MSU film student wins grand prize in national film contest

Monday Jan. 31st, 2011

Montana State University first-year film student recently won the grand prize in a national film contest devoted to exploring what it means to live large. Erin Burke’s one-minute film, “Living Large Together,” depicts her friends swimming, at a playground, cliff-jumping and hanging out.  Throughout the film, Burke narrates her view, and her friends’ views, of what it means to live large:

“Standing out, maybe living your dream.  Being who you want to be and not someone else.  Handling your issues with a smile on your face….Taking judgment with a grain of salt.… Living large to be you and only you.”

The guidelines for the “Live Large” contest, sponsored by American Suzuki Motor Corporation, instructed filmmakers to create a 30-second to one-minute film showing how they personally live large.  Burke decided to approach the assignment from a slightly different viewpoint and illustrate it from the collective perspective of her friends.

“We live large together, and live large off of each other,” she said.

The contest’s grand prize is a trip for two anywhere in the United States and $1,000.  Burke plans to use her award to travel with a friend to Honolulu, Hawaii, in February.

Burke, 19 and from Durango, Colo., became interested in filmmaking after using it to document her youth group in high school.  She decided to enroll at MSU based on the strength of its film program and heard about the Suzuki contest from her adviser at MSU.

“I’m a film major, and it fit my genre, (documentary), so I decided to enter,” she said.

Using footage she had already shot, Burke spent about two days putting together the film.

“I love editing, and so this really appealed to me,” she said.  Winning the contest also gave her confidence.

“This is the first contest I’ve won, and I haven’t really had any experience in film,” she said.  “It’s cool to see my ambition pay off, especially in my first semester here.”

Burke’s ability to be both creative and business savvy is impressive to George Thompson, a professor who taught Burke in an introductory business course at MSU last semester.

“I really appreciate Erin’s artistic side, and what’s really fascinating is her ability to put on the other hat and look at things from a business standpoint,” he said.  “There aren’t many people who are able to make those kinds of leaps.”

Burke made a presentation about her film in Thompson’s class, and he called it very well-done.

“I was just stunned.  She had included things we had discussed in class, such as market analysis, identifying market segments.”

To see the videos Burke and others entered in Suzuki’s “Live Large” contest, visit  Burke’s video is the sixth from the left.