Short film by Mary Kate Douglas ’23 shines at LA Feedback Film Festival

The Elon alumna wrote and directed “Incomplete” for her cinema & television arts BFA thesis project, and the film won Best Student Short at the monthly festival in Los Angeles.

Excitement, validation and gratitude. Those were the feelings Mary Kate Douglas ’23 experienced following the announcement that her cinema & television arts BFA thesis project, titled “Incomplete,” won the Best Student Short award in January at the LA Feedback Film Festival.

A screenshot of the poster for Incomplete.
Mary Kate Douglas ’23 and her cinema & television arts BFA thesis project, “Incomplete,” won Best Student Short at the January 2024 LA Feedback Film Festival.

In her celebratory LinkedIn post, Douglas applauded the efforts of her cast and crew, which helped produce the film during her senior year. “This award is an honor, and definitely attests to the dedication my team and I poured into bringing this story to life,” she wrote.

The short film follows the story of Dot, a girl struggling to pursue her passion for art. Yet, one of Dot’s paintings is unexpectedly hung at a prominent event, forcing her to face her fears and put herself on display.

According to Douglas, the story is largely inspired by her mother, who was an art teacher for much of her daughter’s life and then she decided to pursue art full time.

“I wanted to do something I could personally relate to because that is what produces the most genuine and authentic version of filmmaking,” Douglas said.

Youssef Osman, assistant professor of cinema & television arts, mentored Douglas through her BFA project and offered high praise for his former student. He applauded Douglas’ willingness to accept direction, commending her creative process and her ability to overcome obstacles that stood in her way.

“I love how Mary Kate’s project turned out,” Osman said. “It showcases the struggle and journey that many artists and filmmakers go through with their work – seeking perfection and the doubt associated with personal work. MK found her unique voice. That came across through the final film, both through storytelling and through the visual style. The acting, pace and character development all added to the unique style of the film.”

A headshot of Mary Kate Douglas, an Elon alumna.
Douglas recently accepted a role as a production designer with YZ Productions Inc., designing sets for narrative YouTube content.

Douglas said the film project provided an avenue for her to express her true film style. And she wanted her BFA project to connect with audience members across age groups.

According to Douglas, she realized from an early age that she shared her mother’s passion for the arts. This interest impacted how she views people and the way they communicate with one another. Douglas reasoned that being an artist comes with an abundance of struggles, with consistent questioning of yourself and the art you create. Douglas felt compelled to tap into those feelings and illustrate them in “Incomplete.”

Osman commended Douglas for avoiding a common issue in student film projects: taking on too much and ending up with an overly complicated story. This often leads to projects that don’t connect effectively with audiences.

“MK was able to pick a unique story that resonated with her on a personal level,” the professor said. “This personal connection allowed her to focus on exploring and knowing both her characters and story better.”

Judges in the LA Feedback Film Festival agreed. And those interested can hear the judges’ thoughts in this feedback video.

Receiving acknowledgement from the LA film festival has been gratifying for Douglas, who relocated to the city after graduation and recently took a role as a production designer with YZ productions. The entertainment company manages numerous YouTube channels and digital media brands.

“I was thrilled to receive the award as well as the feedback,” Douglas said. “To know my vision came across the way I wanted it to for others was so worth it.”

Douglas and the “Incomplete” crew developed a strong rapport, which she said helped them harness their collective creative energy and channel it into the project. She also credited Osman for his many contributions to the film and support to her personally. “He provided me with great constructive feedback, both in writing and in post-production,” Douglas said.

Likewise, Osman complimented Douglas for her flexibility, taking feedback from others and exploring new ideas.

“She rewrote her original script a few times until she landed on a story she loved,” he said. “Coming from a family of artists helped her in understanding and knowing her characters and story. I look forward to following her upcoming projects and future success.”