Student films a ballet dancer
Freshman dance major Brianna Gutierrez captures her classmate dancing for the Campus Movie Fest at Brenau University. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Campus Movie Fest comes to Brenau

Oct 24, 2019
Kristen Bowman
Students laugh in front of a camera
Several Brenau students laugh between takes as they work on their film for the Campus Movie Fest at Brenau University.

Brenau University students had the opportunity in October to vividly tell the stories that matter most to them through the institution’s first Campus Movie Fest.

Campus Movie Fest is the world’s largest student film festival made possible in partnership with Panasonic, the Walt Disney Company and the Elfenworks Foundation. It is the premier outlet for the next generation of filmmakers with more than one million students at colleges and universities worldwide getting the chance to tell their stories through film.

Thanks to funding from Brenau, Campus Movie Fest was completely free for the nearly 330 students who participated, providing these young filmmakers with all of the equipment, training and support they needed to make a five-minute movie in one week in early October.

Participants were challenged to tie their films into the theme “Celebrating Sisterhood, Empowering Women to Take on the World.” The Women’s College of Brenau University this year kicked off its GOLD Program, a signature cocurriccular program of the college that gives students themed experiences during each year of their Brenau experience. This year is the first “G” year, with an emphasis on gender.

Students in a variety of areas of study participated in the project, which resulted in 54 total films, including a class of freshmen dance majors. The class taught by John Streit, affiliate faculty member and recruitment coordinator for the Department of Dance, broke into groups to tell their stories on film.

A line of students in the atrium of the John S. Burd Center for the Performing Arts.
Students line up in the atrium of the John S. Burd Center for the Performing Arts to receive their Panasonic gear for Campus Movie Fest.

“The movie we’ve been making is kind of ‘dance through the decades,’” said Katie Watkins, a freshman dance major in one of the groups. “So we’ve been doing some really fun costuming and hair. We did 1900s romantic ballet, ‘20s flapper-style dance, ‘40s victory rolls and pin-up girls, ‘60s go-go boots and dancing, and ‘80s workout-style dance. Then we’re ending it all with a big, modern performance of dance, jazz and ballet kind of all mixed together.”

Watkins said her favorite part of the project was seeing all the students on campus participating in Campus Movie Fest, walking around the campus “in fun costumes” throughout the week.

Freshman dance major Destiny Hale-Jennings said her group decided to make a movie about choreography. Their film is “more documentary-style,” she said, with students introducing themselves and answering questions for the camera.

“It’s not about a lot of angles and finesse,” she said. “It’s an authentic kind of filming.”

Hale-Jennings said the dancers discussed their favorite dance styles, favorite choreographers and favorite female choreographers.

“As we talk, our voices linger throughout the video as we show class videos, our own dance videos and such,” she said. “We’re really just talking about it all. My favorite part has been that interview process. Everyone is being really honest and giving their own experiences, and it’s a neat way to know what everyone else likes and learn about new choreographers. It’s more research for us.”

Freshman dance major Brianna Gutierrez directed the choreography film. She said the subject came from a conversation they had following a recent Good Morning America segment in which host Lara Spencer joked about Prince George’s interest in ballet. Male ballet dancers protested outside the show’s studio following the joke, which sparked a great deal of conversation internationally.

“We wanted to address gender, while taking that and truly making it into a dance film,” Gutierrez said. “So we started talking about the Good Morning America scandal. And we said, ‘Well, everyone is already talking about that. Now let’s start a conversation about women.’”

Gutierrez said they started talking about female choreographers, who are often overlooked in the dance world.

Students sign up for Campus Movie Fest on a laptop
Brenau University students sign up for Campus Movie Fest in the atrium of the John S. Burd Center for the Performing Arts.

“It’s very much about, ‘Who was the most famous dancer and the most famous male choreographer at any given time?’” she said. “So we asked ourselves, ‘Does anyone really know female choreographers? Is it about a lack of education, or dancers not doing their part to research this as well?’”

Gutierrez said the filming process was “interesting.” All students were provided Panasonic equipment to use throughout the week. Her mother is in podcasting, and Gutierrez called her “every day with questions.”

But, like her classmates, her favorite part of the movie festival was seeing what everyone else did with the project.

“It’s been amazing to get to know my friends on a deeper dance level, actually talking to them about these things,” she said. “There have been times in my interviews when I’ve asked them questions that have just popped into my head to see how they handle on-the-spot questions. And with those, a lot of the dancers have taken it and run with it, and gone somewhere deeper than I knew it could go.

“It’s been amazing to see how there is more than what you see on the surface of every dancer here and to show that to the world with this movie.”

All the Brenau student-made films can be viewed at at Campus Movie Fest’s Brenau page. The festival culminated in a premiere night at the Brenau Downtown Center Theatre on the Square, which drew nearly 175 attendees. An awards show was included, and the following films and students were recognized:

Jury Award winners
“Natural Habitat” by Rachel Christina
“Quiet Girl” by Maggie Todd
“Phenomenally” by Ashley Sciandra
“Off the Dome” by Cole Ferguson

Silver Tripod Award winners
“Off the Dome” Best Cinematography

Best Actress
Maggie Todd

Best Actor
Jeremy Graham

Audience Award
“Women In Sports” by Celine Vega