Film Festival shows students’ resolve to create
By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
Originally, Elliot Saldivar wasn’t supposed to make it to the showing of his music video “Superficial” at Grand Canyon University Film Festival on Thursday night.
At least that’s what his friends in the film program thought.
After all, the 2021 film graduate had moved to California shortly after completing his program and was in the midst of creating a new life for himself post-graduation. But a packing error gave him a reason to surprise them.
“This is the same suit jacket that I wore in the music video. It belongs to my roommate, and I accidentally took it home when I moved,” he said. “My roommate texted me and said, ‘Hey, I kind of need my suit jacket back.’ So I said, ‘You know what? I’ll surprise them at the Film Festival.’”
After being held outdoors last year because of the pandemic, the Film Festival returned to Ethington Theatre and drew an enthusiastic crowd as student films in seven categories appeared on the big screen.
Saldivar made it just as the song he had written and performed, directed by Sean Pedrick, was shown and then declared the winner for its category.
“I was really scared I wasn’t going to make it in time since there was traffic on the way here,” Saldivar said.
It was a surprise his colleague was not expecting.
“When he sat down, he was like, ‘Hey, hey,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, hey,’ and I looked right back to watching the animation part,” Pedrick said. “Then I was like, ‘Wait a minute. I feel like that’s Elliott.’ So I turn around and was like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s Elliott!’
“I was flabbergasted.”
The talent emerging from the Film Department in the College of Arts and Media was evident in the 13 student submissions. The film and performance quality impressed Film Department Director Lisa Tervo.
“This year’s submissions were really interesting,” she said. “Looking at the films that were submitted and the number of actors involved, it was really clear the impact COVID had on it. The students really were facing a lot of changes, and the way they worked around it was amazing.
“It’s a good variety of films that I think really show the creativity in difficult times.”
Getting to see how much love was put into each film left Tervo with a feeling she could only describe as “bursting at the seams.”
“I’m so proud,” she said. “Coming out of COVID, it threw everybody off, but it threw the film industry to a halt.
“It’s the first time, I think, in history that all film production stopped. To find a way out of that, to have students find a way to express themselves creatively in a safe way, I’m so proud that they were able to really produce any work. But then to produce work of this caliber, it’s just fantastic.”
The festival also was the perfect opportunity for Dr. Craig Detweiler to see firsthand the creativity of GCU film students.
“I loved how the students were experimenting with genre,” he said. “The range of expressions was really refreshing.”
The event wrapped up with one of the seven category winners being named Best Overall Film. That honor went to director Rerun Knutson and producer/choreographer Kendall Smith’s “Over the VOTSOD (Valley of The Shadow of Death),” which had won Best Faith Film.
The dance film, which premiered earlier this semester as one of the student submissions for the Spring Student Spotlight Dance Concert, is meant to demonstrate how it takes more than one decision to ruin your life.
Pedrick also worked on the piece as the cinematographer, and Paolo Martinez spearheaded the film’s visual effects.
Winning an award at the Film Festival had long been Smith’s goal, but seeing it happen still was a huge surprise.
“I was really excited because I’ve been going to the Film Festival since freshman year, and I was just so inspired by all the films that I used to see,” she said. “I’m very thankful that we ended up winning it this year.”
It was true representation of what could be possible when a strong group of creative minds put each of their unique skills together.
Martinez felt especially grateful for the experience.
“I’m very proud of this team,” Martinez said. “I’m very blessed to have been a part of it.”
- Best Alumni Film: “July 25, 1944” by Matthew Fajardo
- Best Comedy: “Don’t Unplug Eric” by Adam Sweet
- Best Animation: “Guy” by Tyler Stark
- Best Music Video: “Superficial” by Sean Pedrick
- Best Thriller: “Shred” by Adam Sweet
- Best Faith Film: “Over the VOTSOD” by Rerun Knutson
- Best Drama: “Work out with Sandy” by Kaitlyn Visser
- Best Overall Film: “Over the VOTSOD” by Rerun Knutson
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected].