Campus Film Symposium showcases student-made films

Matthew Smith

It is a busy day in the CTV newsroom. Staff members pitch stories to Executive Producer Baylee Lakey.

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Opening scene of “The Lead,” the winning film of the Campus Film Symposium 2017 Photo credit: Matthew Smith



“Frank, what do you got for me?” Lakey asks. “Actually, before you say anything, I want you to know you are on very thin ice, so this better be good.”

Correspondent Franklin Conley looks up from a daze.

“You don’t have a story,” Lakey asks. “Go find one! And remember, if it bleeds, it leads.”

Baylee Lakey, one of the minds behind “The Lead.” Photo credit: Matthew Smith


This is all the inspiration Conley needs. If he cannot find the news, he must create it himself, no matter who gets hurt along the way.

This is the premise to the short film “The Lead,” first place winner of the 2017 Campus Film Symposium that occurred over the weekend.

In a lecture theater in the Behavioral Sciences Building Friday night, student-made short films competed in an intimate festival that showcases the filmmaking passions alive at CSU. This is the second of its kind put on by the Film Production Society, home of the campus-based Starwatcher Studios. After the screening, Starwatcher Studios presented three of their own films.

Jacob Berg reading the winners of the Campus Film Symposium. Photo credit: Matthew Smith


Taking second place was “Thunderstruck” by Kourtyard Films. With cinematic inspiration from the TV show “Supernatural,” “Thunderstruck” is a music video set to the AC/DC song of the same name.

“It was a film study to mimic their style,” director Kourtny Otto said. With a professionally-made series as inspiration, the cinematic shots in “Thunderstruck” awed the audience.


The third place runner-up, “Empty,” completed in just 48 hours, was directed by Beau Rainey, Gordon Clark and Clarisse Matyczyk. James and Stephenie are a young couple on a romantic date in a sprawling, empty mansion when relationship tensions come to the surface. Rather than depend on plot, “Empty” is strong in its cinematography.

“It was less on the story and more about the relationship between the couple,” Film Production Society member Asher Korn said.

RamLife Entertainment’s submission to the Symposium was “Scary Noises,” an homage to a certain cartoon about a gang of meddling kids. Four friends investigating the source of a strange noise get pursued by a ghost.

Among Starwatcher Studio’s own films screened at Campus Film Symposium, but excluded from the the main competition, was “Black Box,” a tense and action-packed spy thriller. A secret agent must infiltrate a building full of terrorists to stop a bomb threat before it kills everyone inside.

A panel of CSU staff and industry professionals chose “The Lead” as the night’s number one film. The grand prize included a custom poster to be created by Starwatcher Studios along with a lump sum of RamCash.

Members of the crew behind “The Lead.” Photo credit: Matthew Smith


“(The Lead) was very well done,” said Beau Rainey, co-creator of both “Empty” and “Scary Noises.” “It had a very interesting story.”

“It’s nice to see passion in something that isn’t super supported in this area as much as it should be,” said Nikola Sbalenka, who played a vampire in “Thunderstruck.” “They were all good. Everybody, you can tell, has a passion for what they’re doing. I think that’s a very beautiful thing.”

The Campus Film Symposium is not primarily a competition, but an opportunity for student filmmakers to come together and share their work. For Lakey, actor and editor of “The Lead,” the Symposium served this purpose.

“I just love being here,” Lakey said. “It’s neat to see what everyone else brings to the table. It’s fun to know that other people are out there making videos.”

Collegian reporter Matt Smith can be reached at or on Twitter @latvatalo.