This past weekend, March 10-11, Taylor University’s Film & Media Department held their annual Envision Film Festival, highlighting the work of university and high school students.
The festival features workshops, demonstrations and more, ultimately culminating in the film screening and awards on Friday evening. These awards are judged by an esteemed panel of seven alumni judges and recognize the skills and achievements of the filmmakers, actors and editors.
This year, the films “About a Motel” and “Lizzi: Deeper Than Water” were the top winners of the evening.
“About a Motel” was recognized for best drama, screenplay and cinematography. The film was made by 2021 graduates Joseph Ford, Maggie Cripe, Erica Morman, Jeff Ogden and JD Groh and features local actors Kaleb Isabell, Rudy Jimenez and Tom O’Brien. The story follows a hotel manager Edgar (Jimenez) accommodating guests during a power outage when he finds a dead body. Shortly thereafter, an ICE investigator (O’Brien) begins snooping around, and causes chaos within the already grim situation. The film was also awarded best actor for Jimenez’s role as Edgar.
The other big winner, “Lizzi: Deeper Than Water,” was made by Gabriel Burch (‘22) and seniors Anna Rodman, Luke Zobel and Ethan Ochs. The documentary follows Lizzi Smith, swimmer for the U.S. Paralympian team, and the many ways she has to overcome mental and physical obstacles to compete. The film won best picture, documentary and editing.
“This was a particularly strong year for both fiction and nonfiction entries,” said Kathy Bruner, associate professor of film & media production. “The Film & Media Production faculty members are incredibly proud of the work of our students, and the fact that these projects continue to be accepted into film festivals externally is wonderful validation of their storytelling efforts.”
Other winners included “The Accidental Grandson,” “Safe Haven” and “Tim Hawkins: Professional Moron,” who won best comedy, humanities and arts award and best sound design, respectively. The audience choice was determined during the festival, and was unable to be included by the print deadline.
The festival also screened student films “Kojak: A Fuller Life, “Jack, The Town, and I,” “Homefront” and “The Repairman,” as well the winner of the high school competition, “Guardian Angels.”
In addition to the film screening and awards, students attended workshops led by filmmaker Larissa Lam, producer Tim Kerigan (‘12) and Assistant Professor of Art Jamie Miles.
Lam, who has acquired acclaim for her work in music, podcasting and documentaries, led two workshops — one on realistic budgets and know-how of being an independent filmmaker and the second on capturing authentic portrayals of faith in film. Additionally, she hosted a showing and Q&A of her recent film, “Far East Deep South,” which premiered on PBS and followed the history of Chinese immigrants living in the Deep South during the late 1800s to mid-1900s.
Kerigan hosted a workshop about the dynamics of a production office and managing a film schedule. Miles gave a demonstration on Blender, a 3D computer graphics software used for various visual effects, virtual reality and more.
“I think what makes envision so unique is that Kathy and John work really hard to bring well established professionals in the film industry to speak at the festival,” senior Sophie Olson said. “... As a senior this year’s Envision feels pretty heavy. I’ve helped produce envision since my first year here, and it was working on Envision that really got me connected in the department. Envision is a special time for our department and I would advise my fellow film students to cherish it.”