The Reel Stories Film Festival: An Update

Several of my former students at Pepperdine recently created and planned the first annual Reel Stories Film Festival. As I wrote on this blog back in January, I loved their vision for a student film festival devoted to short films with a social conscience. I know these students, and they are people of passion, intelligence and integrity. I knew it would be a special night, and it was. Our judges included director Ron Howard, Pepperdine professors Tom Shadyack and Craig Detweiler, and my friend Bobette Buster of USC. One of my former students who planned the event, Katie Stjernholm, reported back to me about the event:

“Hundreds of students mingled under a large white tent and visited various booths that promoted everything from raw food, Indian Rickshaw Races, The “Green Team”, an organization called the Kind Campaign (, a Burma Awareness Group, and Invisible Children. The air was filled with music from student performers and people strolled through exhibits that featured the works of over 30 artists on campus. There was a red carpet, coffee trucks, and over 45 volunteers in black “JAN22” shirts helping everybody get to where they needed to be. Both auditoriums, seating over 950 people in total were filled to the brim. The first hour was devoted to showing the top 8 student short films, which had been prejudged by the panel of judges. Two feature films, “The Human Experience” and “Red Gold” followed the showcase. Randall Wallace interviewed the lead actors for “The Human Experience”, and Tom interviewed the directors of “Red Gold.” The discussions were thought-provoking and inspirational. The final stretch of the evening was devoted to the Awards Ceremony. Hundreds of people gathered and mingled over pita & hummus, anxiously waiting for the winners to be announced. Jonah Nolan and Roko Belic, two of our judges, handed out Awards for the Grand Prize Selection, Audience Choice, Excellence in Cinematography, and the REEL Cause Award. [Students] JJ Starr, Jeff Loveness, and Austin Chapman cleaned house 🙂 It was a powerful moment to experience students celebrating the talents of other students. The energy was unmatched. The excitement, the enthusiasm, and the curiosity was unparalleled.”

I am thrilled for Pepperdine, for the vision that fueled this event, and for the creative efforts of our students. The dreams of many were realized, and another foundation was laid for a world class media program.

If you would like to see some of the outstanding short films from our students, you can here:


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