Life in Paradise: Campus MovieFest

The Campus MovieFest is an annual contest in which college teams from all over the country submit short (five minutes or less) films. The teams are given a camera, an Apple laptop and other equipment which they get to use to produce a film in just one week. One week! A feature movie you pay to see probably took a minimum of nine months or more to produce. These teams produced some excellent work in one short week.

Campus MovieFest logo

Nine years ago the awards ceremony were held in the auditorium of a church. This year, it was moved to the Wynn Las Vegas. The evening was similar to the Academy Awards, presenters came out and named the nominees for each category, then revealed the winner from a paper they’d been holding inside of an envelope. A big improvement over the more famous Academy Awards ceremony was that the winners were told to claim their prize (a Golden Tripod) after the show.

Besides the presentations, sixteen of the short films were screened, including all of the winners. There were some darned good short films on the program. I’ve spent less on a feature film and been a lot more disappointed in the production, and not just once, but fairly often. Some of the films were pedantic and message heavy, as you might expect from a twenty-year old producer. Some of them were incredibly fresh and funny, again much as you’d expect from a twenty-year old’s mind. My personal favorite was a comedy, and in fact it won Best Comedy for the year 2010.

Gopher pinned to a sign.
One Frame from the winner of Best Comedy
Still captured from YouTube

The name of the film is Grow Grass Grow and I think it’s really funny. Click here to watch it on YouTube. All of the Campus Movie Fest films, from the beginning, are available on YouTube or on the Campus Movie Fest web site.

Best Drama went to The Gerstein Report, about an SS officer who surrendered to the allies in an effort to expose the horrors of the holocaust.

Best Comedy went to Grow Grass Grow (see above.)

Best Picture goes to The Butterfly King. (This link takes you to the Campus Movie Fest YouTube Channel.)

The best thing about all of the films, even the ones I thought overly preachy, was the amount of story that the producers managed to pack into a five minute time frame. In the first twenty seconds, of Grow Grass Grow, viewers are presented with sufficient information to really enjoy the change in the protagonist’s outlook on life throughout the balance of the film. One film uses a live animation technique I’d only seen previously in commercials, and then packs in a whole lot of back story into a few seconds, then gives us a chapter in the life of our hard-boiled protagonist.

In short, these filmmakers are all very very good, and as several presenters took pains to point out, the future of cinema in America is looking really, really good. There is no indication on their web site as of this writing as to whether they will be back next year. If they are, you really ought to attend the 2011 Campus MovieFest.