Regent Alumni Win “Best Short” at Hampton Arts Film Festival

Raquel Sangalang and Justin Garcia. Photo courtesy of Dawnita Alston.
Raquel Sangalang and Justin Garcia.
Photo courtesy of Dawnita Alston.

Regent University alumna Raquel Sangalang ’15 (School of Communication & the Arts) can’t decide which romantic comedy film is her favorite. But when she approached her thesis project for her MFA degree in Cinema-Television, she knew she wanted to produce a story that shared those reach-for-the-stars, over-the-fence sort of moments.

And she found that moment through a tiger mascot costume.

Terrance is a 19-minute, live-action film, following the budding relationship of a shy woman who goes on a blind date dressed as “Terrance” the tiger.

The title character was created by College of Arts & Sciences alumnus Justin Garcia ’14. His father, and Regent SCA professional-in-residence, David Garcia, was Sangalang’s advisor.

Admittedly, romantic comedies were never Garcia’s go-to genre of films to work on; but the story and the challenge intrigued him.

“I wanted to give it a shot,” said Garcia. “It’s definitely not your typical romantic comedy, as most girls don’t go on dates in their school’s mascot suit. That visual quirk was really important to me.”

“That became our icon, and we took it from there,” said Sangalang.

When developing the story, Sangalang was clear: as a Jane Austen fan, she wanted elements of other romantic stories woven into the plot of Terrance. “I wanted the camera to focus on the tiny, little things that the romantic would definitely catch,” said Sangalang. “It was sweet, and that’s all it needed to get the audience excited. It made me happy as a producer.”

The film, quirks and all, recently earned “Best Short” at the Hampton Arts Film Festival in late January. Another Regent film by SCA graduate Beecher Reuning, The Other Side, took home second prize.

“As soon as the director of the festival opened the envelope I was like, ‘Oh gosh,’” said Sangalang. “And then I heard them call our name. I looked over at Justin and he stood up and said, ‘let’s go!’ He knows I can get very emotional and nervous, but he’s perfect at the mic. I said, ‘you’re going to have to talk for me.’” Though the surface-level intent was to give a nod to romantic comedies, the film’s true tribute is to Sangalang’s late mother.

“She knew I wanted to get my master’s, and I couldn’t do it when she was ill; I wanted to dedicate the film to her,” said Sangalang.

It was her inheritance that funded the film.

“I can’t tell you the amount of excitement and joy I felt,” said Sangalang. “And now we’ve been going through the film circuits throughout the year. I’m just really excited to see where Terrance can go.”

Sangalang said that she hopes to one day build on the story for a potential longer feature. But for now, the short will continue through the film festival circuit, making its next appearance at the KinoFilm 13th Edition Manchester International Short Film & Animation Festival in late February.

“It will be our European premiere,” said Sangalang with a laugh. Proof that it’s not over. It’s still not over.

Learn more about Regent University’s School of Communication & the Arts.