of academic programs from across campus. “Face Down” featured the contributions of physics, art, music, multimedia, and digital entertainment majors. Brianna Douglas wrote and directed her first film this year as a senior biology major, and Cox is completing for the first time in the MBA program.
Returning this year, senior digital entertainment technology majors Katie Pantoja and Jael Morel submitted their second animated film, “To the Moon,” which earned Best Producer for Morel and Best Sound Design for Pantoja.
As always, FilmFest welcomed a panel of judges from across the entertainment industry to Abilene. This year’s slate included casting director Ally Beans (’14) of Eisenberg/Beans; post production director Tim Holt (’15) with Dude Perfect on YouTube; screenwriter and actor Melinda Simpson; and Sommerly Simser (’09), an executive assistant at Netflix. Throughout the week they spoke with students about the film industry and offered feedback on the submitted films.
For Cox, it was the interactions with industry professionals that surprised him. “I’m grateful that the judges were willing to spend so much time with us and give such valuable feedback,” he said. “We’re all young and at the beginning of our careers, but I’m sure that personal investment from the judges will help as we navigate next steps in the industry and in life.”
Visit acu.edu/filmfest to learn more and to watch the winning films.