Campus Movie Fest is the world’s largest university-hopping student film festival and gives any student a week to make the best 5-minute movie they can, using specially provided equipment. The winners travel to Atlanta for Terminus, one of the most prestigious filmmaking events in the country.
UNF Fine Arts student Connor Dolby was surprised to hear his name called at this year’s awards ceremony—he’d take home a Best Picture Award for his film Imitations. Needless to say, Dolby’s still riding high a few weeks after his big win. We sat down with Dolby to talk about his success and the pressure of expectations.
Tell me about your reaction to receiving the Best Picture award.
It was kind of a shock. We were nominated for best drama, best directing and best production design, so our hopes were kind of down in the beginning because you have to get all these no’s to get to the big yes at the end. Getting best picture is wonderful.
Your movies have been among the most unique at the last two CMF’s, so where does all of that come from in your brain? Where do you get your inspiration for your movies?
I keep a log of the ideas I have and most of the time I pitch it off of my girlfriend. I actually wrote a whole script before doing Imitations and it was too ambitious and I had to say no to it. It wouldn’t be possible in the five or six days we have to shoot [for CMF]. I had one story, then I had another story, and my girlfriend was like, ‘why don’t you just merge those two ideas,’ and then we revised and revised five or six times to get that script as perfect as possible.
The audience at the CMF premiere was surprised to find out that Imitations is actually somewhat of a prequel to Luminous, your film from last year. What’s it like to already have the ability to make something that people recognize and are excited about?
It’s honestly pretty amazing. My main passion in filmmaking is to get reactions, to get people excited. When there’s a moment of tension or something [in my films], I like to see those reactions. And for people to recognize my work, that’s amazing honestly. I didn’t expect that.
What’s it like being somewhat famous at school as someone everyone expects to make it big in the film industry?
It’s almost a pressure, but I feel like it’s the right kind of pressure because it’s what I want to do. It’s a lot of work but I feel like I need to put in the work to find that kind of escape, that dream. One thing I was thinking about the other day is that UNF has had such talented filmmakers, and just seeing the films that were [at CMF] my first year, I realized what you could do if you work hard enough. I wasn’t being as ambitious as before, so seeing the amazing work that people were making is eye-opening to me, like, ‘how do they make their movie look like a movie? Mine looks like just some kinds messing around. It was that experience in seeing other people’s content that made me think it was possible.
Plans for the future?
I think I’m going to retire from CMF. There are other festivals to go after, and somethings that will be less time-constrained because [CMF] is the craziest shooting schedule. We did two 12-hour days of shooting and then editing is just crazy. [CMF] is the only time I work ahead for classwork so I can do the film work when it’s time. This year I felt a bit more prepared, but last year I was up for 70 hours straight, it was crazy. This was my fourth year doing CMF. The first year wasn’t so serious, I didn’t really know all the things going into it. Like, some of my footsteps weren’t synced for my first film and that kind of bothered me every time I watched it, and now we spend two and a half days just on sound.
I got an LLC for my own production company, so I’m trying to do some freelance through that. There’s some local houses around here that do good production, so I might try to get a couple years of experience through them and then possibly transfer to somewhere like Atlanta. [A director role] would be amazing, but there’s so many people part of a set so I would be happy just finding something there. I do love cinematography, making things look good, and I feel like that comes with my graphic design background.