Amanda Walton’s love for film started her freshman year of high school. Growing up in Salt Lake City, she often made videos with the family, but never considered the possibility of it as a profession until high school, when she saw the film Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl.
“That movie impacted me so much,” said Amanda. “I totally lost it in the theater because I was so overwhelmed with the feeling of how important film is to the world.”
Amanda began making films and even started a film club in high school before coming to Southern Utah University as a communication major.
The idea to create a student film festival at SUU took root when Amanda discovered a community of students with a passion for film, but no outlet. Working on an independent study in Spring 2018 with Gavin Feller, assistant professor of Communication Studies and Media Studies, Amanda set out to organize and produce the Thunderbird Film Festival, an evening for student-made films to be screened and recognized. With Feller’s guidance, Amanda determined the format she wanted for the event, pulling inspiration from other film festivals she had attended.
Planning a film festival near the end of the school year is no easy task. Amanda worked closely with Professor Feller to plan and advertise the event. In the space of three weeks, Amanda secured a venue in the Sharwan Smith theater, gathered the equipment needed for the screening, promoted the event on campus and social media, and even had a trophy made for the first place winner. The festival received and screened 13 entries from SUU students, spanning a variety of genres including documentary, drama, horror, and thriller. In addition to the film screenings, Amanda also invited Anthony Ambriz, a digital content consultant, to speak at the event.
Amanda said that the greatest reward was meeting a community of people at SUU who have the same passions as she does.
“I loved meeting everyone at the event and providing a way for talented students at our school to be recognized,” said Amanda. “The festival made me really excited to see what comes next for the filmmakers at SUU.”
After the success of this year’s turnout, Amanda plans to make the T-Bird Film Fest an annual event. “It’s important for students to have an outlet for creative expression of film,” said Amanda. “There are so many people at SUU like me who want to keep making films and meet fellow filmmakers, but we just don’t have resources or opportunities available to do that. Film is a form of art that unites and we need to keep a community at SUU of those who value that art.”