New award-winning short film has Ouachita ties

October 12, 2023

By Jacie Sellars, Staff Writer

October 12, 2023

A filmmaking team that included Ouachita Baptist University students worked together to create a successful short film titled “Dust Bowl.” The film was written by former Ouachita student Sam Conine, and it centers around Ava and Gus, two high school acquaintances whose perceptions of each other change as they reconnect inside an old bowling alley. Since its release in September, “Dust Bowl” has been selected by five film festivals and finished as a finalist in the Student International Film Festival. 

When making a film, it’s important to assemble the right team. With success in mind, Ouachita junior Davis Jordan, one of the film’s directors, stepped into a new role to help out a friend.  “I first got involved because Sam Conine, one of my best friends, wrote and directed the short film,” Jordan said. “We had worked on two previous feature films together two years ago. Because of the limited characters in the film, I ended up filming the short film with no prior experience. I had only ever acted before.”  

The filming and acting team also included Ouachita students Emma Smith, Chase Ramsey, Sammy Arizaga, Logan Davis and Abbey Moore. Together, the students acted, filmed and helped on set in order to bring the story of “Dust Bowl” to life. 

Smith, a Ouachita senior, was excited to play the leading role of Ava. “To outsiders, Ava Moore is your typical sorority gal,” Smith said. “She’s a partier, a lover of life and living it in the moment. However, she challenges Gus’s preconceived notions in many ways — she has a solid head on her shoulders, majoring in Engineering and enjoying a good book.” 

Smith has been involved in theater from a young age, and she enjoys acting in short films. The role of Ava allowed Smith to portray a complex character. “Ava understands that image isn’t reality, at least when it comes to herself, though that’s something she also struggles with,” Smith said.  “She loves to soak in the present and make the best of her time in school, but she’s also searching for something better, something with more meaning.”

In order to fully capture this powerful story of reconnection, the “Dust Bowl” crew needed a good setting and visuals. The crew worked in a retro bowling alley to shoot the film, and even during late hours of the night, the project still came together.  “Probably one of the biggest challenges of shooting is that we had to work after the bowling alley closed,” Jordan said. “We shot the film over two days from the hours of 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.” 

Capturing the right shots was hard work, but Jordan loved getting to see the finished product. “One of my favorite memories about shooting the film was us trying to get a shot of one of the characters bowling a strike,” Jordan said. “I was laying down in the middle of the bowling lane recording shot after shot of Chase Ramsey throwing the ball over top of me trying to hit the pins. It took us over 30 minutes to capture a strike, but it was well worth it.”

 Smith really appreciated the collaborative atmosphere of the filmmaking process. “The people are always the best part,” Smith said. “What’s better than getting together with a group of friends and creating something cool together?  I’ve always loved make-believe, and it’s so much more fun when I get to do that with other people.”

“Dust Bowl” has enjoyed a successful release so far, and the entire cast and crew is thrilled to see the film’s vision come to life and receive recognition. The film emphasizes the power of conversations to bring people together. “What you see in people isn’t always the full picture,” Smith said. “Taking chances and getting to know others outside of your socially conditioned circles is one of the best ways to learn the deepest of life’s lessons.” The creators of “Dust Bowl” hope that the film will continue to inspire audiences and teach life lessons.

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