Finally legal and of age, the 18th annual Reel Loud Film Festival will fill Campbell Hall tomorrow evening. Each year, Reel Loud challenges local filmmakers and musicians to make a silent project on 16mm film stock and compose an original soundtrack to accompany the mini-masterpieces.

This year, the task proved even to be an even more formidable one: In addition to the rigorous pace and technical skills needed to produce one of these films (especially now, in this increasingly digital age), filmmakers were burdened by budget cuts and the elimination of most of the Film & Media Studies Dept.’s film production classes.

“In past years, Reel Loud filmmakers have had the support of film production classes, which were unfortunately unavailable this year. Therefore, not only did they have to produce their own films, but they also had the responsibility of finding their own equipment,” said Lillian Nicklesen, this year’s festival director and coordinator.

Thankfully, the festival’s student staff, student filmmakers and various other film enthusiasts worked together to make the beloved event come together. UCSB’s Film and Videomakers’ Co-op even donated some of its money to fund several of the festival’s Reel Loud projects, and co-op president Evan Koehne donated his time and past Reel Loud experience to help festival newcomers make their projects a reality.

“What stays the same each year is how collaborative the festival is. Everyone is pulling for everyone,” said film & media studies academic advisor Joe Palladino. The real joy I anticipate about Reel Loud and I think for most people attending and for the artists involved is this sense of community that truly is unparalleled at UCSB.

Reel Loud provides young filmmakers – from those who have had films at the festival all four years, to those who are finishing up their first short film – an avenue for sharing their work with fellow UCSB students and with the community at large. Speaking from my own past experience as a Reel Loud filmmaker, there is nothing like having a film that you poured your blood, sweat and tears into projected in front of a packed house of 800 people.

The struggle and passion experienced by the filmmakers during the filmmaking process are truly and literally expressed by the lineup this year more than any other year in recent memory. Two out of this year’s 14 films, “M.M.” (about a young girl looking for love for who she is) directed by Alexandra Tengco and “Edik’s Eyes” (about a Russian filmmaker with a problem) by Philip Higson have been several years in the making, due to hellish production and post-production issues, and I think all audiences should take special notice when they hit the screen.

There are many newcomers to the festival this year: Two films were written and directed by EAP students, including “Hungry Love (in which a woman devours her lover) by Ainara Aparici and “Women” (an experimental musing on women) by Carla Simón Pipó and Marco Businaro.

The festival’s filmmakers also include debut works by several former production assistants and interns, including “Lovesick Zombie” (about a zombie that falls in love with a human), written and directed by Matthew “Ace” Palanca and “La Mariachera” (about a folklorico dancer who falls in love with her dance partner), written and directed by Melissa Perez.

As for the Reel Loud vets, it seems that this year, many decided to go socialist, banding together to create films like “Modern Day Hunter” (a film about a man who hunts wild game from his car). This film was put together by Annie Wilkes, Woo Lovinger, Kelsey Brannan and Heather O’Brien, all of whom have had a hand in several Reel Loud films each over the course of their UCSB careers.

“Given the longevity of the festival, Reel Loud has become an established element of the film and media experience. From the very first day you are a film student, the excitement builds for this annual event!” said Nickelsen, and I couldn’t agree more.

Tickets to the event are on sale now for $10 at the Film & Media Studies Office (Ellison 1724), and will be sold at the door (if tickets don’t sell out before then).