Facebook pixel Dynamic Student Storytelling at the Core of Pepperdine’s ReelStories Film Festival | Newsroom | Pepperdine University Skip to main content
Pepperdine University

Dynamic Student Storytelling at the Core of Pepperdine’s ReelStories Film Festival

The ReelStories Film Festival

On Friday, February 9, 2024, Pepperdine's Student Programming Board hosted the 15th annual ReelStories Film Festival, a student-led opportunity for undergraduate filmmakers to showcase their creative prowess through the captivating art of short films. This year’s theme, “Storytelling Is Connection” celebrated the essential role storytelling plays in sharing all aspects of the human experience.

The event featured screenings of nine short films produced by current Seaver College students, including Windows by Liam Zieg, Enjoy the Silence by Karlina Zanetti, Coffee Date by Perse Klopp, Cast by Lorenzo Mars, The Big Stick by Dawson Storrs and Elan Nicol, Hidden Joy by Sydney Jean-Simon and Annika Huckeba, Disconnected by Hali Orefice, Undefeated by Nick Yi, and When a Fire Starts to Burn by Sophie Kairis. A panel of judges—composed of industry leaders, Pepperdine alumni, and fellow filmmakers—screened and reviewed the short films and presented awards spotlighting the students’ creative and technological accomplishments. 

Orefice’s film Disconnected, which explored the unexpected impact of today’s technology on human behavior, earned five awards, including Best Picture and Best Screenplay. Orefice, an avid participant in the festival since her first year at Seaver, feels that ReelStories is an important outlet for aspiring storytellers, allowing them to share their work within a critical yet receptive environment. “It's such a beautiful opportunity for filmmakers that are still experimenting with style and discovering their place in this industry.” She adds, “This event offers participants a legitimate film festival experience while providing a safe and nurturing environment for students to showcase their art.”

The festival was founded in 2010 by a group of students seeking to use the art of film to incite change, spark conversations, and explore varied perspectives. It was inspired by a trip made the previous year by former professor and feature film director Tom Shadyac and several Pepperdine undergraduates to Telluride, Colorado’s Mountainfilm, a documentary film festival that showcases stories about contemporary social issues. The students were deeply moved by the documentaries and wanted to create a similar experience on the Pepperdine campus that put students at the forefront.

A dedicated team of festival directors was formed, and the inaugural festival attracted more than 1,200 guests, showing both student films and carefully selected feature-length documentaries. Judges for the student films included Tom Shadyac, Christopher Nolan, Jonah Nolan, and Ron Howard. 

Pepperdine’s ReelStories Film Festival continues to thrive thanks to the dedication of its organizers, the creativity of its filmmakers, and the support of all who attend. Anita Rodriguez and Faith Chang, co-executive directors of the festival and members of the Student Programming Board,emphasize that it’s a celebration of creativity and passion that brings the Pepperdine community together.

"The ReelStories Film Festival transcends the simple act of sitting in a theatre and watching short films,” shares Rodriguez. “It's about the shared moments of laughter, sadness, and contemplation as we delve into the diverse narratives and perspectives depicted in each film. It's a chance for emerging filmmakers to shine and for us in the audience to feel inspired, challenged, or touched by their work.”

Chang adds, "This is a special event, as it truly celebrates the essentiality of storytelling to our humanity. It brings together our Pepperdine community for a night of glamor and prestige, while enjoying films that our own members have prepared. This year’s theme, “Storytelling Is Connection,” emphasized the desire and need for connection through creative expression.”

Festival award-winner Orefice looks forward to continuing her filmmaking journey at Pepperdine and commends both the University and the festival for offering programs and academic experiences that will help her be successful in her career. 

“I've already grown so much since coming to Pepperdine,” she says. I can recognize the differences in my composition, style, work ethic, and approach to filmmaking that have arisen out of the opportunities I’ve had here.” Orefice adds, “The courses and professors are so good; the work we are doing really prepares us for the industry and makes me excited for the future.”