Columbia U film student lands big-screen exposure

A check for $10,000 and the screening of his film at 19,000 movie theaters. That's what Columbia University film student David Pastor-Vallejo has just won for his 50-second film "Movie (Theater) Hero," which he wrote and directed. His film will debut as part of the prefeature entertainment on movie screens throughout the United States this fall.

Coca-Cola's Refreshing Filmmakers Competition presented the award after calling for entries this year that depict the moviegoing experience.

You may remember last year's winner: A portly woman in bunny slippers jumps up ecstatically after answering all the questions to a quiz show on her television (we soon find out she had recorded the show and already knew the answers).

So what was Mr. Pastor-Vallejo's winning plot?

"I just thought it would be nice if a movie worker, himself, became a hero for a day," says the native of Barcelona, Spain.

His dramatic spoof of big Hollywood movies features a ticket-taker, a pretty girl and her "jock" date, and an action sequence in which the ticket-taker makes a heroic attempt to save the girl from being squirted with a ketchup-filled hot dog.

During the first step of the competition, Pastor-Vallejo submitted the script, a storyboard, and a rough budget. From nearly 200 entries, 10 finalists were chosen last fall and given a $5,000 shooting budget.

Pastor-Vallejo and his two "producers" (classmates) then had three weeks, during final exams, to complete the film. "It was incredibly hectic, but also extremely exciting," he says.

The whirlwind hasn't let up since he was chosen by a panel of top film professionals.

First, he flew to Atlanta to add a 10-second introduction presenting the film; then he went to ShoWest in Las Vegas, the theater exhibitors' major convention, which attracts actors, directors, and producers.

Pastor-Vallejo says he is still in "disbelief" that he won. "I am so excited, but I'll finally believe it when I see it on the big screen."

The Coca-Cola award, now in its sixth year, aims to give film students exposure to launch their careers. Pastor-Vallejo has directing ambitions, and plans to put the money toward new films.

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