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November 25, 2020   |   Ithaca, NY

Life & Culture

Student film becomes Coca-Cola Refreshing Films finalist

The ticket booth may have been closed on the night of Feb. 5, but the lights shined brighter than ever inside Regal Ithaca Mall. This was where a group of Ithaca College students had an overnight shoot for its short film, “The Friday Film Five,” one of the finalists for the Coca-Cola Refreshing Films program. Over the course of the six-month program, students are given the opportunity to bring their visions to reality — and possibly to the big screen.

Every year, five scripts written by students from across the country are chosen for the contest. “The Friday Film Five,” written and directed by rising senior Abby Hauptman and produced by rising senior Desiree Tolchin, is about a girl who uses her love for movies to make new connections with friends by forming her own movie crew. 

“This project has truly been a labor of love for me,” Hauptman said. “A film about the magic of the moviegoing experience is something close to my heart because I grew up loving going to the movie theater. It was a grand adventure I’d always look forward to. So, naturally, writing a film that captures that magic was something that came easy to me.”

This was Hauptman’s second time participating in the contest. in 2018 she made it to the semi-final round, along with raising seniors Eva Kirie and Clara Montague who went on to win the contest with their film “The Library”.

Hauptman and Tolchin flew to Los Angeles last December to participate in a multiday kickoff event and training session hosted by Coca-Cola. To produce the film, the duo received $15,000, along with access to industry-level equipment and software from the contest’s technical partners Deluxe EFILM, RED and ZEISS. 

As a cinema and photography major, Tolchin spends most of her weekends at school on a film set, but she said this was a vastly different experience. She said it was challenging being a student and producing the film at the same time.

“One week I’m worried about writing an essay and studying for a test, but, on top of that, I had to make sure that we had the proper paperwork like COIs [Certificates of Insurance] in at a specific time,” Tolchin said. “This was a strange balance for me at first, but eventually I got the hang of it. It was super rewarding because it gave me the ability to do something that I never knew was possible for me to achieve.”

Tolchin said that without the help of the 50-plus members on her team, the project would not have been nearly as successful as it was. Most of the crew consisted of students, along with a few faculty members, that all had diverse degrees of experience working on film sets.

Christina Ruivivar ’20, the main actress in the film, said her time on set kept her on her toes. 

“It was a really cool experience to be in the center of all the action,” Ruivivar said. “There were lots of people on set, which can sometimes be a little chaotic, but everyone was so skilled and professional at what they did that it didn’t feel overwhelming at all.”

Ruivivar said that despite all of the moving parts, Hauptman’s direction made working on the set seamless.

“She’s one of the best people I’ve worked with at IC,” Ruivivar said. “She was always checking in with the actors, making sure we knew what was up and that we felt good about everything. She balances her time and energy on set so seamlessly and with such joy.”

Kirsten Poulos ’20 was in charge of hair and makeup for the shoot. She said that one of the most rewarding moments was when the shoot wrapped.

“All of your energy spikes, and you get to all celebrate the hours of work you just put in,” Poulous said.

Even though the final cut is only 35 seconds in length, Hauptman said the process of leading this project was far from easy.

“I gained real-world experience working with a big brand client like Coca-Cola,” Hauptman said. “Managing a large budget, handling day-to-day logistics for the project, planning out all creative aspects of the film and so much more. It has been months of working and reworking the story.”

On May 1, Park Productions hosted a livestream watch party on Zoom in which viewers were able to connect with the creators, crew and producers of “The Friday Film Five.” The team screened behind-the-scenes videos with Hauptman and Tolchin as well as glimpses of postproduction and the color grading process. Approximately 80 people joined the Zoom call.

The films made with the Coca-Cola Refreshing Films program are judged by a panel of industry professionals called the Red Ribbon Panel. After evaluating the final five films, it picks one grand prize winner. In the past, grand prizes have included professional filmmaking equipment for schools and having the winning ads shown on the big screen. Within the next few weeks, the winner of the contest will be announced. 

“Having this opportunity at such a young age is a dream come true,” Hauptman said. “The knowledge and skills we’ve gained from this experience are invaluable, and I will be so much more prepared for any set I work on in the future.”

A former version of this article stated that Hauptman worked on Kirie and Montague’s film, “The Library”. She was a semifinalist in that year’s competition. 

Antonio Ferme can be reached at aferme@ithaca.edu