BYU’s Final Cut Film Festival looks for originality from student filmmakers

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Creating meaningful and original media content is the top priority for students submitting their films to this year’s Final Cut Film Festival.

The Final Cut Film Festival is an on-campus film festival that originated at BYU in 1992, according to Kyle Stapley, the media arts program coordinator at BYU. Festival organizers are currently accepting films from an array of genres such as fiction, documentaries, commercials and animations. Qualifying films have to be submitted by a current BYU student, and film submissions are due March 13. The festival will run for two days on April 10 and 11 at the Pardoe Theater in the Franklin S. Harris Fine Arts Center.

Last year’s Final Cut Film Festival screens selected film work by BYU students at the Pardoe Theater in the Franklin S. Harris Fine Arts Center. (Photo courtesy of BYU Student Film Association)

According to the film festival’s website, films are judged by story, technique, creativity and audience appeal; all films must adhere to BYU Honor Code standards.

The Final Cut Film Festival has grown substancially since it originated 23 years ago.

“It all started when a handful of students wanted to get their work screened,” Stapley said. “There was just six or seven films, and it’s grown from then to what we have now, which is a large, two-day festival held on campus.”

Students from all majors and departments on campus are allowed to submit their films. Last year the festival received between 110 and 120 submissions and selected only 30 – 35 entries to be screened.

“We do it much like how they would do it in the real world,” Stapley said. “We have a committee that watches and rates the films, then narrows it down to just two programs.”

Stapley explained that they look for a well-balanced film during the selection process.

“First we look for story,” Stapley said. “Having a cohesive and interesting story that is not a cliche college student film. We look for audience appeal — whether an audience will connect to or enjoy watching it. We look at filmmaking technique and skill. Then we narrow it down to things that are unique, really interesting and people will enjoy watching.”

Stapley added that they are pursuing local sponsors to donate larger prizes this year such as iPads, money, cameras and other high-end prizes, which is a significant change from past years.

A majority of the animation films screened at the Final Cut Film Festival go on to win Student Academy Awards or Student Emmys and get recognized by major animation studios.

“Studios do tend to see our films via the Student Emmys and Student Academy Awards,” said BYU’s animation department director Kelly Loosli. “Many people from these studios (such as Pixar, DreamWorks and Disney) mentor our films, so they will have seen them in the process.”

A shot from “Owned,” last year’s Best Animation film at the Final Cut Film Festival. (Photo courtesy of BYU Center for Animation)

“Owned,” last year’s winner in the best animation category, went on to win awards nationally, including first place for animation at the Student Emmys and first place for animation at the Student Academy Awards.

According to BYU Student Film Association (SFA) President Melissa Lee, members of the SFA have a large role in helping the department and faculty put on the Final Cut Film Festival. She said the purpose of the SFA is to facilitate faculty and student conversations and showcase student work.

She believes the film festival is important to showcase students’ work and what they have been working on.

“Not just from the film department but from students all over campus,” Lee said. “We get a lot of submissions from the communications department for commercials, the animation department and other students just interested in filmmaking — all coming together in one event.”

“It’s a great legacy, because this film festival is the longest-running and largest film festival on campus,” Lee said.

Go to byufinalcut.com to submit a film into the Final Cut Film Festival.

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