SMU premieres four student films at film festival

A collection of people from different walks of life came together at the North Texas Universities Film Festival on Thursday under one common bond: a love of film. It felt like a social event at the beginning, with lots of conversation and greeting one another; this is truly where the creator meets their audience. But once the films began, the room fell silent, everyone’s eyes glued to the screen, consuming the stories presented in front of them.

On Thursday evening, 4 SMU students premiered films at the North Texas Universities Film Festival in Richardson, which the university hosted. These films were entitled, The Pink Monkey by Qi Su, The End by Grace Maddox, April 26th by Jaisan Avery, and You, Me, And The Moon by Sarah Kachelhofer, while six other films came from UTA and UNT. The regional film festival aims to bring some exposure to the movies students are creating in the Dallas area and help students pursuing a career in film build their résumés.

One unique thing about each film was the diverse point of view of each filmmaker. No story was alike and each had a different medium of inspiration. Qi Su, SMU senior and writer and director of The Pink Monkey, found her inspiration from one of her close friends’ experiences during COVID.

“Those two years were the darkest time of her life,” Qi Su said of her friend, “she had been through some family drama and then she had severe depression, but when I met her she already worked out of it.”

Her friend began to tell Qi about all the changes that came from those rough few years, but that’s when Qi had an epiphany, “So many things happen to everyone in their secret lives and then I just think I got inspired…”

Qi began writing with her friend’s story as a blueprint and ended up with The Pink Monkey, a story about a high school girl attending a new school following the loss of her best friend.

Evan looks out the window at the world around him hours before a meteor hits Earth in Maddox's film.
Evan looks out the window at the world around him hours before a meteor hits Earth in Maddox's film. Photo credit: Brian Richardson

Writer and director of The End, Grace Maddox, found her inspiration in music during a screenwriting course. Her assignment was to listen to music and journal her thoughts. Grace stumbled upon some apocalyptic music, and her storyline came to mind.

“(I) had this image of these people dancing at the end of the world, which was (about) two friends in the apocalypse with a suicide pact.”

However, the completed film is about two lovers at the world’s end. This change in the story did not come from Grace directly, but her friends could sense this in her writing.

“Everyone who read it was like,’Grace, they’re in love’,” said Grace. After some debate, Grace realized this and led her to make the film what it is today: a story about a couple dancing as a meteor heads to Earth, about to end all life.

The film festival allowed the students to share their work in a movie theater, a space reserved for the best of the best, and the opportunity to meet other local filmmakers and share perspectives. Each perspective is different; The Pink Monkey is nothing like The End, but both films were brought together and celebrated on Thursday as great pieces of art that usher in a new generation of artists. These artists are inspired to make their work, which inspires the world around them.