Filmmakers Share Their Widescreen Dreams
A group of 10 emerging filmmakers, all graduating seniors, will present their thesis projects during "I Dream in Widescreen," an annual thesis film competition.

By Lisa Pierce, UA School of Theatre, Film and Television
April 19, 2017


Many students who have presented their work during the annual film competition have gone on to work in the film industry.
Many students who have presented their work during the annual film competition have gone on to work in the film industry. (Photo credit: Jack Alexander Jr.)

Emerging filmmaker Stacy Howard, who will graduate from the University of Arizona during the 153rd Commencement ceremony on May 12, produced a short film for her senior thesis about a young girl who must live with her traditional Navajo grandmother as a punishment.

Fellow graduating senior Elen Tekle produced an emotional short about two friends, Liza and Johanna, and their reconnection after a challenging occurance.

Two more emerging filmmakers, David Kitaeff and Jack Alexander, did not write or direct their own films, but provided their respective editing and cinematography talents to several of their classmates.

The work of these and other graduating film students will be presented during "I Dream in Widescreen," an annual thesis film competition. The April 29 event will be held at 7 p.m. at the Fox Tucson Theatre, representing the culmination of students' work on their short senior thesis films.

The event, which is open to the public, is a first look before some of the films are screened at national and international festivals.

"I'm really excited," said Howard, whose film is entirely in the Navajo language. Her senior film is about a young girl who gets suspended from grade school and is then forced by her mother to stay with her grandmother as punishment.

As a Navajo born in Mexican Water, Arizona, Howard said that the young girl in her film ends up learning quite a bit about the Navajo culture. Howard wanted to focus on traditional themes to inform others of Navajo traditions as well. 

  • The competition will be judged by:
  • Katie Walsh, a Los Angeles-based film critic and journalist.
  • Lars Kelto, the technology director, shorts programmer and animator for Michael Moore's Traverse City Film Festival.
  • UA alumnus Mike Plante, who earned his degree in media arts and is now a senior programmer for the Sundance Film Festival.

Students will compete for the Fancy New Filmmaker Award and the Other World Computing Award for Excellence in Editing, in addition to other awards.

The 10 emerging filmmakers have immersed themselves in the sometimes solitary, often vulnerable, process of scriptwriting for months.

Draft after draft was shared with professors and classmates for constructive criticism until they felt they had a solid story to which they could proudly tether their name. Then they began fundraising to support the costs of their films.

After that, they figured out their crew and cast, had a shoot that took three or four full days, planned craft services and underwent the grueling and rewarding task of editing.

And the students did not merely make films about college life. They went deeper.

"We have some really, really good stories. It's a wide range of emotions that you'll feel in about an hour and a half," said senior filmmaker Ricardo Salcido, who wrote and directed the Tarantino-esque "Gun-Crossed Lovers."

Among this year's imaginative and diverse thesis films is a timely and moving story about an undocumented immigrant mother, by Tanya Núñez, called "Dios Nunca Muere," or "God Never Dies," which tells about the sacrifices a mother makes to provide for her young daughter.

Another film, "Pizza," by Evan Colten, is a mystery-comedy about cheating students and a teacher who is determined to find out their method. Christopher Claxton, the great grandson of film director William F. Claxton, is presenting a late 19th-century western, "Retribution," which tells the story of a trusting boy who gets a taste of lawless life and follows the path of the wicked.

"I know my classmates and I are really looking forward to sharing 'I Dream in Widescreen' with anyone who loves movies," said graduating senior filmmaker Margaret (Maggie) Adams, writer and director of the short film, "Glass," about a young woman who learns to be grateful for the simple things in her life.

Graduates of the UA's film and television program have gone on to be successful in writing, directing, development, production, talent management, cinematography and special effects.

Notable alumni include Ari Sandel, who worked on "West Bank Story;" producer Scott Stuber, who has worked on "Ted" and "The Third Wheel;'" 20th Century Fox's visual FX executive John Kilkenny, who has worked on "X-Men," "Life of Pi" and "Titanic;" and Kendall Aliment Ostrow, a digital agent for United Talent Agency.

"The growing quality of this work by our students is bringing increasing distinction to not only the filmmakers, but also to the faculty, the School of Theatre Film and Television and the University of Arizona," said Bruce Brockman, the school's director.

"National and international film festivals and industry partners are continuing to take note of this amazing film work," Brockman said.

The event is made possible with support from the UA School of Theatre Film and Television's student differential tuition funds, the UA Hanson Film Institute, the UA Student/Faculty Interaction Grants Program, the Fox Tucson Theatre and Ricoh.

Sponsors include Rica and Harvey Spivack; Fancy Film Post; Entertainment Partners, the creator of Movie Magic Budgeting and Scheduling; Film Tucson; Neil Benton Arts & Entertainment; Pollution Studios; Other World Computing; and the UA Hanson Film Institute. Some of the sponsors are offering awards to celebrate the film students' accomplishments and help them continue to make films.

View the "I Dream in Widescreen" trailer:

Extra info


"I Dream in Widescreen"


Fox Tucson Theatre, 17 W. Congress St.


April 29 at 7 p.m. (doors open at 6 p.m.)

Tickets for the event may be purchased in advance at the UA Fine Arts Box Office from noon to 4 p.m. on weekdays, or online. For more information, call 520-621-1162. Tickets are $5.

Please visit for film stills, filmmaker and juror bios and photos, and other information.

Also, the UA's 153rd Commencement ceremony will be held May 12 at 7:30 p.m. at Arizona Stadium.

Event details are available online for:

Also, follow Commencement coverage on Twitter and share using #Beardownlife


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Lisa Pierce

UA School of Theatre Film and Television