DIFT program ranks in international competition
by Hunter Ellis, Staff Writer
It was just another day in the Digital Innovation, Film and Television (DIFT) studio for junior Maddie Agresta, but with a call from her advisor, that was about to change.
Agresta was the latest of a long line of students in the DIFT department to have their work recognized by the Broadcast Education Association (BEA).
“I thought that she was calling to talk to me about senior films next year… and I answered it and she was like, ‘You’re a finalist,’” Agresta recalled.
“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ I just totally was not expecting it at all,” she added.
Agresta’s script, Live a Little Lucy, was given an Award of Excellence in the Short Narrative Film/Half-Hour Television category of the Scriptwriting Competition.
Agresta said she ultimately wanted to pick a topic for her script that was relatable for the audience.
“Our protagonist is a middle school girl… It’s kind of just about how that age can be like the dynamic of charm to fit in. In the end, she gets some unsolicited advice from some older girls that have already been through it,” Agresta said.
As it stands, Live a Little Lucy is just a script, but next year, Agresta will be using it to make her senior film.
“It was great to watch Maddie’s film take shape in screenwriting and will be equally as fun to watch it translate to the screen as her senior film. It’s easy to have an idea, but to take that idea, get it on paper and then go through all the steps to take it to the screen is a complex process,” Director of the DIFT program Blis DeValt said.
Agresta thanked both her advisor DeVault and her classmates for being inspirations to her film during the screenwriting process.
“My advisor Blis, she is the one that taught the screenwriting class. There’s a lot of exercises, a lot of practice, a lot of stuff that goes into it,” Agresta said.
“It was very nerve-wracking because, when we wrote our scripts, we had to get up in front of the class and read the script to the class. I was like, ‘I want this to be good because everyone will hear this.’ So my classmates were kind of a driving force, even if they didn’t know it,” she added.
For Agresta, it was a journey to end up in DIFT in the first place.
“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do going into college. I knew I was more geared towards communication, maybe even the English creative side of things. So I toured Xavier being Communication Undecided… and DIFT really just kind of struck my interest,” she said.
Overall, Xavier’s DIFT program would be ranked 14th in Screenwriting and 69th overall by the BEA.
The rankings are based on an accumulation of total points in each of the seven categories over a five-year period. These categories include film and video, documentary, screenwriting and news.
Several other students have contributed to these rankings, most recently in 2019 when Emma Barry, Emily Coller and Kyle Howell won first place overall in the Mobisode/Webisode Category for their script Split Second.
“The Communication Department is thrilled that the DIFT program is ranked nationally. We have always known that the program, its faculty and students are outstanding and we’re proud and excited for them to receive such well-deserved recognition,” Dr. Wendy Maxian, chair of the Communication Department, said.
Agresta believes that DIFT’s high rankings show their ability to compete with larger and more prestigious programs across the world.
“I think it speaks highly, especially because we’re such a small program. I mean, people don’t think of Xavier as like a film school… It kind of goes to show that we can still compete with film schools and schools that have very large programs. I think Blis fights really hard to keep us relevant, keep us up to date and to let people know, ‘Hey, we’re here. We’re doing good things,” Agresta said.
DeVault noted that DIFT being recognized comes down to both the great work of the students and the instruction of the faculty.
“We are doing what we should be doing. Our program is strong in writing and production. Our students tell the important stories of our times –– meaningful stories that align with the mission of the university,” DeVault said.
“We have fantastic, creative and hardworking students and, at the end of this academic journey, they are getting good jobs too,” she concluded.