Camden native has designs on film industry

Camden’s Krista Jarrell and her Savannah College of Art and Design teammates received the grand prize in the 2020 Coca-Cola Refreshing Films Program, a student filmmaking competition, marking the university’s second-consecutive win. Their short film “Let Loose,” for which she was a production designer, claimed the prize. (Submitted photo)

CAMDEN — Growing up in Camden, Krista Jarrell never planned on being a production designer until she attended The Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia.

“I never planned on it happening,” Ms. Jarrell said. “It was something that I learned about and thought would suit me better than furniture design. I made it onto my first set and the rest is history.

When her friend recommended her to be a part of a short film called “Let Loose,” she was nervous but ready for the challenge.

“One of the producers reached out to me and was very clear that it was a major project, but wasn’t explicit,” Ms. Jarrell said. “I was very nervous because it was a massive undertaking, but I am proud of the result we produced.”

For “Let Loose,” Ms. Jarrell and her teammates received the grand prize in the 2020 Coca-Cola Refreshing Films Program, a student filmmaking competition, marking the university’s second-consecutive win.

“Once I found out it was the Coca-Cola Refreshing Films project, I knew I had to say yes,” the recent SCAD graduate said. “I found out the SCAD team had won the Coca-Cola Refreshing Films competition on a Zoom call with key members of the SCAD film crew and Coca-Cola representatives.”

Having completed its 23rd year, the Coca-Cola Refreshing Films program provides opportunities for student filmmakers from partner university film schools to showcase their talent and gain real-world experience.

After teams from 38 schools submitted scripts for a 35-second film to connect viewers to the moviegoing experience, finalists from five universities (SCAD, School of Visual Arts in New York City, Columbia College Chicago, Ithaca Collegeand Biola University) were selected by the program to produce their films.

“Let Loose,” which can be seen on YouTube, traces two students’ journey from their dorm room to the movie theater.

A panel of film industry judges reviewed the films based on set criteria, selecting “Let Loose” as the grand prize-winning film. Notably, the SCAD team was unique in that each department was led by students only.

“It was honestly unbelievable,” Ms. Jarrell added. “Of course I wanted to believe our film won; we all worked so hard for months to make the project the best it could be. It’s completely different to actually hear the words out loud. My jaw dropped, we all cheered. It was good news that everyone needed to hear after a difficult year.”

The 35-second short film, “Let Loose,” was the only film that featured live-action filmmaking with animation and visual effects. The film crew consisted of nearly 100 students from 14 SCAD degree programs.

It was created by writer/director Elina Itugot, along with animation supervisor/director Henry Zhinin.

Ms. Jarrell said being a part of the winning project was surreal.

“Winning this award was an extremely validating experience for me.” Ms. Jarrell said. “I come from a furniture design background and had done some production design work at SCAD, but nothing of that magnitude.

“In terms of my career, I bounced back and forth between which industry to continue being a part of until the first day of filming for “Let Loose.” I took a step back to look at the set we built and I was so proud of all the work my crew and I had done. That’s when I knew production design was my passion.”

Ms. Jarrell was one of two production designers on the project. Her role entailed creating the overall visual for the written narrative. This included everything from the clothes the main actors wore, the items that decorated the dorm space and creating the sets themselves.

“I worked closely with several departments, but especially the director of photography, George Rowson, to create what you see on the screen,” Ms. Jarrell said. “Together we determined the overall color scheme, lighting and tone of the film.”

“My team and I built the dorm set in a studio in SCAD’s Savannah film studios and overhauled the look of a Gainesville, Florida theatre in roughly five hours using temporary wallpaper,” she added. “It also included managing our budget and acquiring the team needed to conquer the work of this film.”

Ms. Jarrell said some days were difficult but in the end, it was worth it.

“There were incredibly difficult days that at times felt like would last forever,” Ms. Jarrell said. “We’d had two days before filming to get the set built, painted and dressed before other members of the crew began to set up lights and the camera for our weekend of filming. The night before setup day, with just a half-hour until the building closed, the set did not look as you currently see it in the film. It was just walls that weren’t even completely painted.”

“We were getting quite discouraged about our progress, and after a deep breath the art department came together and decided we had no choice but to keep moving forward and in that 30 minutes, the entire set came together,” she added. “I knew then I had picked the perfect team; it took a village to make that happen.”

Ms. Jarrell said when she watched the film for the first time she was amazed at how everything came together.

“I thought the film was inspiring,” Ms. Jarrell said. “It was hard to believe how it all came together and how talented our crew of SCAD students was in its creation. You could feel the energy of the crew behind the film while watching it and it’s a big reason why I think it stood out.”

Ms. Jarrell believes the film won because everyone who was a part of the project took the extra mile in every part of the process.

“Taking those extra steps and doing that as a team showed up in the final film. You could feel the passion that went behind the creation of ‘Let Loose’,” she said.

Ms. Jarrell having this accomplishment on her portfolio will be beneficial moving forward.

“Our two directors won a RED camera package, ZEISS Lens kit, and $15,000 in prize money,” Ms. Jarrell said. “I hope they will invest that in future projects I can also be a part of. I personally have gained skills and forged relationships that I know will be so important to the future of my career because of being part of the winning team.

“Coca-Cola Refreshing Films also creates a yearbook each year which features key members of the crew. That yearbook is sent out to industry professionals nationwide, which leads to job opportunities.”

But for now, Ms. Jarrell plans to return to SCAD to pursue a Master’s in Themed Entertainment Design through a graduate fellowship.

“I just graduated from SCAD at the end of May,” Ms. Jarrell said. “The original plan was to enter into an art department on a film or TV set as an assistant after graduation. Unfortunately, in the wake of the pandemic, most of the film industry is shut down currently or working with limited crews.”

“I think by returning to get my Masters will allow me to further my skills in what I am passionate about, as well as allow me to maintain access to resources and networks while the industry works to get itself back on track,” she added.

She said SCAD’s Themed Entertainment Design M.F.A. explores the creation of themed experiences from amusement parks to film to museums.

“I think it will give me a better foundation for my career than my furniture design background while still pulling the many skills I learned from that as well,” Ms. Jarrell said.

Arshon Howard is a freelance writer living in Dover.