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Elon students finalists in Sprite Refreshing Films™ contest

Two Elon University students had their original screenplays selected to be produced and filmed as part of the nationwide Sprite Refreshing Films™ contest, a program "that gives future moviemakers a chance to create real films with industry pros and celebrities." Eleven additional Elon students were also selected to serve as staff interns.

More than 100 applications from 13 participating schools were received for the challenge offered in conjunction with Dreaming Tree Films. Elon seniors Josh Chagani and Kristin Genszler were among six students from other competing schools to have their scripts accepted for production.

Trailers for both their films will be screened at 20,000 theaters across the United States. The trailers will direct viewers to the Sprite Refreshing Films website to view the film in its entirety.

The six-to-12 minute films will celebrate the theme “ingenuity takes the unexpected path and is rewarded for it” and will showcase the creativity of each filmmaking team. Throughout the week the youth film crews will replace the on-set roles typically filled by industry veterans as they coordinate every aspect of production, including: casting calls, location scouting, storyboarding, rehearsals and directing celebrity talent.

In addition, the following students will have a role in the production of one of the six short films: Michael Bergin, Andrea Bernick, Kaitlin Buck, Beatrice Copeland, Michael Heil, Philip Kimbrough, Tim Mollen and Jenna Strucko. (An 11th Elon student, Austin Mintz, was selected as a first screenwriter alternate.)

Andrew Riley, Tyler Oberle and Chelsea Wingo were selected to work as filmmakers as well.

Non-screenwriting students will serve as staff interns and fill roles, such as producer, director, technical director/director of photography and behind-the-scenes documentarian.

“From day one, I’ve always been grateful for the fine students here at Elon,” said Paul Castro, a visiting professor in the School of Communications and the lead sponsor and adviser for the competition at Elon. “They’re both talented and fiercely motivated. It’s a blessing that now the rest of the world will get to see their creativity brought to fruition.”

Films will begin production at the end of January with a completion date of March 31. They will be shot in Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami and New York. Once finished, films will be sent back to the Dreaming Tree Films office in Chicago for editing. The production crews, meanwhile, will work on the marketing plans for their films.

The original films will feature celebrity talent, including Donald Faison (actor, “Scrubs”) Natasha Bedingfield (Grammy-nominated singer), Mia Michaels (Emmy award-winning choreographer, “So You Think You Can Dance”), Alexis Jordan (RocNation recording artist, “America’s Got Talent”), Jennifer Stone (actress, “Wizards of Waverly Place”) and Christopher Gorham (actor, “Covert Affairs”).

Every 10 days starting in early April, two films will go head-to-head in online voting. The three films with the most votes will move to the second round, at which point they’ll compete against each other for votes from the general public and from industry professionals, who will offer their reviews and help determine the film that will be screened at a film festival in June.

“The Sprite Refreshing Films program has received a huge response from students nationwide who want to refresh and invigorate the film industry with their fresh perspectives and spirit of invention and innovation,” said Caren Pasquale Seckler, vice president, Flavor Brands Portfolio, Coca-Cola North America. “We think it’s important to ignite the next generation’s talent today and are excited to see what they create for America to view online in the spring.”

The winning entry will be announced June 6. Dreaming Tree Films will formally announce the specific film festival involved in the contest later this spring.

Trailers for the films will be shown in 20,000 movie theaters across the country, which equates to more than 100,000 screens Castro said. He added that it’s rare that one university would be so well represented in the challenge because the script review process is blind, meaning judges don’t know what material is coming from what school.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” Castro said. “Our students can compete at the highest level anywhere in this country. These are the next film professionals working in this industry.”

Participating schools include:

Elon University
Northwestern University
Savannah College of Art and Design
University of North Carolina School of the Arts
Columbia University
Chapman University
Florida State University
University of Texas at Austin
University of Iowa
Indiana University
California State University Long Beach
University of Colorado at Denver

- Written by Colin Donohue, coordinator of student media and instructor in the Elon University School of Communications

Eric Townsend,
2/11/2011 7:41 PM