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Cinema student named finalist in national film competition

Senior Dean Coots is competing for a $30,000 contract from Sprite.

The phone call came on Monday, March 18. After waiting only two weeks for a response, senior Dean Coots was surprised when a representative from Sprite was on the other line.

After writing both a personalized email and making a phone call, Sprite confirmed that Coots’ script “Street Picasso” had been named a finalist in the 2013 Sprite Films competition. And it marked the second time in as many years that an Elon University School of Communications student finished as a finalist in the competition.

Last year, Jay Light ’12 wrote and directed “Rocketeer,” which won the Consumer’s Choice Award.

“I knew everything was going to change,” said Coots, a media arts & entertainment major. “Because I’m in school, it was as if all of college was summing itself up.”

Students from across the country were asked to write 60-second short films, and four finalist teams were chosen. Coots, along with Elon senior Michael Tahan, is now competing for the final prize with students from three other universities, including the University of California Los Angeles, Columbia College and Savannah College of Art and Design.

Coots has until June to produce, shoot and edit the short film, at which point he’ll send his finished product to Sprite. Final films will be viewed and judged by a Green Ribbon Panel, which consists of industry experts who will critique the technical aspects of the films. The winner of the competition will receive a $30,000 contract job for Sprite and The Coca-Cola Company.

Coots’ 60-second film involves a group of break-dancers, multiple buckets of paint and a spray-painted canvas. While dancing remains the focus of the film, the importance rests upon the progression of a blank canvas to an intricate mural.

“The concept came from process art, which is when the process behind creating an image is more important than the art itself,” Coots said.

Shortly after learning he was a finalist, Coots, along with Tahan, was flown to Las Vegas in mid-April to attend CinemaCon, where both students attended workshops and met one-on-one with well-known film directors, including Oliver Stone, to discuss their film projects and future plans in the industry.

Seniors Michael Tahan (left) and Dean Coots are working on their short film "Street Picasso" for the Sprite Films Competition.

Since then, Coots’ time has been filled with building a crew, ordering equipment for the set, auditioning dancers … and buying quite a bit of paint.

Coots ultimately decided to shoot the film at night, and principal photography occurred April 26 and featured a crew of more than 30 students, who took over the Danieley Center basketball courts from 5 p.m. until almost 7 a.m. the next day. The production overcame a few problems along the way, but Coots said the experience was ultimately a success.

“Any production has a certain amount of setbacks, and if you think everything is going to according to plan you will be disappointed,” Coots said. “Overall, everything went really well.  Every time we had a problem come up we didn’t linger, we just immediately solved it.  Everyone on set had a lot to do with that, they were quick to action.”

Now that shooting has finished, the editing process is underway. And as for Coots, he feels confident in wrapping up both his film and his collegiate career.

“This is the best possible way to finish my time at Elon,” Coots said.

The Sprite Films program was formerly the Coca-Cola Refreshing Filmmaker’s Award, which was presented annually by Coca-Cola beginning in 1998. The program has continued through the Sprite brand for the past three years.

-- by Alana Romans ’14

Colin Donohue,
5/15/2013 1:15 PM