FilmFest brings Filmmakers to Abilene

Last week, ACU’s 12th Annual FilmFest gave students the opportunity to screen original films at a red-carpet gala at the Paramount Theatre. This year also provided students unprecedented access to training and feedback from filmmakers on campus and around the country. Production teams began work in the fall developing story ideas and technical skills through workshops led by Nathan Driskell and Mathew Bardwell in the Learning Studio.

For the first time this fall and spring, students had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with returning judges to develop their films. In November, Randy Brewer, class of 1993 and founder of Revolution Pictures, came to campus to work with production teams as they began to refine story ideas.

FilmFestJudgesBrentThen in March, Brent McCorkle, whose recent work includes editing the 2015 feature Woodlawn, spent the day with directors and editors to talk about rough cuts of their films, leaving several weeks for them to fine-tune and in some cases rewrite and reshoot portions of their films before the April 1 premiere.

Again this year, the FilmFest weekend concluded with critique sessions on Saturday morning, allowing each production team to hear from judges about everything from basic story structure to the technical aspects of their finished films.

We’re grateful to the remarkable panel of filmmakers and writers who joined us in Abilene this year—including Will Bakke (director, Believe Me [2014]), Randy Brewer (Revolution Pictures), Al Haley (writer in residence, ACU), Brent McCorkle (director, Unconditional [2012]), Adrian Patenaude (writer), and Kyle Smith (writer).

If you missed FilmFest, you can see this year’s student films and a list of winners at the FilmFest Blog.

Still from "Ultra Super Secret Spy"

FilmFest training workshops

This semester we’re working with the FilmFest folks to lead off their 24-hour FilmFest events with a workshop introducing crucial techniques. We’ll kick off the series this week with our first on Friday.



How to Get Great Sound in Your Film

In filmmaking, good audio is key. Polish your future productions by learning the ins and outs of capturing great sound this Friday, 2–4 p.m., in the Learning Studio. Mathew Bardwell and Nathan Driskell will be joined by Nathan Gibbs from JMC to give you a hands-on introduction to recording film audio.


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FilmFest: Lost and Found at Paramount

Some remarkable talent at FilmFest this weekend at the premiere downtown last night at the historic Paramount Theater. If you missed it, here are the films that were featured this year with the awards handed out last night.

For a look back at winners in previous years, check the FilmFest Archive put together by Learning Studio students last semester.



Best Film – “Umbrella”
Best Dramatic Film – “The Mover”
Best Music Video – “Hope on Fire”

Best Director – Caitlin Bradford, “The Mover”
Best Producer – Stephen Estrada, “Nerf Wars”
Best Writer – David McMichael, “The Mover”
Best Technical Director – Lucius Patenaude, “Red Rubber Ball”
Best Sound Design – “The Mover”

Best Actor – Nick Palmieri, “Red Rubber Ball”
Best Actress –  Lauren Mesaros, “Umbrella”






Canon Pro Video workshop kicks off FilmFest

Thanks to Paul McAniff from Canon for joining us at ACU for a couple days to introduce students to DSLR video. The workshop was the first of several the Learning Studio will be hosting to prepare FilmFest participants to shoot, light, and edit films this November.

For those unable to join us, here are the slides and video of the presentation.

For a quick review of controls of cameras that will be available to FilmFest participants, check out our Tutorials page.


The next workshop will be November 13th where participants will help shoot the opening scene from David Fincher’s The Social Network. 



Hazel & Jack submitted to national festivals

Stay tuned for the Learning Studio: Year One Report. Here’s one of the profiles from the iBook.

Last fall, Lawson Soward and Caitlin Bradford submitted their first film to the Sundance Film Festival. It started with a conversation in January 2011 about a story idea Caitlin had been chewing on. The two of them began artistic design for the production in our screening room during the student grand opening in February. Lawson was the first in line in March when Canon made DSLR cameras available for checkout to student filmmakers. And the two of them spent Spring Break editing in the media lab where Adobe After Effects made the final montage possible.

Since 2004, students have produced 100 films for ACU’s FilmFest, a student short-film competition. The contest began as an iMovie contest with Apple providing access to iMacs and digital camcorders. By 2011, most entries were edited on Apple’s FinalCut Pro, so the move to DSLR cameras shooting HD video was a natural next step. Paul McAniff from Canon joined us for a pro video workshop the week before FilmFest officially kicked off, making Canon 5D bodies and pro-series lenses available for checkout through the Learning Studio.

The result of this unprecedented access and opportunity is a film like “Hazel & Jack.” At the FilmFest premiere downtown at the historic Paramount theatre, Lawson and Caitlin went home with 10 awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Writer. The film wowed industry judges at the symposium the next day, where Randy Brewer, executive producer at Revolution Pictures in Nashville, Tenn., was the first to encourage them to submit their film to other festivals like SXSW and Sundance. “FilmFest was exciting to be a part of this year due to the beautiful photography in a lot of the pieces,” said Brewer. “I use the Canon 5D in music videos I shoot with major artists and the increased image quality really showed in the student films.”


Student Film: Hazel & Jack (2011)