GCU students win awards in regional film festival
By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
Making movie magic is no small task, so when hard work and film talent is recognized, it calls for a celebration.
Earlier this month, two senior film majors in Grand Canyon University’s College of Fine Arts and Production took home awards from the Rocky Mountain Southwest chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Emmy Awards. Brittney Ha-Nguyen won in College Music Video section for “One Last Dance,” and Ryan Brennan won the College Short Form Fiction award for “Ruthless.”
For Nguyen, accepting an award for a film she created was something she could have never imagined when she enrolled as a film major three years ago. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to major in and knew nothing about film.
“I knew I wanted to go into the arts, so I chose film,” Nguyen said. “This project alone has changed me a lot as a filmmaker.”
Nguyen’s music video for the song “One Last Dance” by Us the Duo was created as an assignment for her directing class. It showcases a couple’s life journey through dance, making use of lights and projections to aid in the storytelling.
“I feel like the video was heavily inspired by just art and art museums, specifically the Phoenix Art Museum in the firefly room,” Nguyen said. “The first or second day of class I kind of just wrote down a bunch of ideas that I had, and I’m really attracted to lights in general, like string lights. So I had written down in my notes that I wanted lights and a bunch of key words that I wanted in my film.
“Eventually when I went back at the end of the semester after I had finished making the video, I went back to the very first page of ideas and I had lights, projections, hanging flowers upside down, and I didn’t realize that I had incorporated everything that I wanted into that film.”
It took Nguyen two weekends to film the project — one to capture the dancers’ movement and the other to film the dance projected in different backdrops in her garage.
“The day that we filmed in my garage, it was a 17-hour day just in my garage setting up and filming it,” Nguyen said. “It was a ‘oner,’ so it was one shot … if one person messed up, we had to go back to the beginning. On the 24th take, we got it right.”
It still was a labor of love for Nguyen, but she didn’t want to get her hopes up that she would win an award.
“I went in kind of telling myself that I wasn’t going to win just in case if I didn’t win I wouldn’t be super disappointed,” she said. “It was super surreal. … Sometimes things kind of just come when you least expect it, and it’s really cool and it’s exciting and hard work pays off.”
Brennan’s short film tells the story of a woman who struggles with alcoholism and tries to right her wrongs by doing something good, such as donating blood, to combat the bad.
“I wanted to write something about shame and what drives people,” Brennan said. “It’s sort of like a messed-up version of karma. I think people are like ‘OK, I can do bad stuff as long as I do good stuff to even it out.’”
Throughout the short, Brennan utilized colors such as red and pink to symbolize internal struggle and how people portray themselves in society, or what he refers to as “the frosting on the cake.”
Brennan has been creating films since junior high, starting with claymation and Lego animations. Winning the award, his first outside GCU, has given him the confidence to submit the film to other festivals “because it’s already won something.”
“It was a really good experience,” he said. “It was really encouraging to be around other filmmakers from other schools, and it was really encouraging to see that me and my friends here are at the same level for festival-quality work.”
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected]