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#REELSQUAD wins 72-hour film contest

 Kaitlin Vu, director of ‘Choose Wisely’ spreads fake blood on her victim, in preparation for a scene.
Kaitlin Vu, director of ‘Choose Wisely’ spreads fake blood on her victim, in preparation for a scene.

Have you ever watched a horror movie that has kept you on your toes from the opening scene until the ending credits? Now, imagine those emotions, surprises and shocks being rolled into five minutes and one scene.

This is exactly what happened during Lamar University’s 72-hour short film challenge. Three teams consisting of students across all departments came together for 72-hours worth of filmmaking and the results ended up with one winner on top — #REELSQUAD.

#REELSQUAD consisted of six students who produced “Choose Wisely,” a short film about a routine murder gone wrong.

“In the beginning, it starts with a male killer and he sees a woman walk into her house and he follows her,” cinematographer Valarie Flores said. “It’s a classical serial killer movie, where he is going to walk in and kill her. But, when he breaks into her house he finds a notebook while she’s out in the hallway and sees drawings of dead bodies and suddenly he’s like, ‘What did I walk into?’

“The woman is about to walk out and he runs to the garage and starts looking through all the stuff until he finds a paper with a bunch of names on it. His name is at the very bottom and all the names are crossed out but his. So, of course, he freaks out and then he finds a dead body in the garage. Then, he really starts to freak out and while he’s looking at the body, the woman comes in, turns the light on and ends up killing him — it’s a plot twist. He chose the wrong house, but he didn’t know, and the audience didn’t know until the very end.”

Flores and director Kaitlin Vu said that the film was a lot of fun to shoot, but also very difficult because of the time restraints and rules.

The film had to follow certain guidelines — all planning, shooting and editing had to be done with 72-hours from the start of the race. The film had to follow within the horror genre, use two additional elements and be shot only on a cellphone.

“There were two elements of the film we had to have,” Vu said. “We had to pick out of two buckets where we would see one prop that we had to use in our film. It didn’t have to be a big part, but it had to be in the film. We picked notebook paper and that was the list of names we had in the film.

“The second was a quote we had to use from a classic horror movie and we got, ‘I see dead people.’ We incorporated that, it wasn’t a large part but we used it in one line. Of course, we used blood props and a fake knife. We also found props to use like a baseball bat that we found at my uncle and aunt’s house, so we used that as a weapon, too.”

Flores said the movie had to be around five minutes long and her team spent a lot of time deciding on the plot before beginning production.

“We had to figure out a way to put something scary or spooky together in five minutes and have it make sense,” she said. “We were trying to figure out whether there should be a motive for the killer, but ended up deciding not to because then we would have to do a background and that would take up more time.

“I kind of thought of the whole stalker thing and I wanted to bring more of a comedy into it, but everyone else was like, ‘No, we don’t want comedy.’ I’m not sure how, but, finally, we just came up with the whole killer ends up walking into the wrong house thing.”

Vu said the first thing they all agreed on was having the main character be a female serial killer.

Valarie Flores, cinemotographer and actor, rehearses her scene.
Valarie Flores, cinemotographer and actor, rehearses her scene.

“At first we wanted a female killer, so that was something that we had already decided on,” she said. “At one point we were going to toss in a vampire, but then we decided against it. It actually took about an hour to decide because we kept butting heads. We wanted it to be different than your regular killer film, but everything has been done. So, we decided to do the classical victim being targeted by a serial killer.”

Vu said the hardest obstacle came when all their actors kept cancelling on the film, so they had to use their crewmembers as actors.

“Unfortunately, we couldn’t find actual actors in time that said that they would do it,” she said. “So instead we used crewmembers including Valarie as the female killer and Joseph (Brooks) as the male killer. We used one of our other crewmembers as the dead body, but that was basically it.”

Flores said it became tricky to be both the cinematographer and a main actor.

“I was originally supposed to be (just) the cinematographer, but sometimes I would have to be on camera,” she said. “I had to figure out the angles and tell Kaitlin what I wanted and then go back in front of the camera. It made it a lot harder, but we got it done and we still won.”

Both Vu and Flores said they were shocked to find out their team had won the challenge, but were excited nonetheless.

“There were some good film makers and competitors in our class,” Vu said. “The other teams were good as well, so it was exciting that we got to win,especially with all the debate on what we were going to do.”

“It was weird to see, because when we were on set we had our problems,” Flores added. “Sometimes, there would be little debates on things we didn’t agree on until we got it done. We didn’t really expect to get first place, but it was really exciting. It makes us feel proud that after all that work people appreciated the film and that we tried.”

The team consisted of all film majors including Devin Spell as editor, and Jeniah Clarke and Jadon Elliot as extras and personal assistants.

To view the winning film visit:

Story by Cassandra Jenkins, UP editor

Category: Features