Glen Ellyn native competes in prestigious Sprite Films program

GLEN ELLYN – During a recent trip to CinemaCon as part of the Sprite Films program, Glen Ellyn native Sam Bengtson talked to director Oliver Stone for 30 minutes. At the end of their conversation, Stone looked Bengtson in the eye and said, “I’ll see you at the Academy.”

“That was definitely a highlight of the trip,” Bengtson said.

Bengtson, a senior studying arts, entertainment and media management at Columbia College in Chicago, was chosen as a finalist in the Sprite Films program, along with his filmmaking partner, Sean Grasse. Together with a crew of about 30 to 40 people, they are in the midst of creating a 60-second spot for Sprite.

If their spot is chosen in August by a Green Ribbon Panel – a group of industry experts who will critique the technical aspects of the films – Bengtson and Grasse will receive a $30,000 contract to complete a project with Sprite and The Coca-Cola Company.

The program was open to 18 schools across the U.S. Bengtson and Grasse submitted a script and storyboard for the spot, and their idea was chosen at the beginning of April. They filmed it in Chicago last weekend.

Their spot focuses on a wall in the city, specifically at Lake and Leavitt streets. It demonstrates that just as the wall is a constant part of the city, so is Sprite, Bengtson said.

Bengtson and his partner, as well as the other three finalist teams from Elon University in North Carolina, Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia and University of California, Los Angeles, went to CinemaCon April 16 to 19 in Las Vegas as part of the Sprite Films program. There they were given the opportunity to meet with the Sprite brand team and some of Hollywood’s leading filmmakers.

On the same night that Morgan Freeman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Harrison Ford received awards, Bengtson and the other finalists were recognized for their participation in the Sprite program.

During the trip, the finalists wore Sprite T-shirts, and Bengtson said many attendees recognized the shirts as meaning they were part of the program.

“It was really cool to see higher-ups in the industry excited about what we were doing and already aware of it,” he said.

Bengtson first became interested in film while he was a student at Glenbard South High School in Glen Ellyn, participating in the school’s multimedia club and working backstage for school productions. After he graduates from Columbia College, he hopes to continue producing film.

“This has been a great opportunity. It’s opened lots of doors,” Bengtson said. “Hopefully, I can keep doing this, doing what I love.”