Five films walked away with awards at the annual FilmFest Gala on March 29.
The Brotherhood, directed by junior theatre acting major Rankin Dean and junior communication major Wade Austin, won three awards, including Best Picture. Dean also directed Sacred Space, which earned him the award for best director, among three others for the film.
Dean pursued the one-shot technique for Sacred Space as a way to create a film that no one has done before, while also focusing on relating the film to the ACU community.
“There’s one scene where there’s a Hardin-Simmons joke, and it killed it at FilmFest,” Dean said, “Everyone comes here because everyone wants to have fun and support each other and see ACU people – and so that’s what I did with Sacred Space.”
With The Brotherhood, Dean said that he prefers to work on drama or romance films, while Austin prefers mafia-type films like Goodfellas or The Godfather.
“I think he really wanted to make something like that, that was relatable to people here and that was the best way to do it was with pledging.”
Both films are affiliated with Dean’s production company, Beyond Star Films, which was founded before his arrival at ACU. Dean described the central message of his company’s content to be from the mindset of Christ, even if the final products are not faith-based like Facing the Giants.
“Where there’s some kind of message with each thing that we make that can help further people’s lives for good, and we focus on giving all the glory to God in the process,” Dean said.
“Before the awards, we had dinner together and we all had a prayer to say that we would enjoy the night and support each other – and that’s what it’s all about.”
Abby Johnston, junior multimedia major from San Antonio, earned the people’s choice award for He Loves Me? while her editor, alumna Bianca Barrientos, won Best Editor.
Johnston tripled her film crew in comparison to last year, which allowed her to focus on individual aspects of the film, like cinematography.
“The quality of the production has changed since last year,” Johnston said. “I’ve learned more, I think my crew has learned a lot, we all have a lot of collective experience.”
He Loves Me? did not receive any opposition from Student Life, Johnston said, despite its depiction of domestic violence.
“Title IX did request that we put a viewer discretion warning in front of it, which we did, but other than that I’m not aware that we had any pushback – which I was bracing for.”
Both Dean and Johnston were awarded scholarships for the six-week Prodigy Cinema School program, a new partnership developed between the university and Randy Brewer, ACU alumnus and long-time FilmFest judge and founder of Revolution Pictures. Dean and Johnston also hope to attend the Los Angeles Film School in the spring of 2020.
“I do want to submit whether it be from L.A. or a fall film – which may be in the works,” Johnston said, “We haven’t written anything yet. I’m giving myself a breather because I haven’t not done a film since the first semester of my freshman year.”
Dean plans to start a short film trilogy with Austin in the summer, and has a 2020 FilmFest idea in his back pocket. He also plans to finish his second feature film, At the End of Eight.
Full list of 2019 FilmFest winners:
- Best Picture – The Brotherhood
- People’s Choice – He Loves Me?
- Best Director – Rankin Dean, Sacred Space
- Best Producer – Hannah Raymond, The Brotherhood
- Best Writer – Austin Allison, Dodge
- Best Editor – Bianca Barrientos, He Loves Me?
- Best Cinematography – Rankin Dean, The Brotherhood
- Best Production Designer – Hannah Raymond, Rankin Dean, Sacred Space
- Best Sound Designer – Takuma Tsuneki, Fever
- Best Actor – Corbin Gililland, Sacred Space
- Best Actress – Zula Nicole Pryor, He Loves Me?
- Best Ensemble Cast – Sacred Space