Behind the scenes with the Texas Union Film Festival winners

Minza Mirza, General Life & Arts Reporter

Last Thursday, students showcased their short films at the 14th annual Texas Union Film Festival hosted by UT Showtime. The Daily Texan sat down with the winners and discussed their award-winning work. 

1st Place winner of a SXSW Film Festival badge: “Brenda” by Hugo Ortiz Clemens

“Brenda” follows a college student’s adventure after his tattoo artist mistakenly tattoos the name Brenda on his arm instead of a cross.

“‘Brenda’ is an exploration of what happens when you follow a belief without questioning if there might be other alternatives that could be better for you,” said Ortiz Clemens, a radio-television-film senior.

Incorporating self reflection and religious commentary, Ortiz Clemens said he strived to create a humorous yet thoughtful film.

“If you watch a movie in a theater, the people’s reaction impacts you,” Ortiz Clemens said. “It was definitely what I was striving for — laughter and people having fun.” Ortiz Clemens said he appreciated his crew for prioritizing fun.

He expressed gratitude for his producer, Julia Hunt, and the actors, whose improvisations brought unified laughs on set.

“We were all behind the camera trying not to laugh,” Ortiz Clemens said. “But after I yelled, ‘Cut!’ the entire room broke into laughter.”

2nd Place winner of a Austin Film Festival producer’s badge: “Mister Sandman” by Karla Villegas 

Villegas’ documentary “Mister Sandman” explores dreams and their meanings, representing her subjects’ real dreams through intimate yet whimsical visuals. 

“I wanted (my film) to feel like an escape,” said Villegas, a radio-television-film junior. “I enjoyed parts where I could hear (the audience) giggle at the jokes.” 

Villegas said the film required a resourceful set design, so she turned to The Creative Reuse, a thrift store dedicated to arts and crafts. 

“I feel like (the set design) showed a lot of me and the way that I like to approach film,” Villegas said. 

Villegas said filmmaker Agnès Varda’s documentaries and filmmaker Michel Gondry’s “The Science of Sleep” inspired her to incorporate playfulness into her film. 

“(Agnès Varda’s work) changed my whole perspective on film,” Villegas said. “You’re not doing this to get an Oscar one day; you’re doing this to have fun.”

3rd Place winner of a Fantastic Fest FAN Badge: “Home Security for College Life” by Garrett Zartman 

This eerie PSA-style film warns college students of the dangers of home intrusion. 

“I wanted to do something about home invasion in a way that hadn’t been done before,” said Zartman, a radio-television-film junior. 

Zartman said implementing aspects of analog horror content, such as the graininess of VHS, helped create a sense of invasion in the film. 

“It was all about finding what was off-putting to me in that (genre) and what I could translate into my film,” Zartman said. 

He said while student screenings usually lie on the humorous side, he felt pleased with the crowd’s reaction of nervous laughter and shock. 

“You have to make sure that you’re not adding too much gravity to what you’re making,” Zartman said. “Having a little lightness lets you be more creative.” 

He said he never expected to submit this film to festivals but felt encouraged by the RTF community to showcase his work regardless of the outcome. 

“It’s great seeing that even your friends you’re competing against can be so happy that you’ve done something with your film,” Zartman said.