Digital filmmakers guild brings back student showcase 


Students, faculty, and community members gather in Ayres Hall room 106 for the Students of Media Arts Showcase on May 5, 2023. Taken by Megan Gauer.

For the first time since 2014, students and community members attended the Students of Media Arts Showcase, SMASH, a student film showcase put on by the Digital Filmmakers Guild. 

SMASH was held in Ayres Hall on Friday, May 5. Around 60 people attended: 40 students and 20 community and faculty members. 

The showcase consisted of 12 student-made films. Two of the films were from non-Chico state students: one incoming transfer student, Meghan Atherton, and one production from Butte College Film Club. 

The rest of the films were DFG projects, projects originally produced for Media Arts and Technology courses, and personal productions. Films included suspenses, comedies, romances and music videos. Running times ranged from under three minutes to almost 15. 

Signs advertising the event lined the hallways of Ayres Hall as organizers set the scene. Members dressed professionally and creative lighting shone in the theater-like viewing room.

DFG is a club typically composed of MADT majors that focuses on all aspects of filmmaking: directing, producing, script writing, editing and behind the scenes work. Members describe it as more of a production crew rather than a club. 

DFG currently has about 15-20 active members. Senior Tanner Simpson, the president of DFG and key planner of SMASH, is proud of that number. The club had three active members when he transferred to Chico State in fall 2021. 

Simpson explained the extensive planning for the evening, with conversations beginning in October of last year. Simpson and Ben Sherwin, the club’s student representative, decided to take a different approach to SMASH. 

“Since this is the first year DFG has hosted SMASH in the last several years, we did it as a showcase with no judges or awards,” Simpson said. “We just want students to get excited about filmmaking again and encourage the people who are making things by giving them a platform to share their work that isn’t just Instagram or YouTube.”

Though the showcase hasn’t been on campus for nearly 10 years, SMASH has a rich history at Chico State. MADT professor, Jennifer Meadows, founded the showcase during her first year teaching in 1997. 

“I realized there wasn’t any big screening of student work, so my production management class at the time and I put on the first SMASH,” Meadows said.  “SMASH stopped when I became department chair and DFG at the time wasn’t interested in putting it on.”

Meadows is the DFG faculty advisor. She noted that SMASH was entirely organized by DFG members and she helped with the general timeline and event structure. 

Junior Daniel Chimal, a MADT major and DFG member, noted how important showing their productions to the community is to him. 

“Our [DFG productions] show our professors, our peers and our families that although our major isn’t an instant payoff or a stable career choice, we as students are willing to put in our time and money into making stories that come from the heart, stories to make others laugh and stories that students express themselves with,” Chimal said. 

Chimal describes himself as someone who loves participating in live events and performances with an audience.  He acted in school plays and talent shows in high school and submitted work to SMASH to feel the same positive reaction from an audience that he grew to love. 

“SMASH was definitely the highlight of my first year at Chico State. It was fun and satisfying to see everything that we all worked hard on. It was all worth the hard work. That’s why I want to make movies,” Chimal said.  

Sophomore Jiana Bartunek, a MADT major and DFG member since fall of 2021, noted how much Simpson has done to transform the club in recent years. 

“I didn’t attend that many meetings last year because we didn’t make any projects. It was really cool to watch Tanner build the club back up and be able to gain enough members to accomplish the creation of two films and bring SMASH back,” Bartunek said.

Bartunek entered her short film, “Turn to Page 8,” which she directed for her Introduction to Field Production class. Because she mainly had smaller roles on DFG productions, she loved having a larger role on her own project. 

Sophomore Seth Tractman, a MADT major and DFG member, worked on several projects for the showcase. 

“I acted in a few films that were shown and directed a collaborative project. As the director, I was responsible for overseeing the creative vision of the project and working with the cast and crew to bring it to life,” Tractman said. “We improved a lot of the dialogue as actors and it was awesome to hear people laughing at our jokes.”

Tractman starred in “Medium Pepperoni,” “The Long Way Down”  and “Jr. Heist on 4th Street.” 

Though Tractman is a MADT major, many of the actors in the films are not. Simpson worked with the theater department to bring acting students into DFG productions. 

“One thing I’ve noticed during my time here at Chico State is that so much talent is divided by majors and departments. When I took over DFG, I really wanted to bring in actors from the theater department, and, with the help of acting professor John Crosthwaite, the club slowly started to build connections between departments,” Simpson said. 

Simpson has a passion for bringing non-majors into productions because he is not an MADT major himself. 

He declared his English major at Clovis Community College and didn’t want to change majors once he started attending Chico State. However, not being in the department didn’t stop him from becoming DFG president and taking filmmaking classes. 

“It doesn’t matter what major you’re in, if you love something you don’t have to be confined to a department. It also proves that so much talent is divided amongst departments and there seems to be a lack of communication between them which makes it really difficult to make incredible things,” Simpson said. 

Tractman, who is taking over the club next year with Chimal, is excited for his leadership role. They plan to bring in more guest speakers from the filmmaking field, expand their social media presence to share projects with a wider audience, build professional connections and continue to host SMASH. 

“We’re planning on bringing in judges to evaluate the films and award prizes to the top-rated ones. We want to make SMASH an even bigger event than it already is and highlight the talent in our community,” Tractman said. 

Simpson is graduating, but leaves with a legacy of revitalizing the showcase. 

“I couldn’t be more proud of my club. My hope is that one day I’ll be able to come back and see SMASH and DFG when it isn’t my show anymore,” Simpson said. 

Videos from the showcase can be viewed here

Megan Gauer can be reached at [email protected].