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Espionage by Candlelight Earns Regent Film Students a Trip to the 2023 Academy Awards

Espionage by Candlelight is a short film created by three imaginative Regent University student filmmakers: Jared Esteban, Director/Writer, Leila Haddad, Producer, and Michael Beam, Producer. 

This trailblazing comedic short rallied a swell of support beyond the southern charms of the Regent campus in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The frenzy of action, laughter, and suspense introduced by the film, and brilliantly resolved in a matter of 10 minutes, thrilled sophisticated cinematic audiences in Southern California, as well.

Espionage by Candlelight earned Regent’s three young filmmakers College Television Award nominations and a trip to Los Angeles for the 2023 awards ceremony at the Television Academy. After chaperoning this experience of a lifetime, Dr. Simon Tarr, Interim Director of the School of Communication & the Arts and Dean of the Regent University Honors College has agreed to “spill the deets” (the details) of what it’s like to experience The Emmys.

Q: 2023 has turned out to be a great year for Regent films—and it’s only April, right?

Dean Tarr: Absolutely! A Regent team of students in the cinema program was nominated for one of the highest honors given by the Television Academy Foundation. Our students were nominated for a student Emmy in the Outstanding Comedy Series category for their short film, Espionage by Candlelight. There were over 130 submissions received from across the country and only 12 schools were actually nominated.

Q: How did you and the student filmmakers find out about the nomination?

Dean Tarr: I learned from Professor Mike Sinclair, a rockstar faculty member and the mentor that encouraged the students to submit the film for consideration. The students learned through an official email from the Academy.

Q: Can you tell me about the film and how it came to be?

Dean Tarr: It’s a charming little comedy that was filmed at Founders Inn. The two main characters agree to go out on a date—where each of them discovers that the other is a secret agent—igniting conflict, chaos, and comedy. Our student filmmakers got the cast and crew right here at Regent University.

Q: This nomination earned the students a trip to the Emmys in Hollywood and an experience most can only dream of. What did “prepping” for this look like?

Dean Tarr: The students had a full slate of activities with the Academy on their schedule. They attended industry events, visited studios, and networked with industry professionals.  Additionally, there are a lot of Regent alum in Los Angeles, who are working successfully in the field of communications.  They only got to meet up with a few, but the Regent community there is pretty thick!

Michael Beam, Leila Haddad, Jared Esteban, and Dr. Simon Tarr

Q: I am super curious about what it’s like to attend a bona fide “red carpet” event and as a nominee! What do you remember from the experience?

Dean Tarr: The event was all about the students and their work. When they hit the Television Academy in North Hollywood they were thrust onto the red carpet with media, photographers, and interviewers asking about their film. The student filmmakers from the different schools in attendance all viewed each other as peers and colleagues. It was good natured and friendly. The students had a good time. 

Q: What was it like to hear the name of the film announced and celebrated alongside other stellar collegiate work from across the country?

Dean Tarr: When a film was announced, a clip was shown—just as you’ve likely seen it done in  previously televised ceremonies. It was great to watch all the students because they were so supportive of each and every nominee. When each film was announced the crowd would go wild! Whether you had a big delegation or modest one, everyone cheered for everyone and everyone celebrated everyone’s wins! The whole production was highly professional.

Q: So how did the film do?

Dean Tarr: The film was received very well. It didn’t win, but the winning film was from the University of Southern California, which means we competed against the biggest schools in Los Angeles, with access to the best in the industry and our film, Espionage by Candlelight, held up well! So, I know we’ll be back.

Q: What kind of mark do you think that this film made for our Regent filmmakers and the University?

Dean Tarr: I think it is important for the students to realize that the caliber of productions that Regent puts out into the world from the School of Communication & the Arts is every bit as impactful and high quality as the work coming out of any of the world’s biggest and most notable media programs.  I hope that the nominations gave the students who worked on the film the confidence and assurance that they have the skills that they need to make it in the industry.  I also hope it demonstrates to their peers that their dreams are achievable—and at a very high level.

Q: What’s next for this film?

Dean Tarr: Before the film makes its rounds on the festival circuit, it will be showing at our Student Film Showcase on April 22, 2023. Click here to purchase a ticket. In the meantime, I am encouraging our student filmmakers to apply for everything that’s out there for Espionage by Candlelight.

Q: An experience like this one must be pretty inspiring. How will you use this to move forward in your efforts to guide Regent students towards success?

Dean Tarr: I want the students and faculty to be energized by this breath of fresh air. I hope it reminds them that hard work pays off and can be recognized.  I see the hunger in the students and the twinkle in their eyes. That the film that they may be working on, right now—if they work a little harder—they may be next!

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