Wesley Ambrecht isn’t shy when it comes to bragging about the project that he and some of his fellow UCLA students created for 2013 Sprite Films contest.
“I love our spot,” said the 23-year-old Bellmore native, who now lives in Hollywood. “More than anyone else, we did a great job of making sure Sprite was a focal point in what we were doing.”
The short film that Ambrecht produced is one of four in the running to win the contest. Written and directed by fellow UCLA student and California native Manhea Joey Kim, 31, “No Doubt About It” shows a successful DJ reflecting on his past and the people who doubted his rise to to the top along the way.
Ambrecht said the story is a relatable one.
“No matter what you do with your life, everyone has that moment where you’re finally comfortable where you are at and you can’t help but look back at what led you to there,” he said.
Throughout the flashbacks, the subject is seen holding Sprite products at different stages of his life. Then, as the film shifts to the present, the lead actor places a Sprite bottle on his DJ console and states, “One thing they will never doubt is your heart” before performing for a large crowd.
Ambrecht said the final four films are not commercials, but rather “branded entertainment.” In Phase 1 of the contest, Sprite put out a call for scripts to students at 18 different schools across the country and received 140 completed submissions, said Kimberly Paige, an assistant vice president with Sprite. After selecting the top four, Paige said the company gave each finalist a budget of $15,000 to translate their stories into film.
“Sprite recognizes the need for programs that offer students across the country a unique chance to spark their creativity and to produce a film masterpiece from beginning to end,” Paige said.
The teams had to stay within their budget, and the films had to be one-minute long and incorporate the Sprite brand. Still, Ambrecht said, they had a tremendous leeway to tell their stories, which is why all four films are vastly different.
Throughout August, visitors to Sprite.com/films can vote on their favorite and be entered into a sweepstakes to win a trip for four to Universal Orlando Resort in Florida. The team that wins the “Fan Favorite Award” will get $5,000 for their school and a trip to AFI FEST, the American Film Institute’s annual international film festival in Los Angeles.
A Green Ribbon Panel of industry experts assembled by Sprite will also critique the films and award a $30,000 contract job with Sprite and The Coca-Cola Company to one of the filmmakers. Paige said this person will have the opportunity to work on developing content for the brands, while getting real on-the-job experience.
As the lead person on the film, Kim is the only member of the UCLA team eligible to win the contract job, but Ambrecht doesn’t mind.
“As a producer, my job was to facilitate Joey's vision, but, at the end of the day, this was and is Joey's vision, not mine,” he said.
Ambrecht, who will soon begin his final year of UCLA’s two-year producer’s program, has a number of other projects in the works, one of which is a comedy pilot he wrote during a recent visit to his family’s home in Long Island. He’s also dabbling in acting and plans to work with Kim again.
“I was dead set on working as a TV executive, but the program [at UCLA] has really opened up my eyes and given me a creative outlet like I never had before,” he said. “I’m kind of an antsy person, so trying new things, I’m game for that.”