Alumna spotlight: Alexandra Cerna premieres short film at San Diego Comic Con and other festivals

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Still from the film "Treasures Beneath My Tree" containing lead actress, Lydia Martinez. Image courtesy of Alexandra Cerna.

University of Arizona alumna Alexandra Cerna recently had her senior thesis short film “Treasures Beneath My Tree” premiere at several film festivals and contests, including FACETS Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, an Oscar-qualifying film festival, and San Diego Comic-Con. 

Cerna is a class of 2021 graduate with a major in film and television and a minor in Spanish.

“‘Treasures Beneath My Tree’ is my pride and joy,” Cerna said. “It’s a five-minute short film about my childhood, about the innocence and beauty in which children view the world – so newly, so colorfully. Everybody has their special items, I guess, that link them to their childhood, to memories, so this film really explores the idea of nostalgia through items.”

For this reason, Cerna and her advisor Kerryn Negus, director of advancement and external relations at the UA School of Theatre, Film and Television, decided to focus on entering “Treasures Beneath My Tree” in film festivals targeted at children. 

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“I didn’t know anything about the film festival world. [Negus] completely taught me everything ... To have somebody who believed in me and was always on the lookout for festivals she thought would be the best for my film really helped,” Cerna said.

The two worked together to come up with a submission strategy. Negus said she enjoyed working with Cerna on the project.

“‘Treasures Beneath My Tree’ is this beautiful story of this little girl ... It’s dialogue-free and you go on this journey with this child in the span of five minutes, and I thought there was something really special about that,” Negus said.


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Behind the scenes of "Treasures Beneath My Tree." Pictured (left to right): Alexandra Cerna and Tony Sedillo. Photo courtesy of Alexandra Cerna. 


After submitting, Negus said it just “snowballed” from there. She also credited a trait of Cerna that she believed would take her far in her career.

“She has an incredible ability for gratitude, and that’s just a really special thing,” Negus said.

While the mentor helped with pushing the film post-production, Cerna said that networking with her peers and UA alum played a huge part in creating her film. Her filming team was composed of UA graduates and members of the Tucson film community.

“Everyone who was on my film, I met through [the UA]. I had a group come down from [Los Angeles] ... who drove all the way down to Tucson to help me out, which was so amazing,” Cerna said. “Chance Roberts used to go to [the UA] ... and they’re really close with the production company Monsoon Production [Services] in Tucson, and they got us so many amazing pieces of equipment at a discounted price that I wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise. Having that network and community was really essential.”

Cerna hopes to start working on her next short film as well as explore the world of children's animation. In addition to her next film projects, Cerna has already started her own production company called Crescent Disco.

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“Crescent Disco is everything that ‘Treasures Beneath My Tree’ is. I wanted to build a brand off of my film that really speaks volumes about who I am as an artist. Crescent Disco is an all-media-encompassing company ...  I try to make everything as colorful, saturated, vibrant and fun as it can be. I wanted all my work to be in one place where people could go see it, and I came up with Crescent Disco,” Cerna said.

Cerna said her biggest advice to offer to other artists is to “follow your heart, not your head” when it comes to creating. 

“Always be creating. I’m always an advocate for that ... People always think ‘Oh, this doesn’t look good enough’ [but] your work is important and special to who you are. Never listen to anybody else,” Cerna said.

“Treasures Beneath My Tree” most recently premiered at Magic Lantern Movie Theater in Bridgton, Maine on Aug. 26. Cerna’s first international premiere will be at Festival Ciné Junior in Paris, France in February 2023. Her latest works and official screening list can be found at CrescentDisco.com


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