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Ron Howard Film Contest Brings Students and Alumni Success

by University Relations

A short film created by APU students and alumni from the Department of Cinematic Arts garnered national recognition as a top-20 finalist for the Canon USA “Project Imaginat10n.” This contest, developed and judged by director Ron Howard and his daughter, Bryce Dallas Howard, drew more than 300 submissions, many from accomplished industry filmmakers. Their entry, Apocalypso, represented one of the few student films selected.

Contestants submitted their films June 4–July 23, 2013, to a panel of judges that selected the 20 films with the best overall technical quality, originality, and use of imagination and impression. The Howards then selected the final five on September 19, 2013, and presented them, along with five celebrity-directed short films, as part of Canon’s “A Ron Howard Presentation” last fall.

The contest challenged participants to create a short film inspired by photos representing 10 storytelling themes: character, mood, goal, backstory, setting, obstacle, relationship, the unknown, time, and discovery. Though Apocalypso did not make it into the final five, Ron Howard gave high praise to those who came close. “We were blown away and humbled by the quality of films,” he said.

His daughter concurred, adding, “This exercise continues to prove that creativity and collaboration generate endless possibilities that mark the state of our time.”

Determined to make their mark, the project’s producer, Jeff Holmes ’14, a cinematic arts major, and his sister, Jules Bianchi, who served as director, traveled with a crew of nine APU students and alumni to Northern California for three intensive days of filming. Holmes’ childhood hometown, just outside of Oakland, served as the film’s backdrop. The storyline centers on the main character’s fear of Y2K triggering the end of the world and the choice he must make to either welcome the new millennium from the security of his basement or risk his life to attend a New Year’s Eve party with the girl he loves.

“The cinematic arts program prepared us to make this film,” said Holmes. “We used all of the tools we learned from class. Filmmaking serves as a collaborative art form, and the amazing APU crew is responsible for this project’s success.”

Along with Holmes as producer, the crew included Tyler Welch ’13, assistant director; Stephen Ridder ’11, director of photography; Jonny Strellman ’15, gaffer; Ryan Lagerstrom ’13, editor and sound designer; Cara Bomar ’14, assistant editor; Bryce Simon ’14, colorist; Nathanial Lansely (attended 2011–13), grip; Rick Stable ’14, title designer; and Samantha Burnes ’15, prop designer.

“The talent and effort demonstrated by our students through this film contest is a testament to our program’s competitive and collaborative spirit,” said Michael C. Smith, MFA, Ed.D., director of the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Cinematic Arts Production program. “APU students consistently prove their abilities in professional venues, while working alongside each other to tell great stories. We’re proud of their efforts.”

“The professional recognition our students received demonstrates the level of quality that faculty in cinema and the College of Music and the Arts strive to facilitate,” said G. James Daichendt, Ed.D., associate dean of the School of Visual and Performing Arts. “These talented students not only represent relevance as storytellers, but are also indicative of scholarship in the arts at APU.”

Originally published in the Winter '13 issue of APU Life. Download the full issue (PDF).