Film student nets awards, film fest entries


Photo by Carley Bonk

Kelly Tran is currently working on her newest film, ‘Nail Salon Dreams.’

Written By Kimberly Keagy

Kelly Tran was astonished when she received first place at the first film festival she ever entered.

“You Will Love Again” led Tran to a nomination for a Teen Indie Award.

Tran was the second freshman in the festival’s history to be entered in Point Park’s LA Showcase.

These events make up the success story of the sophomore cinema production major already thriving as she pursues a career in the film industry.

Tran began writing and producing short movies at an early age in her hometown of North Huntingdon, Pa. Music has been a passion of Tran’s her entire life.       

“I always considered music to be my first love and something that was the thing that I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” Tran said. “And filmmaking and television in general was always a comfort for me. So, I always considered that to be like my best friends [filmmaking] compared to my loves of my life [music].”

During her senior year, Tran’s mom told her music was not a steady enough career field to pursue. Struggling with a backup plan, Tran’s dad suggested she should be a director.

“I was like yeah, okay, I could probably do that,” Tran said. “Once I set my mind to something I do it the best ability that I can. Since I made music and wrote songs, it felt like another medium of storytelling.”

Tran spent her summer vacations watching at least two movies a day. Other than picking and watching movies that received Oscar nominations, Tran had no technical production experience.

“Just from watching those movies, I learned how to shoot and what I wanted my style to be,” Tran said. “And making more movies is how you get the experience.”

Tran created “You Will Love Again,” for her college portfolio and entered it into the Carnegie Mellon International Film Fest, her first film festival ever. Tran won a $15,000 scholarship to Point Park University, but most of all, the support of her parents for her new career path.

“My 17th birthday wish was that I would figure out what I was doing for the rest of my life because I knew I wasn’t going pursue music anymore I said, ‘Please God, give me a sign,’” Tran said. “And when I won that contest and another one three months later I knew this is what I was supposed to do.”

Tran received an email that “You Will Love Again,” was selected for Steeltown’s Take a Shot Film Festival Entertainment in the high school division.

Tran could not attend the festival due to a previous commitment, but found out later she had won Best High School Film and was invited to attend the Ellie Awards.

“When I found out I won first place I was just blown away because I felt like this one had more competition than the first one because the first one [film festival] had only three entries but this one had 50 to 60, and it made me feel special,” Tran said. “I got a check for $1,500 which was fantastic because I thought wow, ‘I’m making money doing this now.’”

Tran’s films, “You Will Love Again” and “Conflict of All Ages” were official selections for The All American High School Film Festival which led to a nomination for a Teen Indie Award for the best experimental award for “You Will Love Again.”

“The feeling of being nominated was just like a hug, like someone saying, ‘Good job girl, you’re working, you’re grinding and it’s all worth something and because making art is a lot it is for you, but you hope people notice too,’” Tran said.

During the spring semester of her freshman year, Tran had two films selected to be a part of Point Park University’s LA Showcase, “Coffee” and “Love & Goodwill.”

Five to seven films are chosen by faculty and outside professionals to be screened in an hour-long showcase in Los Angeles where industry professionals and Point Park alums are invited to watch, according to Noel Schermaier, assistant to the chair of cinema and digital arts.

“She’s the second person to ever be a freshman to get into our showcase in the history of running that, not only to have one film but two films. That was pretty exceptional,” Schermaier said. “I think for her she had really good technical skills but it was really what was at the heart. Both stories had so much heart to it, that’s what people really reacted to.”

Laura Boyd, an assistant professor of the cinema arts department, believed Tran had the ultimate win for a filmmaker by her second film of film school, “Love & Goodwill.”

“As a filmmaker, you’re trying to get people have an emotional response and crying is the ultimate, and laughing is one thing, it’s easier to get people to laugh. If you have people having a genuine emotional response to your films, then you figured out how to hit the nerve, you figured out how to connect with people through filmmaking and get that emotion.” Boyd said. “And she figured that out by her second film in film school.”

Lauren Balint, a sophomore cinema production major, really thinks Tran’s sense of humor is what makes her stand out as a student and a friend.

“Working with Kelly, it’s great. She’s a very good director and a competent one. She really knows what she wants,” Balint said.  “She is a great support system.”

Academically and professionally, Tran hopes to find a balance in all of her work.

“My main motto is to find a balance between heart and humor because I think doing something has to have both of those in it,” Tran said. “And to filmmakers –do not to take yourself so seriously, but make art like yours matter.”

Tran is producing her seventh film currently, “Nail Salon Dreams.” She interns at the Pittsburgh Film Office and she interns at the Pittsburgh Film Office and worked as the former photographer and videographer for the Point Park Honors Program.