DIFT alum named best writer

Jacob Smith wins regional award for senior film project

By William Lopes and Mo Juenger, Staff Writer and Editor-in-Chief

When Jacob Smith graduated Xavier last summer, he packed his bags and left for Los Angeles. Months later, his move is paying off.

Smith, a 2022 Xavier graduate with degrees in Digital Innovation, Film and Television and economics, has been honored by the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS). He was nominated for five awards and won Best Writing. 

The Ohio Valley Chapter of NATAS presents annual commendations during its Student Production Awards ceremony to students from Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois. The Best Writing award is one of 24 the academy gave students this year for skills including editing, photography, directing and animation. 

Smith described the competition as stiff, noting his elation that his film earned the title over other, larger-budget projects.

“They’re students from different colleges from all over,” Smith explained. “A lot of these bigger state schools have very big budgets, so it was a bit nerve wracking going in. Some of them even had CGI and special effects in their films, compared to our very small budget project.” 

His project, My Hero, Resolved, features a high school student named Ralphie who is tasked with writing a college essay about an ancestor he considers a hero. Ralphie begins the project by creating a fictional ancestor cowboy named Resolve Rush; eventually, he realizes that his real hero is his grandma, who has been helping him write his essay for the duration of the film. 

“It’s based partially on my relationship with my grandma. She has always assisted me in my writing since I was a little kid, even before I could spell or read,” Smith smiled. 

“She would sit next to me and type up all the stories I would tell her on her laptop,” he recounted. “She’s just been a great encouragement all these years, so I really attribute a lot of my success to her.”

Smith, who co-directed the film with 2022 alumn Trevor Wray, reassured aspiring writers that they need not have such a personal connection to their film to write an excellent screenplay. He emphasized the importance, though, of creating real scenarios, dialogue and interactions between fictional characters.

“Even if it’s a topic, like fantasy, that you would have no life experience with, you find how you relate to that story,” Smith advised. “It could be a story about outerspace in 1,000 years. But if there’s some kind of human connection between the characters, maybe even a guy in a robot, you have to pull truth into the fiction.”

Smith credits Xavier’s DIFT program with setting him up for success in both the competitive and professional realms.

“The DIFT program did a really good job of giving us a really well rounded education of all aspects of the filmmaking process, from the pre-production to the filming to the editing,” he said. 

“I believe that any student that graduated from Xavier in the DIFT program can walk on to a set or go to graduate school for screenwriting, and they’ll have a basic understanding of filmmaking where they’ll be able to learn more,” Smith added.

Smith was not the only DIFT major to receive commendations from NATAS; XU alums Andrea Geschke, Grace Schilp and Sarah Soczka won Best Photography for their work on the film “Hexed,” and Geschke and Kayla Gaines won Best Long-Form Nonfiction Film for their work on “Living All Right.”

Want to listen to the full interview? Check out Monday’s episode of Newswire Live here!