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Student filmmaker Sarah Wilson leads USF team to Campus MovieFest's top award

Sarah Wilson isn't a filmmaker resting on her laurels, although few would blame her if she did.

Wilson, 21, recently led a University of South Florida team to the top prize at the International Campus MovieFest in Hollywood, Calif., billed as the world's largest student film festival. Days later, Wilson headed to New York City, where she's interning this summer for Open City Films.

"I'm a nobody (in New York), and that's all right," Wilson said by e-mail. "The most important thing in stepping from the small pond into the big one is to never become jaded … to always hold on to the dream of inspiring people and making other people happy."

Her short film, Rhapsody, evidences Wilson's outlook, a fable taking place in a town of color-coded emotions, indicted by the shirts people wear. "Blues" like Charlie (Nick Horan) are always sad, "reds" are angry, "yellows" are happy, and so on. All colors exclusively socialize with their own kind, creating an allegory of cultural relations.

When Charlie meets "yellow" Sadie (Shannan Stewart) on the first day of high school, they share new feelings and a secret love, eventually "coming out" during a climactic prom, inspiring classmates to feel more tolerant of each other.

"I was driving home late one night from who knows where and (George) Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue came on my iPod," Wilson said. "I just started to see the film play out before me, one scene after another."

Wilson, a mass communications major at USF, created Rhapsody with co-producers Dan Nguyen and Joyce Yong. Trey Penton served as director of photography. As art director, Nguyen also designed the popup book animation putting the story in motion, to the stirring sounds of Gershwin's tune.

"Our budget was nothing, but we all pitched in money to cover the music copyrights and supplies like paint, and clothes for the extras," Wilson said.

Campus MovieFest rules specified that entries could be produced and edited only during a five-day period in February. Wilson began planning in November 2008, arranging locations and ballroom attire for the prom scene that couldn't be secured on short notice. Entrants were encouraged to keep their movies under five minutes, the time judges were obligated to watch.

"Our film ran a tad over the 5 minute mark," Wilson said, "but by that mark we had essentially told our story, so we took the risk."

Now Wilson is taking another in New York, buoyed by what Rhapsody achieved and driving to surpass it.

"I'm giving it my all," she said. "Making films, wielding creativity, working with amazing people, is what makes me so incredibly happy. Encouraging words at this stage definitely give me that extra momentum to keep going."

STAR BABIES: There's another reason to see Sam Mendes' Away We Go besides its solid screenplay and performances. Actually, two more.

Look for twin brothers Brendan and Jaden Spitz sharing the role of "Baby Neptune," lugged around by Maggie Gyllenhaal in a cradle sling. The 2-year-olds are the grandsons of popular Ybor City performer Judy B. Goode, who can't tell them apart, either.

"They're what are called 'mirror image twins,' " Goode said during a phone chat. "One is left handed, the other is right handed and both look exactly alike."

Goode's daughter Candi is married to former Anthrax guitarist Danny Spitz, residing in New York City.

Steve Persall can be reached at or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog, Reeling in the Years, at

Student filmmaker Sarah Wilson leads USF team to Campus MovieFest's top award 07/04/09 [Last modified: Saturday, July 4, 2009 4:31am]
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