Elon student film wins national competition

"Break the Night" by Dean Coots '13 won both the fan vote and the judge's award in a contest sponsored by Sprite Films, earning him a $30,000 contract.

<p>Dean Coots' crew from &quot;Break the Night&quot; shot their short film on campus.</p>
Elon University’s student entry in the 2013 Sprite Films competition has won both the national fan vote and the judge’s award – the first time the competition has had a double winner since it began in 1998.

As a result of his victory, School of Communications graduate Dean Coots ’13 will receive a $30,000 contract to work with Sprite and Coca-Cola executives to develop content.

The winning 60-second branded spot, titled “Break the Night,” was written and directed by Coots and produced by fellow cinema student Michael Tahan. Inspired by an aspect of urban culture, the branded spot features break dancers, a soundtrack remix and a painted canvas.

Students at 18 colleges and universities were invited to enter the 2013 competition, including Northwestern, Texas, Florida State, Chapman, Iowa, Indiana, Amherst and Columbia University film school. The four finalists were Elon, UCLA, Savannah College of Art and Design, and Columbia College in Chicago. Elon held first place in the popular fan vote from the opening week.

This is the second straight year that the Elon entry won the national fan vote. Last year, Jay Light’s “Rocketeer” won the popular vote in the Sprite Films competition, while UCLA’s entry won the judge’s award.

The Green Ribbon Panel of film industry professionals critiqued the technical aspects of the four short films that were developed from script-to-screen by the student filmmaker finalists.

Besides the Coca-Cola contract, Coots has received a special trip to attend AFI Fest, the American Film Institute’s festival, an annual celebration of international cinema from modern masters and emerging filmmakers, from Nov. 7-14 in Los Angeles.

“I am so glad ‘Break the Night’ could reach, entertain and move so many people,” said Coots, from Darien, Conn. “Working with Sprite Films has been a career-shaping experience, and winning both the Green Ribbon Panel and Fan Favorite Awards is just an unbelievable honor. I could not have won without the support of my friends, family, the team at Elon University including Paul Castro, and my exceptionally talented film crew. I am extraordinarily excited to continue my career with the opportunities these awards will undoubtedly bring.”

The Sprite Films program formerly was the Coca-Cola Refreshing Filmmakers Award, and Elon cinema associate professor Paul Castro was a 1998 finalist while a graduate student at UCLA in the award’s inaugural year.

Castro provided one-on-one guidance throughout the Sprite Films script entry and editing process for many of his Elon students, including Coots.

“The Sprite Films program champions world-class education and empowers the next generation of cinematic storytellers,” Castro said. “As a past participant, it is so gratifying and meaningful to see one of my students win today. As a writer and director, Dean Coots is a rare talent and a humble warrior, indeed. His raw talent, coupled with our turbocharged Elon University student film crew, was nothing shy of miraculous. The result of that cohesive collaboration was a compelling short film.”

Coots graduated from Elon in May 2013, after being recognized as the school’s outstanding senior in cinema last spring. The School of Communications will receive $5,000 for sponsoring him in the Sprite Films competition.

Sprite Films spotlighted the 2013 program and the finalist filmmakers in movie theaters across the country in August with consumer-facing promotional materials such as branded cups, popcorn bags and theatre displays.

“The Sprite Films program engages the next generation of creative minds with a rare opportunity to learn valuable on-set experience while providing a nationwide platform to express their authentic points-of-view,” said Kimberly Paige, assistant vice president for Sprite. “We recognize the need for programs that offer young filmmakers across the country with the chance to create a film masterpiece from beginning to end. Dean Coots answered the challenge and today joins a renowned group of past Sprite Films winners who will undeniably go on to make their self-expression known in the world of film.”

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