Two students from the Florida State University film school are finalists in the national Sprite Films competition, which puts the winning film in theaters across the country this fall. The public can vote for the audience-choice award, now through the end of August at Sprite.com/films.
Florida State film students have been participating in the annual Sprite Films contest, formerly known as the Coca-Cola Refreshing Filmmaker’s Award, since it started in 1998, with two wins under their belt. Moviegoers might remember the winning films’ being played during the promos at theaters across the U.S.
This year, the two FSU finalists join four others, who all got a budget of about $18,000 to produce short films based on their original scripts.
John Wikstrom is one of only two undergraduate filmmakers in the contest. He’s in the final stretch of his bachelor’s program.
“Actually, about two hours before this interview, I just got off my last film set that I’m going to be on with the program," he says.
Wikstrom’s entry, called "Wild at Heart," begins with a man working in a cubicle. The man's friends invite him out to lunch, but he says he's too busy.
"And his friends shake their heads, saying, ‘Where’s the old Kevin? Where’s the guy I used to know?’” Wikstrom says. " And he’s soon confronted by a large silver-back gorilla, which nobody else in the office can see. And the gorilla chases him through the streets."
Wikstrom shot this scene in downtown Tallahassee. Viewers might recognize the Kleman Plaza fountain. Suddenly, the gorilla has Kevin pinned. He thinks it might be the end for him, but, Wikstrom says, "he realizes that this gorilla is actually his imaginary friend from his youth, and he was chasing him not to his death, but to the restaurant where his friends were going out to lunch. It’s a Calvin-and-Hobbes-type story about what happens when Calvin grows up.”
FSU’s other finalist is master’s student Sean Tien. His film, called "Message in a Bottle," is loosely based on his own choice to come to film school.
It starts out at a party a young man’s parents are throwing for his business-school graduation.
“But we realize that this is not what he wants to do," Tien says. "He’s been doing this because his father is a businessman, successful, and wants him to do it. But what he really wants to be is an artist, and in this case, a singer."
The man finds a gift-wrapped Sprite bottle in his bedroom. Inside is a message, which makes him remember when he was with his long-lost girlfriend. She says, "This is your life, live it.”
In the next scene, the man goes back out to the party, Tien says, "and against his father’s wishes, he stands in front of the crowd and starts to sing.”
Lead actor Michael Blevins sings an original song he wrote. And, of course, the character gets the girl in the end.
Tien says he’d love to win the contest, but he’s actually voted for his fellow classmate, John Wikstrom’s film on the Sprite Web site.
"Everything I did for this competition and got accepted, I’m not taking 100 percent credit. I’m maybe taking 1 percent. Because everything I did for this was using the knowledge that I gained just in one year of being in this program," he says.
Voting for the audience-choice award goes through the end of the month at Sprite.com/films. The grand-prize winner is chosen by film-industry professionals. His or her film will be cut down to a 48-second version and shown nationwide in theaters this fall.