Reality bites back

By Jerene-Elise Nall

Take a bite out of reality.

The Reality Bytes film festival will begin at 9 p.m. tomorrow at the Jameson Auditorium in Cole Hall. The three-day film festival hosted by NIU’s Department of Communication will feature screenings and guest speaker Wilfredo Hernandez, a reality television editor from Los Angeles.

This film festival has been a part of NIU for over a decade, according to Laura Vazquez, communications professor and director of Reality Bytes. The festival has grown to include independent student films from all over the world. Vazquez said there were nearly 100 entries this year, of which 12 were selected.

“We have films from the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, from every part of the world,” Vazquez said. “And they’re all student films.”

While Reality Bytes is picky about which films make the cut, the festival promises a huge variety for its audience’s viewing pleasure.

“We’ve got a wide variety of different films,” said Byron Czopek, a graduate student in communications and a graduate director of Reality Bytes.

The variety comes from not only from the worldliness of the selection of films at this year’s festival, but from the inclusion of a younger generation of filmmakers.

“This is the first year we have allowed high school entries,” Vasquez said. “I think it’s really exciting for me to see high school films. They didn’t all make it into the festival – I think we’re screening 3 high school films. I think it’s good to see where those young people are at and the stories those films are telling.”

Reality Bytes is able to reach out to and encourage a much larger group of filmmakers to submit their work these days, thanks to, a website which allows independent filmmakers to share their work in innovative new ways.

“It’s kind of like applying for a job online, except you’re applying with your film,” Czopek said. “You can actually upload a screener of your film through the site.”

Websites like are only part of the much larger equation as to why independent student filmmakers are surfacing now more than ever.

“Technology has made [filmmaking] very easy,” Vasquez said. “My students can make movies on their iPhones. Ten years ago, even five years ago, that wasn’t possible.”

Visual forms of communication like filmmaking have become the favored way for younger generations to share their stories with the rest of the world.

“I feel like it’s a really interesting opportunity for my students to engage in foreign films that are made by people who are like them – their counterpart in the Netherlands, or their counterpart in Cuba, who’s making a movie about some story or some aspect of life,” Vazquez said.