SMASHing success

Award-winning students take film showcase to a bigger venue

GIMME THAT BANANA<br>Rodolfo Vazquez, dressed as an ape, and his banana-clad comrade, Austin Houlding, get serious about the SMASH.

Rodolfo Vazquez, dressed as an ape, and his banana-clad comrade, Austin Houlding, get serious about the SMASH.

Photo By Andrew Boost

Rodolfo Vazquez is the perfect candidate for the supremely multi-tasking iPhone that he carries everywhere and consults numerous times during the course of our conversation.

The seemingly tireless Vazquez is also a photographer for Chico State newspaper The Orion and a deejay at campus radio station KCSC. Not to mention he helps run his family’s business in Sacramento producing video for quinceañeras and weddings, and is taking 21 units. Somehow he finds time to devote to his “hobby,” as he calls it—deejaying under the name “DJ Roody” at local clubs such as LaSalles.

“I couldn’t live without this thing,” the soft-spoken Vazquez says, holding up the handheld computer.

Vazquez is a mover and a shaker, but his appearance is laid-back—wearing a dark-blue bulky sweatshirt and ball cap. It’s the 21-year-old media arts student’s second semester with Chico State’s Digital Filmmakers’ Guild (DFG).

He told the story of how he unexpectedly, but necessarily, became president, and how that led to bringing this fall’s SMASH Awards to the El Rey Theatre, the first time the semesterly short-film showcase has taken place off-campus since it started in the spring of 1998.

“This semester there wasn’t going to be any DFG, because there were some, uh, problems,” he explained, alluding politely to money difficulties left over from the club’s previous leadership. “The club would have died this semester if I hadn’t taken it over. And there would be no SMASH this year.”

Vazquez came up with the idea of having SMASH in an actual theater after a recent trip to Mexico during which he went to a college film festival at … a theater. ("Why hadn’t this happened before?” he asked rhetorically. “It’s kind of obvious.")

Vazquez said he figured that the 12 years he has spent working with his family business, Vazquez Events, would help him steer DFG into a better, more productive place. And it has. He’s the one who promotes DFG by dressing up in a life-size gorilla suit wearing underwear covered in DFG stickers and chases around another DFG member dressed as a giant banana while they hand out fliers promoting DFG and Media Arts events like SMASH and the 3-Hour Video Challenge that took place on campus earlier this semester.

“The last few years, DFG only had three to five members. Now we have about 15 to 20 active members,” Vazquez pointed out proudly of his gorilla-and-banana campaign. “When we took the banana to class, it got a smile out of them.”

His resourcefulness also helped bring Red Bull on board as a major supporter of the SMASH Awards, after working with them on the 3-Hour Video Challenge, an Iron Chef-like competition with random props and themes resulting in four potential commercials for Red Bull. The four videos will be part of the collection of 21 short works—a number of music videos, two short documentaries (the one that follows a local limo driver’s nighttime escapades is particularly interesting), and a short experimental film among them—presented at the SMASH Awards.

Media arts student Basak Erol’s music video for Portland singer-songwriter, Laura Veir.

Look for Jessica Gaynor’s innovative music video of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ song “Date With the Night,” and Basak Erol’s very creative pieces mixing animation with live film footage during the 1 1/2-hour show. Erol’s music video (on YouTube) of Portland, Ore., singer-songwriter Laura Veir’s “Don’t Lose Yourself” recently took second place in a media-arts festival encompassing the entire CSU system, and another was one of 12 finalists in Mexican restaurant chain Chipotle’s nationwide “30 Seconds of Fame 2007” video contest (watch her “Food With Integrity” online at DFG Vice President Eder Diego’s video “The Best Things” was also one of the 12 Chipotle finalists and will be shown at SMASH as well.

“It’s amazing,” Vazquez said proudly with a smile. “Of the 120 schools nationwide [competing in the contest], including schools like the Academy of Art in San Francisco—and all they do is film—Chico State had two finalists in the top 12!”