Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Film student wins Student Audience Choice Eddy Award in the 2024 CRIFF

Addon Rodgers

Cedar Rapids Film Festival (CRIFF) holds an annual event that allows independent filmmakers to submit their work to be showcased. This year, they had over 100 entries, with 57 selections in multiple categories, including “student,” which worked perfectly for Matthew Chezum.

This was Chezum’s first film festival. The event was held from April 5 to April 7, ending with an award ceremony on the final day. Chezum was very happy to bring home the award “Audience Choice” in the student category for his short film “S’mores.” The stop-motion film follows a marshmallow village who has just convicted a fellow villager of witchcraft. The marshmallows gather around while the witch burns at stake, a reference to the 1692 Salem witch trials. As the accused marshmallow burns, the scene slowly transitions to a couple roasting the marshmallow over a campfire for a s’more.

Chezum, now a junior, came to Augustana as a Biology major before quickly finding his passion in film by taking a course during his First-Year J-term in the entertainment media department. Chezum remembers working with a local musician and creating a music video in the course From Song to Screen.

“I loved every part of it, the production, being creative. It was really my first taste of what film production is, and it was awesome,” Chezum said. “I was thinking I kinda want to do this, so for film, I did a couple ENTM courses and then found out about the Film major and I was like this sounds great.”  

Director and Professor of Film, Stacy Barton, sent the application link to Chezum to submit “S’mores” in the student category because she felt that his quality in film had potential to be a part of this experience.  

“He is a very confident student and a born mentor,” Barton said. “He has the capacity, skills and patience to be a mentor. He’s not there to step on anybody’s toes.”  

Eric Dean Freese, the festival director, immediately took notice of “S’mores” when it was submitted to them. Chezum’s film made a great impression amongst the staff of the festival where the stop motion picture was out of the ordinary compared to what the other film submissions are.

“I remember when it first came in, and I saw this one, it was something clever. It was something different than what we normally show,” Freese said. “I hope I see more of Matt’s work in the future.”  

Chezum is not stopping with “S’mores.” Being at CRIFF gave him the chance to network with fellow student filmmakers, other directors and individuals that have more experience in the film industry.  

Chezum said the interactions he had through the process helped him receive invitations to other film festivals in the upcoming year. 

Chezum currently has a long-term plan to create a featured film, which is still in the pre-production process.  

“The one thing as a student you can control is the story,” Chezum said. “You don’t have access to big costumes, you don’t have access to amazing locations. There’s a lot of things that A-listers can get, but it’s all money. You can create a great film without all that. You can’t control everything else but you can control your story.” 

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