Short film “Saturn” made by Fulbright students wins 1st place at UOWD Film Festival

The short film “Saturn”, written and directed by two Fulbrighters, Le Phuong Anh (Avaline) and Do Quynh Ngoc (Sasu), won 1st Place in the Short Film category at the UOWD Film Festival on November 19.
 The UOWD Film Festival is organized by the University of Wollongong in Dubai. It showcases the creativity of students in content and film production, both locally and internationally. “Saturn” was not only one of the 6 works shortlisted at this year’s festival, but also won the “Best Short Film” award! “Saturn” is a 12-minute drama short film. It depicts the story of an actor, struggling to perfect a scene amidst the grief of losing a loved one. During a sleepless night, he embarks on a midnight walk and finds unexpected inspiration.

Saturn poster

Congratulations to the two young directors and the Fulbright crew of the short film “Saturn” on this outstanding achievement!
– Vo Dang Minh (Class of 2023) as lead role Phong
– Tran Bach Khanh Chi (Class of 2025) as Mai
– Nguyen Dao Anh Khoi (Class of 2024) as Hai
– Ly Trang Tuyen (Class of 2023) as Neighbor
– Composer Vo Linh Dan (Dani) (Class of 2024)
– Camera Operator Hoang The Anh (Class of 2024)
– Key Grip Nguyen Le Tuan Kiet (Class of 2025)
– Make-up Artist Nguyen Nhat Mai (Class of 2025)
Let’s learn about their filmmaking process!

Q: How did you all find each other and form a crew for the short film “Saturn” at Fulbright?

Avaline: We all knew each other from taking different courses together. Some of us had collaborated before, which established immense trust and support among the crew. We were all ready to help with each other’s projects, and that supportive atmosphere is what I appreciate most about the Fulbright community.

Sasu Do: Every single person in the production crew is a friend of mine. We just happen to also work in filmmaking. It’s a beautiful thing to me because we understand our work dynamics, strengths, and weaknesses incredibly well. This understanding makes the collaboration a fruitful experience for all of us.

The crew is formed by Fulbright students.

Q: A question for our scriptwriter, Avaline Le: What inspired you to write the screenplay for “Saturn”?

Avaline: As the screenwriter for this film, I chose a topic that resonates deeply with me. The film is not about death, but rather about coping with death and the ensuing grief. Articulating grief isn’t always straightforward, so I aimed to delve into the challenging journey of acceptance and moving on with this film.

“I aimed to delve into the challenging journey of acceptance and moving on with this film,” Avaline, the scriptwriter.

Q: How did your journey with filmmaking begin?

Avaline: My practicum film courses, which were significantly impacted by Covid, taught me a lot about film production theoretically, but I didn’t get the chance to apply that knowledge practically. You can’t make a film just by discussing it. Thus, Sasu and I decided to work on this project, “Saturn”, to gain first-hand experience on a set. The project proved to be the most valuable learning experience we could have had, with our professors and the school providing tremendous support.

Sasu Do: Even though I have previous experience in filmmaking, the advanced practicum courses at Fulbright, which are genre and skill-specific, have been particularly beneficial to me. They provided the foundation and instilled the critical thinking mindset necessary for filmmaking. This also motivated me to self-study many technical skills, including color-grading, and refine them while making the short film “Saturn”. Reflecting on the past 8 months spent producing the film, I can see significant personal growth.

“Even though I have previous experience in filmmaking, the advanced practicum courses at Fulbright, which are genre and skill-specific, have been particularly beneficial to me,” Sasu Do.

Q: Can you share some memorable moments from the production phase with us?

Avaline: We made the film during finals season. Since it wasn’t a class assignment, its workload was in addition to all our other stressful assignments. I recall both myself and a cast member working hard on our final papers during what was meant to be filming breaks. I’m not sure if that’s fun, but it’s something I greatly appreciate about our crew’s dedication to the project.

Sasu: There’s a scene in the film where we needed the sunset lighting (you’ll identify it once you see the film). To capture this, we had to shoot during the golden hour. I recall us hurriedly packing up at my house after filming some scenes to rush to the location for this specific shot. We managed to arrive just in time to capture some of the most beautiful lighting in the film. I am very proud of the dedication our cast and crew demonstrated for our film.

The most beautiful lighting in the film.

Q: Based on your experience producing the short film “Saturn”, do you have any advice for first-time or new filmmakers? 

Sasu: Always be kind to your editors and colorists whenever possible. In fact, strive to perfect your exposure, lighting, and composition from the start. Achieve this through careful planning during pre-production. An organized shot list and lighting plan, as well as a thorough location scout, go a long way. The most visually stunning shots seen in the short film “Saturn” can be attributed to these elements. If a shot goes wrong, don’t worry – we’re still learning and have room to grow. Take it as a learning experience, figure out what could’ve been done better, and apply that knowledge next time.

Võ Linh Đan (Music Composer):
Draw inspiration from how film or musical theater composers establish recurring musical motifs for characters, themes, and topics, and how they combine them. Use a music writing app to visualize the direction of your melodies.

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