Film Festivals

Connor Simpson talks about his Campus MovieFest winner ‘Manta’

by Naomi Laeuchli

Connor Simpson, who graduated this year from the University of Alabama, discusses his Sci-Fi short film ‘Manta’ for which he won Best Director at Campus MovieFest, the world’s largest student film festival. Simpson talks about how he created the film, the challenges and the part he was most pleased with.

Can you tell me a little bit about the film ‘Manta’?

Manta is a film that my friends and I made for a “make a film in a week” competition called Campus MovieFest. The team included Alec Barnes (Alex), Chris Bellinger (Chris), Robby White (Executive Producer), Marc Patterson (Producer and Cinematographer), Justin Rudolph (AD and Sound Op), and Sumerlin Brandon (Composer) and myself (Writer, Director, & Editor). The story is about Chris Carden, an employee of a planetary resource corporation, who has been stationed by himself in a small facility on the surface of a foreign planet for eight months. When a new employee arrives to take the next shift, Chris does not want to leave. A strange, ethereal romance with the planet itself leads Chris to take drastic measures to ensure that he stays there for good.

How did you create the Sci-Fi sets?

Building the set was one of the few things we could do before the production week. It was constructed in just a few days in my parent’s basement out of wood and random knick-knacks. The outdoor scenes were all shot in a gravel pit just outside of town. We have a behind-the-scenes video showing how we made the station, if you want to check it out:

Most of the film takes place in a very small area. Was it difficult to coordinate the blocking and filming within such a tight space?

Blocking and filming in the station was incredibly difficult. Luckily we had a small crew, but it was still hard to move around while making all of the character’s movements feel natural. I really wanted the space to feel uncomfortable and cramped, so it was worth the difficulties in production. I also don’t think it would have worked nearly as well if we didn’t take advantage of the ergonomics of a DSLR.

What part of the film were you most pleased with?

I was most pleased by the ending. We filmed it at the end of a very long and stressful day, and everyone was clearly exhausted. I feel like this played a big factor in getting the strong and believable performances out of our actors. It’s a really powerful ending, and I’m really happy with how it turned out.


Watch Manta on Vimeo

Connor Simpson’s Official Website

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