Elon students win RiverRun film festival’s pitchfest

School of Communications students Kathryn Jeffords '15 and Kayla Hammer '16 captured first place in the 2015 RiverRun International Film Festival’s documentary pitchfest, a student competition judged by a panel of industry experts, including award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson.

Kathryn Jeffords ’15 (from left), Assistant Professor Nicole Triche and Kayla Hammer ’16 pose together following Jeffords and Hammer’s first-place finish in the 2015 RiverRun International Film Festival’s documentary pitchfest. Photo courtesy of RiverRun’s Twittter account
​With just five minutes to sell their project “Bout Queens” at the 2015 RiverRun International Film Festival’s documentary pitchfest, School of Communications students Kathryn Jeffords ’15 and Kayla Hammer ’16 made good use of their time.

Facing a panel of industry experts that included award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson, the elondocs production program members captured first place in the April 24 student competition, prevailing over filmmakers from Wake Forest University, University of North Carolina School of the Arts, University of North Carolina at Wilmington and Western Carolina University.

With the win at the Winston-Salem-based festival, the Elon duo received a $500 prize toward the completion of their 7-minute documentary, which details two women’s involvement in the Greensboro Roller Derby.

The pitchfest event was highlighted in this Triad City Beat article, published on April 29, 2015.

“There were definitely some nerves going up in front of Stanley Nelson and the other two judges,” said Jeffords, a strategic communications major. “The environment of the theatre was supportive and the feedback the judges gave was honest and constructive so I didn’t feel intimidated.”

Jeffords and Hammer credited the support they received from faculty and staff in the School of Communications for much of their pitch’s success.

In addition to their own preparation, which included the creation of a mandatory 90-second trailer, the students conducted a practice pitch with Assistant Professors Max Negin and Youssef Osman, and Bryan Baker, coordinator of sound and video projects.

The duo also singled out Assistant Professor Nicole Triche, director of the elondocs program, for her contributions to their elondocs project.

“We owe so much to our mentor Nicole Triche for helping us cover all our bases in the pitch and trailer,” Jeffords said. “We are so lucky to have her.”

“There’s no way we could have done it without Nicole’s help,” added Hammer, a media arts and entertainment major. “She knows her stuff.”

Jeffords and Hammer accompanied several other Elon University students to this year’s RiverRun Film Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Photo courtesy of Nicole Triche
Triche commended her students for their strong showing, adding that regardless of their finish at RiverRun the experience would have been beneficial. “Winning pitchfest is a pretty big deal for the students, but the experience is equally important,” the professor said. “It’s an excellent way to get feedback and to meet some prestigious people in the industry.”   

There was another reason to celebrate the victory, Triche noted. According to the professor, Jeffords and Hammer’s win was the first time an undergraduate team had placed first in RiverRun’s annual student competition.

In hindsight, Hammer explained that the pitch process was enjoyable because of the passion she and Jeffords have for the “Bout Queens” story and the individuals the project highlights.

 “I think it was so easy to write the pitch because we absolutely love this project,” Hammer said. “We love the women whose stories we’re telling, and we love the idea that hopefully our documentary will change people’s perceptions of roller derby and female athletes.”

Added Jeffords, “It’s an amazing feeling to have the documentary community supporting a film that is so close to our hearts, and we can’t wait to share our final product when it’s complete in May.” 

One of the premier film festivals in the southeastern United States, RiverRun was held April 16-26. “North Street,” a documentary co-produced by Brad Hinkle ’15, Sergio Ingato ’15 and Jacky Shacknow ’16, was screened twice during this year’s festival.