First Flight Film Festival: Students on the Big Screen

Audience members and student filmmakers recently piled into B&B Theatres in Fulton, Mo. for the 6th annual First Flight Film Festival.

The event is organized by the Reel Fanatics Film Club, with assistance from advisors Dr. Greg Smith (Associate Professor of English) and Tony Weed (Assistant Professor of Communications).

Reel Fanatics club officers (from left to right) Emma Cunningham, Kylie Zamboni-Cutter, Isabel Storey, Sara Laney, and Kara Jeffers pose in front of the festival poster outside of B&B Theaters with host Kristen Bauer ’16 (far right).

As is tradition, the festival was hosted by a William Woods Communications alum. This year, former film club president Kristen Bauer ’16, a Communications and English major, came back to campus to emcee the event and run a LEAD event about her life after college. She now works as a Clinical Territory Associate at Intuitive Surgical in St. Louis.

“I have a little personal pride when it comes to the film festival,” said the St. Charles, Mo. native. “It seemed more stressful at the time when I was doing it but was always really rewarding.”

Bauer hosted the festival alongside current Reel Fanatics president: Communications major Sara Laney ’18. Laney, who is from Shawnee, Kansas, has been a part of the film club for her four years at William Woods.

A scene from “Fun in the Sun.”

Laney entered three films in the festival, including “Fun in the Sun,” which won both “Best Picture” and “Best Actress”. The short comedy followed a woman who found herself love-struck with her Calculus textbook.

“To have the ability to showcase student films, thereby getting your foot in the door of what could be, is so inspiring,” Laney said. “There’s an atmosphere when you attend Film Fest that is not like anything else. People simply enjoy and support the filmmakers.

Find out why Laney decided to major in Communications.

New talent was also recognized in the festival this year, including Communications major Jason Walker ’19, from Bueno Park, California, and Kelby Kornrumpf ’20, a Graphic Design major from Jefferson City, Mo.

Walker stars in his own Jack Links commercial as a basketball player.

The duo presented two films in the festival: a beef jerky commercial with an epic dunk and a Kanye West music video. Walker and Kornrumpf both earned the “Up and Coming Filmmaker” award for their unique take on the projects and clever use of camera and storytelling techniques.

“The film festival impacted me by how others used creative imagination with their videos and all of the videos had a different thought process,” Walker said.

His advice for other filmmakers: have fun with your projects.

“If you make a piece and believe it’s good, that’s all that matters,” he suggests. “Don’t worry about the video being judged.”

Also new to the festival was Kara Jeffers ’21, the social media chair of Reel Fanatics club.

Jeffers, a Communications major from Troy, Missouri, joined the Reel Fanatics club because she loves movies — analyzing and getting caught up in the emotions and thrills of them. She wanted to be an actor when she was younger, and that dream has never left.

“After the First Flight experience, I can definitely say it is one of my favorite events at William Woods,” she said.

“Seeing and hearing everyone laugh and have a good time is what makes all the hard work worth it. We will definitely continue this tradition, and I look forward to seeing new film entries and new faces every year.”

According to Professor Weed, the First Flight Film Festival is an opportunity for students (particularly Communications majors with a Digital Filmmaking concentration) to showcase their talents on the big screen in front of both the university and local community.

“It’s always great to see student projects on the big screen and see their best work,” said Professor Weed. “It’s incredibly rewarding to see the progress students make from year to year. Each festival is better than the last.”

Learn more about Professor Tony Weed and the Communications program.

The Award Winners:

  • Best Picture: Sara Laney ’18 for “Fun in the Sun”
  • Best Director: Gage Oestreich ’20 for “Blue Jay Hype”
  • Best Short: Jaclyn Zahn ’20 and Madeline Trusty ’21 for “Fidget Spinner”
  • Best Actor: James Rodgers ’18 for “Nicotine”
  • Best Actress: Kristin Casper for “Fun in the Sun”
  • Up and Coming Filmmakers: Jason Walker ’19 and Kelby Kornrumpf ’20