A preview of Campus Movie Fest: the world’s largest student film festival

On Oct. 2, USF students began filming their submissions for the world’s largest student film festival, Campus Movie Fest (CMF). CMF is a national organization that will be working with 17 colleges and universities across the country this year — USF has participated in CMF for the past 8 years.

The concept behind CMF is simple: the contest provides students with all the equipment needed to make a five-minute film, free of charge. Students can write and cast their films in advance of the moviemaking week, but they only have a week to actually shoot and edit their movies.

This short timeline can be stressful for participants. Charles Choi, a junior media studies major who has competed in CMF two times before, said, “The fact that [CMF] is in a week makes it really painful, but it also motivates me at the same time.”

Despite the stress, many participants appreciate the contest’s unique process. Sophomore media studies major Ally Reed, who transferred to USF this semester, said, “My last school didn’t have any programs like CMF or opportunities for students to participate in independent film projects, so CMF is super exciting and new for me!”

Despite the stress, many participants appreciate the contest’s unique process.

Once the deadline is reached, all the films from a given school are submitted. Then, a panel of students, faculty, and staff vote for the top 16 films from said school. These 16 films are then shown at a red carpet premiere, which is organized by and takes place at each individual school — USF’s premiere will be on Halloween and will include a costume contest before the show. Of the 16 films shown, the top four will be selected by a panel of judges to receive Jury Awards and be screened in June 2020 at CMF’s national film festival, called Terminus, held in Atlanta.

Planning the event is no small feat. Abby Asuncion, executive producer of USFtv and promoter of CMF at USF, explained, “There’s a lot of logistical things that go into [CMF]. There’s parking permits, reserving rooms, contacting possible judges, contacting possible hosts for the premiere, promotional things, making sure that we talk about it in our meetings and that people understand it.”

CMF was started by four students at Emory University in 2001 and has since expanded to an international event. Since its inception, CMF has given filmmaking opportunities to more than one million students who might have otherwise struggled to find the resources to make a movie. 

“I like to participate every year because usually film festivals can be very expensive,” said Choi, who is also a two-time Jury Award winner. “The beauty of CMF is that entering it is free; they provide a lot of equipment […] every basic tool that a student might need to make a film, they already have for you to borrow free of charge.”

Callan Piazza, a CMF Tour Manager, emphasized CMF’s accessible nature. “It’s a great experience whether you have filmmaking experience or not,” she said. “Whether you’re a fourth year film major or even if you’ve never picked up a camera before, there’s something for you at CMF.”

The top CMF filmmakers have a shot at earning further acclaim. Jury Award winners from fall and spring of 2019 will have the opportunity to apply to go to the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in 2020. “We send about 50 students to the Cannes Film Festival each year where their CMF short films will be screened in the short film corner,” Emily Herschlag, the promotions manager for CMF’s West Coast tour, said in an email. “This is a huge opportunity that most professional filmmakers don’t even reach. They will live with other film students, walk the red carpet with celebrities for film screenings, network with industry professionals, attend workshops, all while growing as artists.”

USF’s CMF premiere will be in the McLaren Complex at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 31.

USF student Vincent Balgemino won Best Story at the 2019 Campus Fest Movie Terminus Awards. Check out his short film: Bar Exam.


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