Move over Hollywood, there’s a new movie-making giant in town.
This past week, more than 250 teams of students turned UCF into a movie studio as part of Campus MovieFest, a national contest that gives student filmmakers a week to produce a five-minute short film.
More than 250 teams of students participated in the competition, and after Monday, Jan. 25, will have to wait anxiously to see who will make it into the top 16. Those films will be shown at the finale in February.
The top four films will go on to the national competition and could potentially have their films shown at international film festivals or in-flight on Virgin America airlines.
But, that isn’t why Daniel McCook, a junior musical theater major, said he makes films.
“My main focus is just to have fun doing it,” he said. “It’s something I just really enjoy doing.”
This is McCook’s second time participating in the competition. He made it into the top four at the University of North Florida last year, and the event went on to the national grand finale in Hollywood, California.
It was a pretty big accomplishment, McCook said, as he had little experience in filmmaking before that point. But it’s something that he said he seems to have a natural talent for.
“My mom teaches theater at Flagler College, and she's said that, since I was 5 years old, I should be a director,” he said.
For this year’s competition, McCook planned an action-comedy, in which a boy and his little sister meet with mobsters. What the boy doesn’t know is that his little sister has been doing deals with the bad guys, and he’s the collateral.
“I hope it’ll be funny,” he said. “It’s going to look like an action movie, but it’s going to be jokey.”
McCook and his team of actors met on a cold, windy day the Saturday before the film was due. They were on a time crunch and had to work quickly to get the shots they needed.
McCook was visibly stressed, flying through shots, feeding the actors lines off his phone and giving pointed directions. His actors responded with a professionalism that cut through the 46-degree chill in the air.
Between takes, they all jumped up and down to try and stay warm, their hands and noses bright pink and numb.
“It’s a lot of fun. I’m glad I’m here,” said Hayley Strubbe, a junior in the musical theater program who plays the little sister in the film. “I’m just freezing my butt off, but once it’s over, it’ll feel really successful.”
Strubbe said the hardest part about battling the weather was having to stay in character. But, that’s the reason Joseph Herr, a freshman musical theater major playing one of the mobsters, said he enjoys acting so much.
“You really find who you are when you discover yourself in other people,” Herr said.
This is Herr’s second time filming with McCook. He and another one of the actors, Nick Drivas, a freshman musical theater major, worked together before as part of one of their classes.
These types of films have value outside of just the finished product, Drivas said, because they can be used for educational purposes as well.
“They give students opportunities to put their abilities and ideas into fruition,” he said. “It’s a good system for creating an opportunity for experience that might have otherwise not been available.”
While the experience is appreciated when creating these films, for Colton Butcher, a senior working toward a B.F.A. in acting who plays the brother in the film, said that the acting itself is its own reward.
“The best thing is being able to make people laugh, or cry, or whatever it happens to be to affect another person,” Butcher said. “It’s pretty cool.”
McCook agreed. He said that while he is doing this to have fun, there is just something about seeing how people react to your film on the screen.
“Seeing it up on the big screen is just such a gratifying feeling,” McCook said. “That’s the goal.”