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Jay Light's Sprite Films entry wins Consumer Choice competition

The Elon alum wrote and directed a short film, "Rocketeer," which won the Consumer Choice award in the national competition.

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After a month of voting in August, Jay Light's short film "Rocketeer" finished in first place as the Consumer Choice selection of the Sprite Films competition, beating out five other student-produced shorts. As a reward, Light and other students involved in the making of "Rocketeer" will be flown to Universal Studios in Florida to meet with top company executives and receive an award.

A short film by two UCLA students was the Green Ribbon Panel's choice and will be screened nationwide in theaters.

Below is a story about the making of Light's film.

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As Jay Light explains it, he took the classic guy-wants-girl storyline and “threw in a rocket.” Why? “Because I hadn’t seen a rocket in one of those before.”

Light ’12, who graduated in May with a degree in Media Arts & Entertainment, was one of eight students from four universities to have his script selected as a finalist in the Sprite Films competition, a nationwide contest that awards students money to produce their films and a national platform to screen them. And the inspiration for his film, titled “Rocketeer,” reaches back to a fond boyhood memory.

Jay Light '12

Years ago as a Boy Scout, Light would attend a campout, at which he and the other scouts would shoot off model rockets. He thought the addition of a rocket to a traditional love story would fit the Sprite competition’s theme: Staying true to yourself with an intensity that cannot be contained.

“The main character is a nerd who launches a rocket to try and get a girl,” Light says. “It’s a grand romantic gesture.”

Light wrote the script in February, after being encouraged to enter the Sprite Films program by Communications Associate Professor Paul Castro. He workshopped it throughout the month with Castro and the members of CinElon, Elon’s student film society, before submitting it to Sprite at the end of February. By mid-March, Light had been notified that his script was chosen, along with others from students at the Savannah College of Art and Design, the University of California-Los Angeles and Florida State University.

He received $18,000 from Sprite to make his movie and because his screenplay was selected, he automatically became the film’s director, as well. “Rocketeer” remained in pre-production until late April, at which point Light and his entirely Elon crew shot the short during a three-day stretch of time.

“It was great to get the whole (Elon) cinema department to rally behind something like this,” Light says. “It’s been a really great learning experience. It’s been a really awesome trial by fire. I’ve done school projects, and we have small crews for that. But for this, it was a crew of 25 plus actors, plus advisers. It was an exercise in figuring out what my role as the director is. With a bigger crew, the weight load is much more shifted. I think I handled myself really well.”

Light’s Elon-based crew included Kristin Genzler ’12 (executive producer), seniors Christie Quinn and Travis Mitchell (cinematographers), and senior David James (editor).

After Light finished editing the film and putting the final touches on its color correction, sound and music, he submitted it to Sprite by June 15, when a panel of judges reviewed the work. It was then made available for public viewing and voting Aug. 1. All six films were screened at sprite.com.

The winning film will be shortened and shown in theaters in the month of November. And Light thinks “Rocketeer,” which clocks in at 2 minutes, 40 seconds, is well positioned to claim the top prize.

“I’m very pleased,” he says. “I think we stand a very good chance. I think it’s going to be a really, really good entry to the competition, and I think we’re going to win.”

Now that he’s graduated, Light says he’s moving to Los Angeles in August. Although he has no job lined up yet, he plans to pursue a career in comedy writing, be it for television or film. In fact, he’s working on two screenplays at the moment—one about a college graduate who can’t find a job and has to work at a summer camp and another that’s adapted from Elon English associate professor Drew Perry’s novel, “This Is Just Exactly Like You.”

But no matter what project Light works on next, he knows he wants it to involve writing of some kind.

“I just want to do writing mostly, he says. “I just like writing so much, whether it’s stuff I’m doing that’s going to be a film or stuff that’s more in the literary world or stuff I write for standup. It’s all about the writing, and that’s ultimately what I’d like to do.”

The Sprite Films program, formerly the Coca-Cola Refreshing Filmmaker's Award, has been offered annually since 1998. The program continues now through the Sprite brand and offers aspiring collegiate filmmakers the opportunity to write and direct their own short films.

Light, who earned a minor in Creative Writing to accompany his Media Arts & Entertainment major, is from Colleyville, Texas. As a Communications Fellow, he has travelled to Los Angeles and to the Sundance Film Festival. He worked at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and also screened his short film “Shock Jock” at the Cannes Short Film Corner.

Colin Donohue,
Staff
9/19/2012 1:28 PM