Film Production at UC Irvine

Courtesy of Monica Nadal

By Heather Hoang

Hidden on campus, between the grumbling students, harshly avoiding $2 boba, is a vibrant secret community. No, not some patronizing fraternity or a hyperactive community service organization, but a group of students collaborating and unleashing their imagination by paying honage to their beloved art medium: film. Largely unknown on campus, the film community at UCI is like a diamond in the rough within the School of Humanities.

The Film and Media Studies program at UC Irvine teaches the history and theory of cinema, showing students how to understand and critically analyze media. However, there is lack of focus upon film production.

In lieu of an education that emphasized theory rather than hands-on filmmaking, students have worked together to create a community.

Melyssa Jung, director of Zotfest and fourth-year FMS student, says, “There was a big need to make film, but UCI did not fully satisfy this. There was a void that needed to be filled.”

Thus came the Film Arts Drama Association (FADA), an organization that houses Zotfilm, Zotfest and Each of these branches is interwoven to create and celebrate the community of filmmakers at UCI.

“The point is to share your love and passion of film. Everything is geared toward this. A lot of us are aspiring filmmakers, and we want to build a tight-knit collaborative space to make films. You just can’t make a film by yourself,” said Yudho Aditya, executive director of FADA and fourth-year FMS student.

FADA aims to make and exhibit student films and to form connections among FMS, drama and arts students.

Zotfilm, the branch that emphasizes hands-on production skills, divides students into groups that work together to create a film in eight weeks. Panels are provided, in which the basics of film production are taught by more experienced students and alumni. Auditions from drama students are also held, giving UCI’s actors a chance to experience filmwork. With over 80 passionate members, students learn to collaborate together behind the camera. By week 10, all the films are exhibited at the exclusive red carpet Zotfilm Gala, showcasing the members’ hard work and talent.

“The goal is to create a space where anyone interested in film can get hands-on experience within a quarter,” said Dillan Damodar, director of Zotfilm and fourth-year FMS student.

Zotfest, the annual film festival held at UCI, showcases the works of students. The previous year’s festival was the revival of the film community, after a long period of silence. This event presents the best works, with professors as jury members of the festival. Zotfest 2011 was a success, with professional backdrops, a red carpet, catering and everyone dressed in their best attire.

“It brings together a community that wasn’t being celebrated. We want to show our films, be proud of it and expand our university as a school with accomplished filmmaking,” Jung said.

The final branch,, is the online social network that strings together the community — it’s like Facebook for filmmakers and actors.

“Before, there weren’t the tools to get connected. This is a great way to create a larger community with,” said Matt McCabe, media coordinator of the FMS department.

Of course, the department of Film and Media Studies have recognized this movement. Professors strongly support students by being on the jury panel.

“The spirit of the community is something I find really refreshing and not really common. There’s something about UCI and the students that should be celebrated more publically. It’s like the best-kept secret of the UC system.,” said Victoria E. Johnson, associate professor and chair of the department.

“I think the projects that are energized by your own imagination, outside of class assignments, are really powerful and I think that they tend to be so creative. It’s one of the things we’re all seeing as how amazing the projects have gotten.”

With the buzz FADA and its branches has earned throughout the campus, students are excitedly anticipating the growth of this community dedicated solely to film as an art. Ranking as the second largest major within the School of Humanities, Film and Media Studies is steadily growing, with a bright future ahead.

For information about Zotfest or to watch the previous winners of last year’s festival, visit