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WKU Film students compete in Coca-Cola Refreshing Films program

Kayden Mulrooney
Nico Silverthorn and Haley Magnuson listen to assistant film professor Shaina Feldman address concerns about budgeting during a meeting about the Coca-Cola Refreshing Films program in Jody Richards Hall on Sept. 14, 2023. If selected as a finalist, students will receive $20K to produce their short film.

WKU film students are competing with over 50 schools for an opportunity to produce a film that will be shown in theaters across North America. 

For the past 25 years, the Coca-Cola Refreshing Films program has partnered with schools to give up-and-coming filmmakers a chance to gain real world experience in creating branded content. 

Students participating in the program will take part in a scripting challenge where they submit a script about “a moment in time that demonstrates the real magic of going to the movies,” according to Coca-Cola Refreshing Films. All films are to take place in a movie theater. 

The deadline for students to apply is Oct. 10, Coca Refreshing Films said on social media. Up to four finalists selected will receive $20,000 to fund their 30-second short film.

Prior to submitting their applications and scripts, WKU students will have the chance to pitch ideas to professionals at Coca-Cola on Sept. 28 so they can receive feedback and amend their scripts. 

Selected finalists will be responsible for casting and budgeting their films, Shaina Feldman, visiting professional advising the program at WKU, said. Students will have access to professional equipment and program mentorship during the script, editing and filmmaking process. 

A panel of industry professionals will provide feedback on the films and select the Red Ribbon Panel Grand Prize, according to the Refreshing Films website. The winning film will be screened in Coca-Cola partnered theaters like Cinemark Theaters, AMC Theatres, Megaplex Theatres, Landmark Cinemas, and Cineplex Cinemas.

All finalist films will be hosted online, and moviegoers will be able to vote on which film is their favorite. The film with the most votes will receive the Cinemark Fan Favorite Award, and the winning team will receive $5,000. 

Many WKU film students have already begun the script writing process, and they are eager for the opportunity to become a finalist. 

For the 2023 program, Haley Magnuson, a sophomore film student, was chosen alongside their partner Misha Bondarenko as a semi-finalist. 

Before starting at WKU, Magnuson’s hobby was making short videos and editing them together. 

During COVID-19, as Magnuson was editing a video, their mom suggested that they could go into the film industry. 

“I thought yeah, that’s it,” Magnuson said. “It stuck with me, and I have dedicated the majority of my time to watching films, listening to podcasts, reading books about old and new filmmakers and looking at cinematographers.”

Magnuson said that as a semi-finalist, the Coca-Cola program offered support in the script editing process and introduced them to mentors that they really admire.

This year, Magnuson has teamed up with Nico Silverthorn to write and produce a film for the 2024 program, and they have already prepared three scripts to pitch to Coca-Cola at the end of the month. 

“I love creating worlds that expand human imagination and are rooted in the truth of human experiences,” Magnuson said. 

Freshman film students Hallie Stafford and Gerrick Gann are also pairing up to create a script for the program. 

“This is my first year in the film program, and I really want to get into the BFA next year,” Stafford said. “I always knew I wanted to be a cinematographer and that I wanted to work behind the scenes. I learned about this program and thought it would be a great experience.”

The Coca-Cola Refreshing Films program will announce 15 semi-finalist teams on Oct. 27, and semi-finalists will have until Nov. 5 to revise scripts, work on brand integration and present portfolios. 

The four selected finalists will be determined and notified on Nov. 22. 

News reporter Madison Carter can be reached at [email protected].

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