Ithaca College Students Named Finalists in National Film Competition

By Grace Collins ’23, May 1, 2020
Abby Hauptman ’21 and Desiree Tolchin ’21 are among five finalists in the Coca-Cola Refreshing Films contest.

Getting a chance to travel to Los Angeles and learn how to shoot a film with top-of-the-line equipment and personal guidance from industry professionals is something most cinema and photography students can only dream about.

But for Abigail Hauptman ’21 and Desiree Tolchin ’21, that was their reality last December when they were selected as finalists in the 22nd annual Coca-Cola Refreshing Films program.

The duo were flown to Los Angeles to participate in a program kickoff event and training session and given $15,000 and access to equipment and software from the contest’s technical partners: RED, ZEISS and Deluxe’s EFILM. Armed with those resources, they were tasked with creating a 35-second film about the magic of the movie-going experience.

The film, which they filmed in Ithaca, can be seen below.

This spring, Hauptman and Tolchin’s film will be reviewed and judged by a Red Ribbon Panel of industry professionals. If they are selected as the winners, they will be given cutting-edge filmmaking equipment, including some of the same equipment they shot their film with.

“I cannot express how much of an unbelievable experience this has been,” Tolchin said. “The sets I work on as part of my classes at IC are legit, but this was a whole other level.”

Get Your Popcorn Ready

A watch party featuring a screening of “Friday Film Five,” a Q&A and behind-the-scenes footage will be held on Friday, May 1 at 5 p.m. Register for the watch party here.

Hauptman and Tolchin’s film, “Friday Film Five,” is about one college girl’s inspiration to use her and her mother's shared love of the movies to make new connections with friends. More than 50 Ithaca College students from Park Productions, IC’s student-staffed media production house, assisted with the creation of the film. Theatre arts students provided additional assistance.


Hauptman got to work with top-of-the-line equipment during the production of the film.

“The IC education is the biggest reason our crew was so professional and well-prepared,” said Hauptman. “Every student staff member we worked with was experienced and efficient.”

Hauptman added that Director of Park Productions John Fucile served as a mentor throughout the project, helping guide them through daily operations on set and connecting them to industry professionals.

Both students cited their classroom experience as invaluable. “Several of our classes require us to make films, so we’re on set nearly every weekend,” Tolchin said.

This is Hauptman’s second foray into the competition. Her first came in 2018, when she entered a film as an assignment in her Introduction to Media Industries course, taught by Jack Powers, an associate professor and media arts, sciences and studies department chair. She made it to the semi-final round, along with Eva Kirie ’21 and Clara Montague ’21, who went on to win the contest.

Described as a “platform to support students, showcase their work and launch their careers”, the Coca-Cola Refreshing Films contest accepts script submissions from students in film schools across the country. Nearly 40 schools took part in the contest this year.