College of the Arts Hosts Industry Spotlight at Warner Bros. Studios

Many actors and filmmakers dream of premiering their films on the big screen, but may have to wait a lifetime to get the opportunity. For Azusa Pacific University students, they only waited until the end of their senior year. APU’s College of the Arts (COTA) hosted the 2023 Industry Spotlight on May 4 at the legendary Warner Bros. studios, giving students in cinematic arts, animation, theater, games and interactive media, art, design, music, and journalism a chance to showcase their work in front of industry talent representatives and casting directors.

Cinematic Arts

A highlight of the night involved cinematic arts students premiering films they’ve worked on all year. These included Betting on Innocence, a family comedy directed by Ethan Samartin ’23; Trip, a psychological thriller directed by Trey Dickerson ’23; The Mediocrity of Sabine and the End of Fiction, a Wes Anderson style drama directed by Hope Daniel ’23, and City Streets, a civic engagement documentary directed by Jack Barrie ’23.

For Barrie, this project entailed far more than a chance to display his cinematography and directing skills. He was recruited by APU alumnus Ricky Staub ’06 (director of Netflix’s Concrete Cowboy) to help promote a nonprofit called The City Center, which offers transitional living for homeless families to get back on their feet. “We were able to make something important and special for The City Center. It was truly unlike anything I’ve experienced before,” Barrie said. In the short film, he worked alongside classmates Sarah Cloake ’23 and Grace Berry ’23 to interview two formerly homeless parents, sharing their stories of low points and what brought them to The City Center, along with the impact the center has had on their lives. The film brought many in the audience to tears, including Barrie’s mother. “This documentary was something I couldn’t have written a script for. God was working through us,” he said.


Animation students also premiered their films, ranging from minute long 2D shorts to longer, more complex 3D stories. These included Coffee Chaos by Anne Farris, Lifeline by Rebecca Hartman ’24, Silhouette by Shelby Uchida ’23, A Lesson in Time by Jasmine Rogers ’23 and Lindsay Weyman ’23, Night Owl by Chloe Weberg ’23, Peter and Wendy by Matthew D’Amico ’23, Sonríe Mi Chiquito by Melinda Almanza ’23, Drome 19 by Madeleine Chaffin ’23, Valerie and Eddie by Seojin Jeong ’23, Skate Bait by Kayla Dennis ’23 and Whitney Hii ’23, and Hooked by Victoria Ortiz ’23 and Kaitlyn Ford ’23. Each film shared a captivating story displaying different animation techniques.

Ortiz was thrilled to share her film, a completely computer generated (CG) animation about a woman who gets catfished on a date with an actual catfish. The film took an entire year to make and Ortiz estimates that her team spent well over 1,000 hours cumulatively in creating it. “Seeing it in the theater at Warner Bros. was indescribable. There was this magical sense of completion and achievement, that all those hours meant something,” she said.

“Then at the very end, when they brought us all up on stage, I could finally see all the hard work and connections I’ve made pay off. I don’t think I realized I was actually graduating until that moment. It felt like the start of something new and exciting.”

Watch cinematic arts and animation student films here.


In a separate theater, APU theater students screened a showcase of the webseries So That Happened and performed in front of 20 talent representatives and alumni including Staub and Mackenzie Phillips. Each senior delivered a monologue that they had practiced and refined for months under the direction of Jill Brennan-Lincoln, MA, chair of the Department of Theater Arts. “Many talent reps shared with me that the APU’s Spotlight is their favorite university acting showcase to attend,” Lincoln said. “This is high praise because they compared our BFA students to MFA programs from USC, Julliard, and NYU, endorsing the training and talent our students have.”

For senior Abigail Holland, the showcase was the once in a lifetime opportunity that she had been waiting for since she started at APU. Holland performed a minute long monologue from Pretty Theft. “It was so great to present something true to myself. Every time you perform, you’re playing a character, but this time I was playing myself and I was able to show the agents and the world for the first time who I am,” she said. After the showcase, Holland met with an agent who complimented her on her performance and offered to connect her with casting directors from Netflix and Amazon Prime.

“It was a huge win and reminded me that I can do this, that the talent God gave me is coming through.”

Artist Alley & Oceanview Mall

The Industry Spotlight also featured an “Artist Alley” where a group of students from games and interactive media, art, design, and journalism shared their creations. Students in APU’s first ever comic book class shared original comics they designed, showcasing their creative talent and storytelling abilities while journalism students presented documentaries they created.

In the Artist Alley, the first graduating class of APU’s games and interactive media program presented a demonstration of their video game Oceanview Mall. The game centers around a character named Wilson Wyatt who gets lost in an abandoned mall and is forced to face his consumeristic habits while finding a way out. Oceanview Mall was created by six students who spent a full year coming up with the story, designing the graphics, adding sound effects, and playtesting. “It felt surreal to share Oceanview Mall at the Spotlight. This project was our baby,” said Chrisitan Duran ’23. “We saw it through the whole process from when it was just a couple of gray blocks on a computer screen to it being a fully fledged world with music, sound, a beautifully designed environment, and a story playing out in the game.” After a lot of hard work and late nights, Duran felt incredibly relieved to see how much people enjoyed the game.

“I felt like I was putting part of myself out there. I know this is something that’s really good and I can present it to future employers showing what we created.”

APU’s Industry Spotlight has become a signature annual event for COTA, connecting students with industry professionals and paving a way for their God given talent to take them to the next level after graduation.