University Film Festival restricts submissions to Truman students

Although the Truman State University Mini Film Festival, formerly the Truman State University Short Film Festival, is smaller this year, students have still submitted films for viewing Nov. 30 at the Del and Norma Robinson Planetarium.

This year, the festival is cutting back on who can submit to the festival. Professor Jocelyn Cullity, the film studies minor chair and organizer of the event, said previous festivals were open to undergraduate students from colleges and universities across the state. However, after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the festival to go virtual and submission numbers dropped, the festival is now accepting submissions from Truman students exclusively in an effort to revitalize the event by building support and interest locally. 

“It’s not the same film festival, and it’s important to realize that,” Cullity said. “We had done really well with the 2019 festival, and then COVID-19 happened. When we went online we didn’t have as many submissions as we wanted, and it took a lot to get them together.”

Cullity said they renamed the film festival to more accurately reflect the changes.Cullity said she wanted the Film Club to be able to run the festival while the film minor program would provide food. 

Despite the changes to the festival, two groups of students have submitted their projects for consideration. In addition to running the festival, the Film Club is also submitting a project. Mark Fisher, vice president of the Film Club, said the club has submitted projects in the past, however, this is the first film they have submitted under the current club administration. 

Their film, called “Murderville, Missouri”, follows a journalism student who investigates a series of murders in their college town. 

“The festival allows students to express themselves,” Fisher said. “I like seeing everyone’s different perspectives. That’s really what I love about movies — just seeing the variety of different perspectives and how people see the world. Being able to show that, I just absolutely love that.”

 Fisher said he took on many responsibilities for the project including part director, head editor and filming. Despite early technical difficulties with new equipment, the club was quick to recover. Fisher said he would encourage students who are interested in film to attend the festival and to join Film Club.

Another short film was submitted by two students, senior Natalie Morrison and 2023 graduate Amelia Paláez. The duo created the short film “Sudden Death” last semester for their digital video production course and were encouraged to submit the project to the festival by their professor. Morrison said she had been thinking about submitting a film for a while and was excited to be able to submit a project for the first time. 

“I wish I could add the Film Club to my schedule, but it just didn’t work out” Morrison said. “So, I thought this was a good way to contribute to the Truman film community.”

Morrison said their film is a mixture of comedy and horror. It follows a group of friends playing a game together until the game goes rogue. The friends then have to figure out how to end the game before it’s too late. Morrison said she was involved in nearly every aspect of creating the film — such as writing, editing and producing — except acting. 

Morrison said she would encourage students to get involved in the film festival, especially if they are interested in entering the entertainment industry. Morrison was able to speak with Truman alum and television writer Ross Knight at the Echo 25 conference during September to learn more about the entertainment industry. 

“It’s important that we have this film festival because I think it’s kind of easy for everyone to forget that the biggest names out there had to start somewhere,” Morrison said. “If we start now, all these smaller projects we can tag onto our portfolio. It’s nice to know that we have all of that background knowledge and experience to throw ourselves in the ring to work our way up through the industry.”

Morrison said the biggest struggle in creating the film was finding a time in which all members of the cast and crew were available. Morrison said the project was completed over the course of four to six weeks, yet the entire group only met four to five times. 

Cullity said the festival will be accepting submissions until Nov. 17. Films must be under ten minutes long and can be submitted to Film Club president Leighya McNeely at Cullity said she would encourage students to submit their work even if they are not film studies minors because the experience is worth it.

The first Truman State Film Festival was during April 2019. It was organized by English professor Jocelyn Cullity and 20 of her students in a fall semester class during 2018, created for the sole purpose of planning, fundraising, and promoting the festival. 

The spring semester of 2019 brought the second part of planning the project in which students learned how to judge short films submitted to the festival and choose which ones would go on to be shown at the event. 

The first film festival was dedicated to the late Missourian actor, Vincent Price, who became a regular in classic horror films. He made his last appearance in the famous 1990 film “Edward Scissorhands” which was released a year before his death. His daughter, Victoria Price, attended the film festival to present the $500 Vincent Price People’s Choice Award. 

Cullity said in addition to the short films, she will also speak at the event about the film minor and give the audience information about the classes and requirements that go with the program. Cullity said as of now there are not going to be any judges or prizes, since they have only received two submissions thus far. However, Cullity said if they receive four to five films before the deadline, they will be able to put a judge panel together and give out prizes. 

Cullity said she encourages students to submit their work in order to gain more experience with audience response and to feel the pride that comes with submitting a project.

“I think it important to have an audience for your work and to see how audiences respond to your work; that’s a really important part of the filmmaking process,” Cullity said. “You’re not just getting your friends to watch it, you’re getting a whole big group of public people to watch it and that’s a whole different experience.”

The Truman Mini Film Festival will be Thursday, Nov. 30 in the Planetarium at 6:00 p.m. The Film Club meets on Fridays 6 p.m. in Baldwin Hall room 241. For more information about the festival or the club, contact Jocelyn Cullity at