The Making of an Award-Winning Student Film

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Campus Movie Fest YouTube Screenshot

Campus MovieFest (CMF), the world’s largest student film festival and a premier outlet for the next generation of filmmakers, began in 2001 when four students at Emory University provided fellow students with everything they needed — including camcorders and Apple laptops — to make movies in one week. Since then, more than 500,000 students at colleges and universities globally have received all the necessary technology and training to tell their stories on the big screen through film. 

Campus Movie Fest came to Wheelock College in March of 2015. Wheelock student Samantha Scholefield entered her film “Letter to Olivia.” Her movie made it to the Top 4 and received the Jury’s Choice award. She will travel to Hollywood for the 15th Annual CMF Summit.

Ultimately, I’m just glad I looked up from my phone for ten seconds to notice the poster. Campus Movie Fest, the largest student film festival, was advertising around Wheelock for a weeklong movie competition. The organization provides students with everything they need in order to create a short film in a week. The topic is entirely up to the student; the only rule is that you have to come back in seven days with a movie.

I began by filming what I know. What I know is how to waste half the day on a walk with my friend Faith, and that the Museum of Fine Arts lawn makes an amazing stage for Red Bull-induced dancing. I know all the shortcuts to Northeastern when it’s late on Tuesday and all you want in this world is a Qdoba quesadilla, and I know what Yawkey Way looks like on a Sunday night when it’s just you, your best friends, and a speaker blasting Vienna by Billy Joel.

Next, I wrote what I know. I pieced together all the messed up lessons I’ve learned through three different High Schools, a vindictive friendship, two heartless boyfriends, and one that almost destroyed me. I wrote about all the things I wish someone had told me when I was growing up, the hard truth I would have ignored, and secrets to all the wonderful moments ahead. I wrote about a time when I needed perspective more than a prom date but couldn’t look beyond myself. I wrote what I knew, and I knew this movie was quickly becoming somewhat of a letter to my little Olivia.

I never intentionally hid the identity of Olivia or why she deserved a movie. I also never thought people would ever watch it through, so explaining Olivia was never a worry of mine. Regardless, the mystery behind “Livvy,” as I refer to her in the movie, seems to be one of the most intriguing aspects to people. This film isn’t about finding out who she is though, or even why she needs this letter. Olivia can be anyone. She can be your heartbroken little sister getting over her first love, or your roommate battling depression. She can be your old best friend that never learned to forgive, or the girl down the street that can’t love anything more than the sound of her own voice. In actuality Olivia is an earth-shattering goddess that could conquer the world just by batting her eyelashes, but you don’t need to know my Olivia in order to understand this letter.

I never even attended the award show where they announced that “Letter To Olivia” made it to the Top 4 and won the Jury Choice Award for the Colleges of The Fenway division. I honestly didn’t expect anyone to connect to the film because I had made it so specifically for the mind of Olivia. I assumed the film would feel very cryptic and vague because every piece of advice is a direct reference to something personal I have experienced. They are all stories I will eventually share with Olivia so I know she will one day see the intent behind each piece, but I never expected complete strangers to be able to see bits of their own hardships and successes tucked within the wording. Because of this I believed “Letter To Olivia” was a diary entry that would never see the light of day. I am beyond honored to know that this movie has in fact been able to speak to people in ways I never expected and even brought some to tears. I am also extremely proud to represent Wheelock College in Hollywood this July as I present “Letter to Olivia” at the Universal Globe Theatre for a summer film festival. This competition has opened so many amazing doors for me and forced me to share a piece of art I would typically be too afraid to let free. I’m just glad I took the time to look up.

Samantha Scholefield ’17 is a Counseling Psychology Major with a minor in Autism Studies.

Watch “Letter To Olivia” by Samantha Scholefield