March 25, 2020
Sarah Holland, let, directs a student actress on set.

Film students from UCF took the first and third grand prizes at the second annual Vibrant Media Productions Student Film Festival in February with Sarah Holland’s short film Egghead & Twinkie winning first and Abiesel Baez and Kahlil Collazo’s PLUGGED winning third. Holland credits the UCF Film program with her success and ability to see her visions realized.

Students from several colleges throughout Central Florida submitted their original video projects to Vibrant Media Productions, an Orlando video production company founded by Alex Cascio ’15. Cascio wanted to give local students an opportunity to showcase their creativity while also earning recognition for their work. These students were competing for a chance to both jump-start their film career as well as earn a substantial college-based grant to help with tuition and related costs.

Building from Vibrant Media Productions’ inaugural Film Fest momentum in 2019, this year’s competition was open to even more of Florida’s universities: Valencia College, the University of Central Florida, Seminole State College, Daytona State College, Full Sail University, the University of South Florida, Ringling College of Art and Design, Florida State, and the University of Tampa. These additional schools resulted in a more diverse and creative submission pool for the judges, who were four members of the Vibrant Media Productions staff, who have years of experience with videography and production. Each submission was scored with a 1-5 rating in four distinct categories: directing; editing; story; and sound design. It was essential to the integrity of the competition that each submission was measured by its own merits. To this end, the school from which each submission originated was concealed. This ensured that no alumni-bias, whether subconscious or otherwise, could interfere with the judgment process.

The grand prize was awarded to the short film Egghead & Twinkie, directed by Sarah Holland, and starring Sabrina Jie-A-Fa & Louis Tomeo. This quirky comedy explores the experiences of two young adults after one casually reveals her homosexuality. Immediately apparent was the film’s gripping style. Its vibrant tones, swift cuts, and memory narration spliced with contemporaneous interaction felt reminiscent of cult hits like Scott Pilgrim vs. the World or Shaun of the Dead. Egghead & Twinkie had the judges charmed from start to finish, and they were honored to have experienced the beginning of what is sure to be a successful film career for Holland and crew.

Second place went to A Girl in Kansas, a horror short directed by Sidartha Biswa and starring Jennifer Utsey and Dennis Frebie from Full Sail University. The film centers around a young woman aimlessly walking a lonely road on a stormy night and a good Samaritan with questionable motives. Throughout the short, the audience is left guessing as to why this woman was walking in the rain alone, and what exactly the man helping her is hiding.

The third prize was awarded to PLUGGED, written and directed by Abiesel Baez & Kahlil Collazo and starring Humberto Gal’lino. In a future not too far from our present, a dating app leads one hesitant man through a mind-altering experience. The electric soundtrack pulls the audience into the scene from the start and compels the viewer’s eyes to the screen as they wait for the next story beat. The coordination of the nearly 2-minute continuous shot leading up to a shocking cut was indicative of the effort Baez and his team poured into their project.

“Vibrant Media Productions could not have been more pleased with each student who rose to the challenge this year and made the 2nd annual Film Fest an incredible success,” says Cascio. “The submissions sent in shined a light on the enormous potential of these aspiring young filmmakers.” A proud Knight himself, Cascio is excited to see what his alma mater can bring to the table for next year’s film festival. “With two-thirds of this year’s winners being from UCF, I know the bar has been set high. Nevertheless, given the creativity and dedication of UCF students, I know it’s a challenge they’re sure to meet.”