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OC film “The Highway” enters festivals

An original film by Oklahoma Christian University students and staff will be showcased at two fast-growing film festivals this weekend. 

The film “The Highway” will run at the Oaxaca FilmFest Oct. 4-10 and the Lake Charles Festival on Saturday, Oct. 5.  

Communications professor David Jurney said this is not the first time the film will enter a festival. Since 2018, the film has entered 11 festivals.

“For us, getting into a festival is the accomplishment,” Jurney said. “Especially when it is a festival like Oaxaca. It is one of the biggest and fastest-growing festivals out there.” 

Jurney said the Oaxaca Film Festival has nearly 10,000 submissions and less than 10% make it. 

“We got a notification on Monday that we moved from official selection,” Jurney said. “We are now a finalist, which means we have been narrowed down even further. Getting in was a huge accomplishment for us, so the fact that it was named a finalist is pretty awesome.” 

In the film, a man driving a truck stops and offers to help a family on the side of the road with car trouble. However, the man has bad intentions towards the family, leading the mom and daughter to try to escape him. The initial shooting for the production started in 2015, and the video was finished by the end of 2017. Jurney wrote the film himself and had students from his advanced media production class produce it. 

“I had a really talented, strong group in the year we did ‘The Highway,’” Jurney said. “We produced it as a faculty-student production. The primary crew was people in that class, and some additional students that were kind of underclass at the time that helped out.” 

According to Jurney, the students involved in the film had different tasks during all the times of production. The roles included set design, audio production and hair and makeup. They also shared duties such as cinematography, lighting and camera. The director was the now creative media graduate Caleb Henry. Alumnus Nehemiah Knox was the film editor and did audio sound mixing. 

“My favorite part has to be the sound design,” Knox said. “It was my first time trying to do sound editing, and I think the work that I did enhances the film and helps keep the tension alive.” 

Jurney said he did not expect The Highway to accomplish so much. 

“We were a little surprised at how successful it has been,” Jurney said. “One of the reasons I think is just that it is a very simple, relatable story, so I think that it connects with people.”

Knox agrees the outcome of the film has been a surprise. 

“There is something about this film that people love that I am completely oblivious to,” Knox said. “You never know how your work is going to be received until people start talking about it, and the conversations I have had when going to these film festivals always surprise me. There are several moments in this film that I thought would be received one way, but the audience has a completely different response, and oftentimes it’s much better than how I would have wanted it to be taken.”

Jurney said entering film festivals often benefits students going into the media production field. 

“One of the things that is crucial is the networking you can do by being in these festivals,” Jurney said. “To have this experience and know what it is about can help open a door, or at least crack a door for you.”

Knox said participating in the production helped him as a student and also after he graduated. 

“It helped me understand the craziness of the film production cycles and how to overcome challenges and working around unavoidable situations,” Knox said.

According to Jurney, festivals are also beneficial to the class organization. 

“It gives us a goal,” Jurney said. “We’ve got to do something that is strong enough technically, story-wise, that it can play in these festivals where professionals are judging the entries.”

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