Asbury’s Engaging Culture Weekend Inspires – Asbury University
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Asbury’s Engaging Culture Weekend Inspires

April 30, 2019

“We are created to create,” a voice boomed over the speakers in Asbury University’s packed Hughes Auditorium Saturday night as the 15th Annual Highbridge Film Festival began.

The film festival was the zenith of Asbury’s Engaging Culture Weekend, an annual tradition that celebrates the arts and all of the ways film, television, visual art and music can be used to impact culture and inspire. View a photo gallery below! 

From a film and theatre themed Music Department concert on Thursday to the film festival on Saturday, the showcase weekend was full of unique and spectacular events.

Engaging Culture Weekend 2019 put a special emphasis on the spiritual aspects of the arts – focusing on how humans are wired to dream, create and finally, inspire others with our own earthly creations. This desire to create serves as a beautiful reflection and reminder of the Creator.

The weekend began with the Sounds of Stage and Screen concert on Thursday, with performances by the Asbury Women’s Choir, Men’s Glee Club, Concert Band, Handbell Choir, Chorale and Orchestra. Heralded as the biggest concert of the year, the show featured selections from several popular films and television shows such as “The Avengers,” “The Incredibles,” “The Greatest Showman” and others.

Hannah Lauck ‘22, a member of the Women’s Choir, appreciated the music selections for this year’s show. “I didn’t even know they were going to play this,” Lauck said, referring to the Concert Band’s “Avengers” piece. “I can’t tell you how excited this music makes me.”

Art exhibits from senior art majors Kate Harris ’19, Stephen Kayser ’19, Austin Zweifel ’19 and Christine Greenwell ‘19 were also available for viewing throughout the weekend with works ranging from abstractionism to impressionism.

Friday featured Engaging Culture Chapel, workshops from Highbridge Film Festival judges and student-run sketch comedy show Friday Night Live (FNL).

Highbridge judge Michael Swanson, an NBC executive, spoke in Chapel about learning to rely on God no matter what. Swanson has worked on popular shows like “Parks & Recreation” and “Brooklyn 99.” He shared stories of times in which he learned to depend on God and surrender his job, life and family completely to Him.

“You’re going to go through things,” Swanson said. “Things aren’t always going to work out the way you expect them to and that’s okay. But, I’m here to remind you that God will take you where you need to be when He needs you to be there.”

Swanson encouraged students to be present with the Lord and to allow Him to lead them on their life’s journeys.

“We serve a daily bread God, so don’t get caught up in trying to live a Costco or Sam’s Club life,” Swanson said. “You don’t need 50 rolls of toilet paper. You don’t need ten jars of mustard. Just focus on the daily bread. If He were to show us what was at the top of the staircase, I think it would be so overwhelming that it may paralyze us, so don’t worry about five or 10 years from now. Just be obedient and trust God no matter what.”

In one of the Friday workshops, Nicole Baer, an editor and director who has worked on “Supernatural” and “Timeless,” spoke on techniques for editing. Swanson spoke on how his faith plays a role in being a leader in media. Dean Batali, known for writing shows such as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “That ‘70s Show,” spoke on writing for television and being a Christian in Hollywood during his workshops.

Batali encouraged students who are interested in telling stories from a Christian perspective to immerse themselves in Christianity and then write what they see. He also spoke at length about his time as a Christian in Hollywood, working on secular shows.

“How do we exist as Christians in Hollywood?” Batali said. “We exist as Christians in Hollywood by loving Jesus and representing His love in our lives. That means sometimes telling people about Him, but it also means loving people and demonstrating the fruits of the spirit.”

That evening, several Asbury students took to the stage for the fifth performance of Friday Night Live, a satirical sketch comedy show that is written, directed and produced entirely by students.  

The cast and writers took the opportunity to poke fun at everything from pop culture to student life. The show was directed by Frankie Taylor ’20 and David Gomez ’20, with David DeMena ’19 serving as head writer.

Zander Shores ’19, one of the cast members, found relief at the show’s successful conclusion. “I always have a really fun time doing FNL,” Shores said. “It’s nice to have it end on such a high note.”

The weekend culminated in Highbridge Film Festival, where guests dressed up to walk the red carpet and view the top student films of the 2018-2019 academic year. Check out the list of winning films below.

Students, faculty and community members enjoyed celebrating the work of Asbury students through the viewing of 10 undergraduate and two graduate student films. Winning films were announced by professors from the media communication program. 

The festival not only provided a time and space to communally reflect on our role as both created beings and earthly creators, but it also allowed the Asbury community a place to celebrate student talent and creation.

Highbridge Film Festival Award Winners

High School: “The Last Dot” (Nicholas McCamish)

Special Mention Award for Visual Effects: “A Light in the Darkness” (Keegan White ‘20)

Special Mention Award for Costume Design: “Battle for Star City” (Samantha Bruce ’19 & Nicholas Collier ‘19)

Best Cinematography: “Psalm 19” (Oleksandra Shuliahina ‘20)

Best Editing: “Little Black Book” (Connor Worthy ‘20)

Best Documentary, Graduate: “Soul Purpose” (Joe Pritchard)

Best Documentary, Undergraduate: “The First” (Jared Ziegler ‘20)

Best Production Design: “The Date Debate” (Samantha Bruce ‘19)

Best Sound Design, Graduate: “Color Me Red” (Daniel Madison)  

Best Sound Mixing: “The First” (Jared Ziegler ‘20)

Best Original Score: “Psalm 19” (Oleksandra Shuliahina ‘20)

Best Super Short, Undergraduate: “Shot of Espresso” (Catherine Haws ’20) & “Psalm 19” (Oleksandra Shuliahina ‘20)

Doug Jones Award for Best Performance, Actor: “Listen” (Davide Gomez ’20)

Doug Jones Award for Best Performance, Actress: “Date Debate” (Skyela Bussey ’19)

& Special Mention: “Anchor Breaker” (Georgia Clark ‘20)

Best Screenplay: “Date Debate” (David DeMena ’19 and Kylie Nabers ’19)

Chad & Amy Crouch Award for Best Drama, Graduate: “Color Me Red” (Daniel Madison)

Best Picture, Undergraduate: “Date Debate” (David DeMena ’19)

Best Director: “Listen” (David Gomez ’20)

Servant Leader Crew Award: “Shot of Espresso” (Madelyne Jacks ‘18)

Audience Favorite: “Psalm 19” (Oleksandra Shuliahina ‘20)

Learn more about Media Communication at Asbury University.