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Five Minutes to Fame

NC State students with ambitions of becoming the next Scorsese, Tarantino or even Michael Bay can now get one step closer to their dream, thanks to the university’s participation in the national Campus MovieFest competition.

It’s guerrilla-style cinema at its best – aspiring filmmakers are given just seven days to shoot, edit and submit their masterpiece (of no more than five minutes in length) for judging. And, an opportunity regionally exclusive to students at NC State: the only North or South Carolina school participating in MovieFest.

All registered teams will be loaned laptops, digital video cameras and video phones free of charge, and can receive technical support at D.H. Hill’s Digital Media Lab throughout “shoot week.” Registration ends Tuesday at noon, and films must be submitted by February 15.

“Although I happened to have my own video camera, the fact that CMF provides you with equipment makes it so much easier,” said Scott Simerly Jr. (’09), whose ScatPat Productions entry Chillachin – featuring a talking chinchilla named Chingy – took Best Picture honors in last year’s competition.

More than 100 teams of NC State students took part in the 2008 event – the university’s first inclusion in Campus MovieFest, said Rob Rucker, head of research and information services for NCSU Libraries.

“It was great to see all these students decide to get together and work on these projects that were completely outside their coursework, and a lot of work on a short deadline,” he said. “MovieFest said it was one of the highest first-time turnouts they’d ever had. ”

The variety of entries (available for viewing on NC State’s official YouTube channel) was equally impressive, Rucker said.

“There were films focused on important social issues, slightly surreal comedies, and everything in between,” he said. “One of the winners was this great, single-take film shot in the dorms that was a series of scenes summarizing college life, from saying goodbye to slightly tearful parents all the way through graduation.

“Clever, funny, and really very sweet.”

Simerly, along with roommates Patrick McElroy and Nate Dobbins, went into last year’s MovieFest in hopes of just having a little bit of fun making a movie before graduation.

“We’d never seen anything like this at NC State before and wanted to be a part of it – especially since we were all seniors and might not get another chance to work together,” Simerly said. ” It truly was a collaborative effort, which I think made winning that much sweeter.

“I remember staying up until about 5:00 in the morning editing, with Pat and Nate right there with me helping me cut down the movie to five minutes,” he continued. “Winning Best Picture was one of the best ways I could think of to end our college careers together.”

Simerly, now the director of visual technology for a California-based consulting firm (owned by NC State student Bryan Young), said the CMF experience further cemented his ambitions of becoming a filmmaker.

“All of my friends here knew me as the ‘movie guy,’ but I hadn’t received recognition on such a large-scale before,” Simerly said. “After winning Best Picture, it proved to me that my work was appreciated by others and that I could continue down this path of film and video production.

“I actually went to the Cannes Film Festival last summer through CMF – something which I never would’ve considered before – and now here I am in Los Angeles pursuing my passion.”

The top films will be screened at a red-carpet celebration Feb. 27 at Witherspoon Student Center, with winning entries moving on to regional competition in Atlanta, Ga., in late March.