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UNCP student goes sleepless in zombieland to win film award


A mass communication major at UNCP was part of a group that won Best Film in the 2013 Greensboro 48-Hour Film Festival.

Senior Laura Ayala, who completed her last three credits online this summer while working fulltime at a video company in Burlington, had two days to make a movie when the festival requirements were announced on June 21st.  She had pre-registered with some co-workers and friends.

After the group was randomly assigned a genre, they quickly came up with a concept. They cast her husband, Victor Ayala, as a marriage counselor trying to help a woman rehabilitate her zombie husband. Laura co-wrote the screenplay and served as an assistant editor and production assistant on the six-and-a-half minute short titled “Heart of the Dead.”

“Our team got no sleep that weekend,” said Ayala. “We worked all day on a video shoot at our day jobs, then we found out the film assignment from the festival at 7 p.m., and we were all in a production meeting to start writing our idea by 8 p.m.”

The production also won awards for Best Cinematography (Tristan Chaika and Kevin Ashmont), Best Sound Design and best use of the required bit of dialogue: “She was supposed to be here by now.” 

Additional requirements included a character named Emmerson or Emma Myers who had to be an entrepreneur of some sort—in their case, a zombie hunter—and the use of strawberries as a prop.

“It was exhausting, but it was worth it,” Ayalya said. “We went into it thinking it would serve as a team building exercise, but apparently we came out as winners, and that feels pretty good.”

 “Heart of the Dead” also won an Audience Award from among the 10 entries that screened in “Group C” and earned an honorable mention for their lead actress.
Winners were announced by the professional judges on July 19 in a ceremony at the Carolina Theater in Greensboro. Best Film is automatically eligible for the annual Filmapalooza international 48-hour film competition.

“The broadcasting major at UNCP prepared me for scriptwriting and working with teams on productions,” Ayala explained.

A transfer student, Laura was named Rookie of the Year in Broadcasting by the Department of Mass Communi-cation during her first year and later was a recipient of the department’s James A. Comstock Memorial Scholarship for broadcasting majors.

 “She’s very accomplished,” said her adviser, Dr. Jason Hutchens, chair of the mass communication department.  “Her internship last spring turned into a job offer before the semester was even over.”

Ayala was also producer of the UNCP students’ weekly TV newscast, Carolina News Today. Her senior project in the same semester was a narrative short posing as a documentary about an aspiring actor with delusions of talent, also starring her husband.  Before that she starred in the comedy, “College Roomies,” produced as a class project in Professor Terrance Dollard’s advanced videography course. She wrote the screenplay
“UNCP gave me so many wonderful opportunities to explore my own creativity in my writing and video editing,” Ayala said.

“It’s a hands-on program, and Laura made the most of it,” said Director of Broadcasting Dr. Jamie Litty.  “She’s a great role model for the underclassmen.  Her grades never suffered, and she was commuting from Fayetteville the whole time.”

For more information on the Department of Mass Communication at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, contact them at (910) 522-5723, email or visit the department’s webpage at: