WAYNE, Neb. -- From a small theatre with big dreams to the big screen, these students are showcasing their short films that they have been working on over the course of the last semester. 

On Tuesday, Wayne State College hosted their 2023 Fall Film Premieres. After lengthy competition and selection, a number of students were chosen to have their films produced and shown on the big screen. Associate Professor of Film Production Dr. Michael White was at the helm of the event, as he guided these students to create what was displaying that night.

“Our films are 100% written, produced, directed, edited, colored, everything, done here at the college,” White said. “So, for our students, this is the premiere of their short films.”

With classmates, teachers and even the soccer team showing up for the premieres, it wasn’t long before the Majestic Theatre in downtown Wayne reached full capacity.

“Students are amazing,” White said. “Some of them come wanting to be producers and directors and they end up being cinematographers and sound engineers. So, finding their passion and being able to relay that into something creative is awesome.”

There was one student whose story wasn't of the norm. Coming from Johannesburg, South Africa to Wayne America has been an adjustment for Leah Bennett. She came from a city of nearly 20 million people, to a town of about 6,000 people.

But the two-time screenwriting competition winner is letting herself shine. 

“Crazy story, I have not discovered my passion for film until very recently, maybe two years,” Bennett said. “Being at Wayne State College has really pulled that passion for me. The environment, the equipment, the facility; everything is readily available for us, and it just makes being a film student so much more fun.”

Bennett said that moving to Wayne has given her a voice, and that she now has a space to hold, whereas in South Africa, it was easy to get lost in a crowd. 

“Everybody plays a role,” Bennett said. “Nobody gets lost in the shadows. Everybody contributes, everybody has a talent to give, and we are in the Midwest, the middle of nowhere, and that’s where the creators are living too." 

Tonight is Bennett’s big night along with all the other film creators. Nerves are in the air, but the months of preparation have finally reaped its results. 

“I’m really nervous, but so excited to see everything that we have worked on come to life,” Bennett said. “It’s a big team that has had a hand on each of these films. The whole film department, everybody makes a contribution. From lighting, directing, even scouting locations, casting; it’s such a student-full project.”

“One of the things that is unique about our program is everyone is surprised that there is a film program in Nebraska like this,” White said. “I have had people in California say ‘Well, you are the film program of the prairie.’ We have students working all over the industry that have come out of this program. So, because we are in Wayne, Nebraska, don’t discount us.” 

The college will continue to hold these premieres annually.