Natalie Canellas, a 21-year-old UF family, youth and community sciences senior, pinned back her hair that was almost as red as her lips. She zipped up one of her favorite dresses, stared into the mirror, exhaled and headed to the premiere. Canellas was the producer, co-writer and co-director for “The Perfect Playlist.” She sat with her cast and reminded herself that it wasn’t about winning — it was about being proud of her film. 

Campus Movie Fest (CMF) is an organization that provides students the opportunity to create short films. It is the only film festival that gives free equipment to participants, giving students the chance to express themselves and explore the world of film. Participants have one week to film and edit their creations in a variety of categories, including comedy, horror, animation and social justice. Anyone with a good idea and a little creativity can participate in CMF.

This year, students at UF submitted 83 films to CMF, breaking last year's record of 80. Out of the 83 films, 16 were shown at the premiere. From those, the top four were selected to be shown and judged at nationals in Hollywood, California. The premiere was a nerve-racking night for teams, but also one full of energy and excitement.

Canellas gathered her team after developing an idea for a comedic film about a boy making a playlist for his crush. 

“I just love this idea that playlists are like modern-day love poems,” Canellas said as she laughed and scrunched her nose. Her team filmed 12 hours a day for three days. They were fully dedicated to shooting, reshooting, lip-syncing, writing, editing, and recording.  

Michael Dorsey, a 20-year-old UF economics and neuroscience junior, was cast as one of the lead roles in “The Perfect Playlist.” His lack of acting experience made him nervous, but once the director called “action,” Dorsey straightened his back and grew to feel comfortable behind the camera.

“I’ll admit, sometimes it was stressful, but being with friends and making a goofy movie gave me confidence and made me love the film even more,” Dorsey said. 

On the other side of the room from Canellas sat Katelyn Wahl, a 20-year-old UF biomedical engineering sophomore, and Sebastian Georgiev, a 20-year-old UF film and media studies junior, eagerly waiting to see if their film, “Cold Blooded,” would play. 

Wahl came up with the idea of “Cold Blooded” on a drive home and called Georgiev.  

“I want there to be zombies and I want it to be related to campus culture,” she said. The two developed the story and tossed around ideas until Georgiev said he believed “this could actually work.” 

On set, Wahl spent more than eight hours doing make up for the entire cast, and the two spent more than three hours editing the script for a singular scene. Georgiev reshot scenes until they were perfect and spent more than 23 hours editing camera shots. Everything had to be flawless.

At the premiere, the two teams sat waiting for their hard work to pay off. Film after film, they waited to see their creations appear on the screen. When the opening scenes of their films played, they shot out of their chairs cheering in disbelief, pride and pure joy. 

“I got butterflies like my crush had walked in the room,” said Canellas. 

After the selected 16 films played, it was time for the night’s most coveted award, the jury award. Only the top four films are presented with the jury award and move on to the national competition. The first jury award to be called was for “The Perfect Playlist.” The crowd cheered, and the team scrambled up onto the stage to accept their award. 

“I’ve never been on a really successful sports team, but I imagine that that’s what it feels like to win the Super Bowl,” Canellas said, looking back at the moment.

Then, the opening scene of “Cold Blooded” appeared on the screen, and Wahl and Georgiev were ecstatic.

“I felt like I was floating out of my body,” Georgiev said.   

“Cold Blooded” took home the most awards of the evening, including Best Cinematography and Best Actor. Their creativity, stunning camera work, incredible acting, original soundtrack and hard work were recognized and rewarded.  

The top 16 films can be found on the CMF website. The top four teams will be traveling to Hollywood, California, to compete at the CMF Terminus film festival from June 25th to 27th.

“I’m never going to get out of this daze until I get there,” Georgiev said.

Contact Emily Blount at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @EmilyEBlount.