CMF returns to Tech with new categories, prizes

Spring not only marks the beginning of Hollywood’s award season, but also awards season for college filmmakers across the country. Campus Movie Fest (CMF) kicked off its Atlanta regional competition on Jan. 8 at Tech. Hailed as the world’s largest student film festival, CMF is a competition started by college students, for college students. The competition includes short films made by student-created teams, and also showcases a variety of musical artists, companies and film editing products.

“I think it’s a good way for students to express themselves in a nonacademic way,” said Janki Patel, a first-year Biomedical Engineering major.

Since it was first conceived by four Emory University students in 2001, CMF has since grown to include 25 different schools across the United States and Great Britain. CMF is organized in eight participating regions including Georgia, Florida, Los Angeles, New York and Scotland. Additionally, CMF also works with high-profile sponsors such as Apple Computers, AT&T Wireless, Ruckus and Virgin Airlines in providing software, technology and prizes.

Teams of at most eight people sign up online for a limited number of spots and starting on the launch date have one week to shoot, edit and produce a five-minute short film. CMF sponsors and Tech provides everything so even the most amateur filmmakers can participate.

Participating students were given an Apple laptop, digital camcorder and an AT&T video phone to produce a short film in a week. Along with that, Tech provided burgeoning filmmakers with seminars and classes from Jan. 9 to Jan. 13 at the Price-Gilbert Memorial Library. The finished products and the supplies given were turned in on Jan. 14, and from there students and staff can judge and select the films to be shown at the Tech Grand Finale.

“I really enjoyed the experience of Campus Movie Fest,” said Amy Varallo, a first-year Nuclear and Radiological Engineering major and participant in this year’s CMF competition. “There were some strange things going on…people running around in the hallways, frantically trying to film, but I think the idea of having a campus-wide distraction from classes is great. It really gives people an avenue to show their creativity. Seeing the films my friends come up with has been a treat.”

Winners this year can receive up to $400,000 in prizes. School-wide winners can receive iPod Shuffles and $100 giftcards from AT&T Wireless for Best Comedy and Best Drama, while Best Picture winners will receive the giftcards and iPod Nanos. From Tech’s competition, the top 16 will move on to the regionwide competition and compete against entries from Emory, the Art Institute of Atlanta, Clark Atlanta, Spelman, Morehouse, Georgia State and the University of Georgia on Saturday, Feb. 23, then possibly proceed to the national level.

Along with more prizes such as thousands of dollars worth of Apple graphics and film editing software and iPhones, winners that move on to the national level can receive up to $7500 in grants and meet with Los Angeles talent agents and studio executives. Winning videos are even featured in the in-flight entertainment of Virgin Airline’s American flights.

“It is a pretty cool feeling knowing that people we will never know may have seen our video on a Trans-Atlantic flight,” said fourth-year Biomedical Engineering major Eli Riddle, an actor in 2005’s “Gimme Five” music video for CMF. “I just hope that they had as much fun watching it as we did making it.”

Over the past few years, Tech students have produced a variety of short films ranging from documentaries to comedies to music videos. Not only that, but one team from Tech won the grand prize at the national film festival last year. 1.618 Films led by Mechanical Engineering graduate Bradley Herrmann and fourth-year Industrial Design major Michael Gluzman earned the top prize at last year’s competition with their entry “Fanya Kaplan.”

“Fanya Kaplan” tells the true story of a young Russian revolutionary and her failed attempt at assassinating Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin in 1918.

While the entries this year will be much more different from those last year, there have been some annual entries that have gained notoriety on campus, such as the “Lecture Crashers” series, in which two Tech students carry out pranks and stunts during classes.

“My physics class had one of the lecture crashers come in pretending to be blind with a seeing-eye-alligator,” said first-year Mechanical Engineering major Andy Sellmann. “It was a pretty cool experience, just seeing their creativity grow and disrupting class at the same time.”

Films from this year’s competition at Tech will be showcased on Thursday, Jan. 31 at the Ferst Center for the Arts. Tickets are free, but seats are limited. Door prizes such as iPod nanos, iPods, and portable DVD players will also be handed out.

“Have fun and don’t worry if your video is not necessarily competing for an Academy Award,” said Riddle. “People will be impressed that you even were able to come up with an idea and make a video and you will be proud of it however it turns out.”

For more information or to watch the winners and other film entries from previous years, check out www.campusmoviefest.com.