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MU students craft films on a deadline for college film festival

Long after the sun had dipped below the horizon and shadows crept across Miami's campus, a group of students gathered at King Library. Fingers clacked across keyboards, and ideas flew from left and right as a group of students began to shape a film they'd have only a few short weeks to take from pre-production to the silver screen.

The film that would emerge in the ensuing weeks would be one of many submitted for the upcoming Greater Cincinnati College Movie Festival. The contest features teams from several colleges in the Cincinnati area who work for a little over a month to draft, write, shoot and edit an entire short film.

Over the course of the next few days, the members of Best Productions, one of four teams representing Miami, met again and again at King. They always gathered well after sunset, since that was the only time their schedules all aligned. At these nocturnal gatherings, they shaped the idea for their film, working within the contest rules. Each team was assigned a theme for their film and objects they had to incorporate into the story. The themes ranged from ambition to capitalism.

Best Production's theme was friendship, and while it wasn't quite as intense a topic as capitalism, the brainstorming process was still difficult when compressed into just a few days.

"Everybody helped pitch ideas, not just the writers," said Mikel Prater, one of the script writers for the team.

After the team met and formed the rough draft for their film, Prater said she and Cameron Kadis, the team's other writer, met twice more in King to write and then revise their script.

Prater and Kadis created a story centered around two friends who are thrust further into each other's lives after one of them suffers a nasty breakup. Relying on her friend for support, the heartbroken girl suggests that the two move in together.

Over the course of the plot, the new roommate reveals herself to be an awful person to live with, leaving messes everywhere and stealing snacks and clothes from her friend. Eventually, the film comes to a head as the two girls clash, but ends on a positive note, with both friends reconciling and learning to move past their differences for the sake of friendship.

Once the script was finalized, the film crew leapt into action.

Over the course of just three days, the team of actors and camera workers assembled in the apartment they'd use for the majority of their shots.

"It was really stressful at times," said Malena McClory, one of the team's actors. "It was hard to balance school work and the contest too."

According to McClory, the team spent between 10 and 11 hours filming the bulk of the shots the first day. Over the course of the next few days, the team filmed a few scenes at other locations.

"We learned a lot throughout the process," Prater said with a harried smile. "For instance, we learned that outdoor shots are really tricky to shoot because of things like wind."

Amidst the writing, drafting and shooting, many aspects of typical film production were lost. The team wasn't able to spend as much time brainstorming as they would've liked, they didn't have time to put together a storyboard and they weren't able to indulge in some common pre-production practices.

Meeting once again in the de facto Best Productions headquarters of King Library, Chase Wagner and Nikki Saraniti sat hunched over computers, intensely focused on the task at hand. Now that the film has been completely shot, the pair must comb through the 120 different sound and video clips, stitching the appropriate pairings together.

"The biggest challenge is organizing everything," said Wagner. "We didn't have a scene slate for this project, so it's hard to figure out which file goes to which scene."

The pair wove the film into existence during long nights at King. They had originally begun editing at a separate library on campus, but were forced to restart after the building closed and they lost the progress from the computers they were working on.

After zipping through the writing process, flying through filming and speeding through editing, the film was finally ready to be sent off to the contest judges. After that, the one-on-one feedback between the judge and the team would occur.

Or it would have, had it not been for the fact that during the spring break meeting times, every member of the team was unable to attend.

Despite that unexpected speed bump, the team pressed on toward the premiere.

As April 28 rolled around, Prater and McClory travelled to the AMC Theater in West Chester for the culmination of their weeks-long efforts. They were the only members of the team able to attend.

According to McClory, the dark theater was packed with 17 teams, and their friends and family.

"It's always a cool experience to see something you made on a 40 foot screen," McClory said.

Despite being passed over for awards this year, one of Miami's teams, Yeesh Productions, scored brownie points as their film, entitled "Cake for Strangers," was a judge's personal favorite.

"It's been a hectic process," said McClory, a sentiment echoed by her teammates, Prater and Wagner. "But it's so rewarding at the end."