By Giovanna Vicini

I was hungry, sleep-deprived and sore, with only enough energy to think of one short mantra to keep myself calm in the wings of the Campbell Hall stage: “Don’t look out, don’t look out.”

Suddenly, my impulsivity got the best of me, and I found myself sneakily tugging at the nearest curtains to peek out at the audience attending the 27th Annual Reel Loud Film & Arts Festival. Hundreds of faces stared past me, waiting to be entertained by the event that I had organized with the help of 25 of my peers. My whole body went cold as I felt an emotion somewhere between anxiety and pride. As the house lights dimmed, I walked onstage to start hosting the night’s show.

Giovanna Vicini hosted the 27th Annual Reel Loud Film & Arts Festival onstage at Campbell Hall in May 2018.

Giovanna Vicini hosted the 27th Annual Reel Loud Film & Arts Festival onstage at Campbell Hall in May 2018.

I consider that evening in May 2018 and the months of work leading up to it to be some of the most memorable and impactful experiences of my life. Taking charge of the long-running community festival housed within the Department of Film & Media Studies pushed me to what I had thought were my utmost limits.

The unique annual program combines an art exhibition, red-carpet reception, film festival, and stage show into one event, and features 12 silent short films screened with live musical accompaniment on-stage.

I took responsibility for a range of tasks that I had never tackled before, including running a $15,000 budget, rebranding an entire organization, and coordinating a large team of committee members, performers, artists, filmmakers and musicians.

My teammates and I led the organization toward record-breaking growth, achieving Reel Loud’s most competitive year to date. We received more film submissions than ever collected in the organization’s history and exhibited original work from 22 artists and over 40 live performers. I realize that many of the leadership skills I gained are not usually taught in traditional classroom settings, and I am grateful that I had the chance to learn them through my involvement with Reel Loud and other extracurricular activities within the Film and Media Studies department.

My fellow majors possess a type of ambition that you can almost feel radiating through the halls of the department. It’s not uncommon to spend countless nights in committee meetings and devote entire weekends to filming shoots that span from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles. My peers and I have produced short films in a variety of genres, represented UCSB at renowned film festivals and organized events such as the Women in Media Conference and Word Farm, which all connect students with experienced film and media professionals.

This student crew attended the world premiere of their short film,  Déjà Vu,  at the 2017 Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

This student crew attended the world premiere of their short film, Déjà Vu, at the 2017 Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

I have spent more time facilitating team meetings and filming content in the Pollock Theater soundstage than I have ever spent sitting in a lecture hall. Yet it’s these moments where I had the chance to bring something to life with my classmates that stand out the most when I reflect on my college experience.

Before I began college four years ago, I never dreamed of being able to pull off something as large-scale as the Reel Loud Film & Arts Festival. I didn’t even think opportunities to participate in such a dynamic and creative project would arise. But at the end of that night in May, as my peers joined me on the Campbell Hall stage to bask in a thunderstorm of applause, I realized that every person sitting out in the audience was present solely because 25 passionate students had devoted their free time toward putting on a show for their community.

At that moment, my feeling of anxiety finally slipped away and I was left with one undeniable feeling – overwhelming pride for what my team had been through, what we had learned, and what we had accomplished.

Giovanna Vicini is a fourth-year Film & Media Studies and Communication double major. She is graduating this June and will be participating in the Television Academy Foundation’s Internship Program this summer.