Student filmmakers debut on the big screen: Here’s what to expect

Please join us for a screening of the films at the Fremont Theater!

A program of short films written, produced, and directed by Cal Poly students that explore stories of friendship, laughter, conflict, and discovery. All shorts were made by students in Art 483 Advanced Digital Video (James Werner) and ISLA 341 Cinematic Process (Randi Barros) in collaboration. 


Original Story by Sarina Grossi - Mustang News

Nine years ago, when Filmmaker Randi Barros was a new professor at Cal Poly, she was approached by the former Director of the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival, Wendy Eidson. The film festival had been popular except in one demographic — students. Eidson asked if she had any ideas for getting students in the festival’s seats.

“So I said, “Well, we make films in our class, will there be any chance we could show them at the film festival?’” Barros said. “And she loved the idea.”

Cal Poly Short Cuts had been born. Short Cuts is the collaboration between Barros’s Cinematic Process Class and Art and Design Professor James Werner’s Advanced Video Production class. During the winter quarter of the academic year, students enrolled create a short film over a six-week period that is then presented in the SLO Film Festival.

Before filming, the students in Barros’ class pitch a script they wrote to the group, who then vote on which ones they would like to help produce.

Journalism senior Brianna Grossman, wrote and directed the film The Clay Teapot, which deals with themes of grief and family conflict.

“I’m just like super fascinated with family dynamics and I know how complicated they can be,” Grossman said.

This year, eight films were produced.


The Lineup

Amor Prohibido

This film follows Pilar, who grapples with her queer identity in the confines of her Catholic and Hispanic upbringing. She embarks on a journey of reconciling her true self with religion.


An aspiring law student’s disheveled ex-boyfriend enlists her help after he comes to her door late at night, possibly risking her career.


An A-student tries to earn her teacher’s respect but must deal with her Irritable Bowel Syndrome and his strict bathroom rules.

June in Summer

A young girl with a desire to grow up is conflicted as she recognizes the happiness and freedom of childhood.

Olive Branch

A young woman must confront her past after her mother passes away, struggling to figure out if she should accept her mother.

The Clay Teapot

Two brothers clean out their sibling’s house after he passes away, uncovering truths about their childhood and reexamining their upbringings.

Thieves on Bicycles

In a heist for a strange object, one thief begins to change his views on morality and is challenged by his crime partner.

When Life Gives You Apples

With a roommate who’s her polar opposite, a Texas-born college student navigates school while building an unlikely friendship.



During the production, the students took on multiple roles, from director to director of photography to audio engineer. Once roles are decided, the groups storyboard the films, hold casting calls with local actors and then figure out scheduling for the film.

The groups also have no budget provided for them, meaning that they source and pay for most of the film’s materials themselves. Art and design major Jordan Marozik was the production designer for Confessions. She said as a production designer, she had to scout out items around the area.

“We all kind of just like word vomited our ideas what we kind of wanted the set to look like and I went to a bunch of thrift stores and picked out wardrobe and outfits and different little props,” Marozik said.

A huge part of the filmmaking process is scheduling. With the groups only having six weeks to complete a film, they are expected to dedicate hours of time to filming on top of classes and jobs. Business administration junior Sed Elliott was the director of cinematography for Confessions, and said the film took up a lot of time.

Behind the scenes of Confessions


“So we had a weekend where it was literally like all that I lived and breathed,” Elliott said. “It was this film where Friday was like a test shoot and storyboarding, and then Saturday was restoring and then a shoot until like 5 a.m. And then Sunday was restored morning again and then a shoot until 4 a.m. So that was a really intense weekend.”

Marozik said that the long hours spent together did make the production team a tight-knit group.

“We pulled a lot of all-nighters with this film and at that point you’re forced to bond,” Marozik said. “So like we are all know everything about each other, like ins and outs of everything.”

Grossman also said that the energy of being on a film set is special.

“I feel like the energy was super high and everyone was pretty jazzed and like a little bit tentative,” Grossman said. “You know, none of us have ever done this before but like the energy was good.”

Even when things didn’t go according to plan, Grossman was able to find joy out of it. On a particularly long shoot day, she and her team decided to take a break to eat pizza and lay in the sun together.

“We’re all outside like with the actors just like laying on the grass in the sun, and then there’s a song in the film, it’s called ‘If You’re Gone’ by Matchbox Twenty, and like we just started playing it and both of our actors started like belting to it and it was just like such a wholesome moment,” Grossman said.

Anthropology and geography senior Libbie Stone directed her film Olive Branch. It was her first time directing, along with most of the students in the class. She said she was nervous but enjoyed working with the actors.

Actors from Olive Branch


“We would just kind of let them like improvise, and just seeing how they interacted, it was so like sweet and heartwarming,” Stone said. “I just wish I could have kept the camera rolling for like an hour.” 

After filming completes, post-production begins, with lots of hours of editing and piecing together the film. This includes fighting out what shot goes where, syncing up audio, adding titles and credits and so much more.

Elliott helped with their film’s editing process and said that part of the fun of making the film is seeing all the different versions along the way.

“We’ve been editing even you know, pretty recently and it’s been fun to see it all like really come together and I feel like it’s been a while since some of the people we’ve showed it to before have even seen it,” Elliott said. “So just seeing people’s reactions to the final result and hopefully like getting you know what we were going for.”

As far as other class work goes, students are responsible for organizing casting, tech, website design, social media, art and news for the festival. Barros said that this is meant to promote the student’s work and to teach them another side of filmmaking. The films are meant to be seen on a big screen.

On set of The Clay Teapot


“It’s just such an exciting thing for students to see their films on a big screen at the Fremont with an audience of friends family peers other community members,” Barros said. “It’s just it’s something that people in actual film schools don’t always get so it’s just a really special thing.”

Stone agrees, and said that the class and project are a rare opportunity for students.

“It’s like a hidden little gem in Cal Poly because when you like think of Cal Poly, you probably don’t think of like filmmaking and art,” Stone said.

The Short Cuts films will play in the Fremont Theater at 7 p.m. on April 29 during the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival. General Admission tickets are $10 and students with Poly Cards can buy tickets for $5. After all eight films are screened, and there will be a question and answer session following each film.

More information can be found on their Instagram @sloshorts24 or their website.

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