UTPA student produced film wins Lone Star EMMY
Posted: 12/20/2007
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A film produced by Reel to Red (R2R) Productions, an eight-member student production company and internship program at The University of Texas-Pan American, has recently won its first Lone Star EMMY in the category of Student Production Non-News.

With this statewide EMMY win, the film, titled "Dead Letter," is now eligible for the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation College Television awards according to R2R's director, Chelse Benham, also a radio/TV & film specialist V in UTPA's Office of University Relations.

Pictured accepting the Lone Star EMMY are (left to right) R2R student production team members Victor Ituarte and Oscar Garza; R2R director Chelse Benham; and student production team member Nate Garcia. Other R2R student production team members not pictured who worked on "Dead Letter" include Alexis Carranza, Javeria Farooqi, Andrea Fuentes, and Josh Cantu.
Benham said "Dead Letter" was a collaborative effort between R2R Productions and the University's TRIO Programs, which provide educational opportunity outreach programs designed to motivate and support students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

"In the film, college and high school students are used as both crew and cast. The project was designed to teach high school students the art of film making," she said.

Since its official release this past summer, the student produced film has received national and international recognition winning a Videographer's Excellence Award, an Aurora Platinum Award, an AVA award from the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals and the McAllen Art and Film Festival Audience Award for Best Feature Film by a Student. It is also currently entered in three more international film competitions including the Basel Karlsruhe Forum on Educational Societal TV & Media in Germany.

The hour long film includes a story segment centered on a pregnant high school student who is being abused by her controlling boyfriend. The young woman must find the strength to break away from the relationship in search of her dream to go to college. The film then segues into victim and prison inmate testimonials dealing with real life situations aligned with the messages in the film. The film concludes with the behind-the-scenes making of the film that includes interviews from the participating students.

Benham said "Dead Letter" was created as a "trigger" film targeted for distribution nationally to TRIO programs such as Upward Bound, Upward Bound Math Science, Talent Search and Student Support Services as well as to high schools and social service agencies.

"We see it as a tool or 'trigger' to initiate dialogue between students and counselors addressing such issues as the value of a college education, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, domestic violence and driving while intoxicated," she said.

The film has a companion facilitator's guide produced by UTPA's Talent Search TRIO program. In addition, R2R Productions produced the University's first comic book based on the film. The DVD and facilitator's guide will be packaged as a kit to help TRIO staff, counselors and teachers lead discussions with teenagers regarding these issues. The "Dead Letter" comic book will be priced separately as a stand-alone piece.

R2R Productions has had previous success with its first film production "Going Nowhere," which won three national awards, including a Telly Award. It was also nominated for a 2005 Lone Star EMMY and was chosen as UTPA's entry in the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board's College for Texans video competition.

For more information on the kit, contact Sonia Del Angel, UTPA Educational Talent Search director, at 956/292-7593.