SVA Student Wins Coca-Cola and Regal Films Competition

Ameer Kazmi’s trailer begins screening in theaters on October 28

October 27, 2016
A man playing in game club.
People filming a video

From Coca-Cola Journey: “Ameer Kazmi stepped out of the shower on a recent Monday morning to find his phone lit up with text messages and voicemails.

‘I knew it was either something really bad or really good,’ the 20-year-old student at New York City’s School of Visual Arts said.

Luckily, the messages were celebratory. Kazmi’s friends and classmates were reaching out to congratulate him on winning the 2016 Coke and Regal Films′ grand prize for a 30-second film he wrote, directed and produced this summer.

The program, which has evolved and returned this year after a brief hiatus, is one of the country’s longest-running student film competitions. In 2016, Regal Cinemas joined Coca-Cola as a partner in the initiative, providing up-and-coming filmmakers with even greater opportunities to access the cinema industry and gain national exposure. Aspiring moviemakers from more than 20 college and university film schools have a shot at seeing their work on-screen during the preview reel in Regal theaters nationwide.

This competition challenges filmmakers to create a short film about the specialness of the movie-going experience. Students who make it past the script review section of the competition are tasked with managing all elements of the creative process—from scripting to casting to editing…

A panel of experts from Coca-Cola, Regal and the film industry picked Kazmi’s film, ‘Blindfold’, as the 2016 grand prize winner (a second winner will be selected in March 2017). The short film tells the story of a young woman’s stressful day that takes a refreshing turn when her roommates surprise her with a special night out. After discovering a little red box holding a blindfold in her apartment, she is guided by her roommates through the streets of New York City to a Regal theater, where her senses are triggered and her experience is made more special by enjoying an ice-coldCoca-Cola.

We caught up with Kazmi to learn more about his winning film, his approach to storytelling, and how programs like Coke and Regal Films help kickstart the careers of young filmmakers like himself.

Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?

As a kid growing up in Queens, I always had an attraction to cameras. And when I got into skateboarding at age 13 or 14, I filmed my friends and rediscovered the great feeling of holding a camera in my hand and telling stories and documenting things no one would otherwise get the chance to see. That’s when I started looking into doing it for a career. I did a few filmaking workshops on weekends and shot whatever was going on in my life at the time. I saw film school as a great opportunity to take things a step further. I decided to stay in New York because I knew it was important to be in the heart of the industry, artistically and creatively. I also wanted to get to know the city I grew up in a little more.

How did you hear about the Coca-Cola and Regal Films program, and why did you want to enter?

My professor approached me with the idea this summer while we were in Sweden for a traveling film workshop. I decided to give it a shot, and wrote the script there during my free time. It was an exciting challenge to take on. I worked earlier in the summer as a production assistant on a few commercial projects, so I was curious to be on the other end and see what it would be like to direct, with a more traditional sense of filmmaking and my own approach to storytelling.

How would you describe your storytelling style?

One thing I try to push in my work is a sense of community. It has always driven the stories I want to tell. This brief focused on how the movie-going experience brings people together, which was a perfect fit for this project.

Tell us about the experience of writing and shooting ‘Blindfold’.

It was a major learning experience. I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to work in different aspects of filmmaking, from pre-production to production to post-production. But what this allowed me to do was approach, with great detail, every stage of the process and be very attentive to every decision I made along the way. It helped me realize how precise and effective you need to be…” (For the full interview, more photos and a video, click here)