Junior marketing student Kevin Langue decided to go to the West Virginia University Mountainlair for lunch on a Tuesday last October with his friend Evan Berryhill. Evan grabbed a flyer that had been handed to him about Campus Moviefest, the largest college film festival in the world and its first visit to WVU.
“The flyer said that all we had to do was make a five-minute movie with their equipment in one week, and the top winners from every school would compete in Hollywood for $20,000 and other prizes,” Langue said. After tossing the idea around, Langue turned to his friend and laughed. “Plus, what are we going to do? Make a movie about us trying to make a movie?” That’s exactly what they did.
Fast forward to his preparation for travel in mid-May to the Cannes International Film Festival, held each year in Cannes, France. The “Festival de Cannes,” first held in 1946, previews new films of all genres from around the world and contributes to the “development of cinema, boosting the film industry worldwide and celebrating cinema at an international level.”
World, meet Kevin Langue.
Langue’s journey as a filmmaker began in 1993, when he was born — oddly enough — just outside of Paris, France. He was the firstborn child to mother Haby Ka and father Samba Ka, both originally from the French-speaking nation of Senegal in western Africa and who were no strangers to hard work. Langue spent most of his time with his mother.
Haby Ka, raised in a Muslim household, was repeatedly punished for sneaking out to go to school. Eventually, Langue’s grandfather allowed his daughter to attend school under one condition: She had to be at the top of her class every year. That’s exactly what she did, and his grandfather was so proud that he sent her to college in France.
“Her combination of perseverance, hard work and faith is what helped her achieve her dream. And she has done so much and sacrificed to help my dreams come true,” said Langue.
His father grew up herding cattle, starting when he was 13. Samba Ka worked his way through college, earning a bachelor’s degree, three master’s degrees and, ultimately, a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University. He worked for the United Nations and the World Bank for nearly 20 years. “My father’s unbelievable story is one I look up to every day,” Langue said. “A combination of hard work, luck and curiosity is what helped him achieve his dreams.”
When Langue was 11, his father was offered a promotion in Harare, Zimbabwe, where he, his mother, brother and sister were reunited with Samba. By age 16, he was ready to pursue the American dream and researched a school in the United States to attend. He did most of the work on his own, with the help of his mother, and presented a plan to attend the Linsly School in Wheeling to his father. The private school was only a few hours from his uncle, who lived in Columbus, Ohio—this was one of the selling points of his plan.
In two years, he would graduate from Linsly, which led him to WVU and the College of Business & Economics.
Langue fell in love with video production and editing when he moved to the United States. From age nine, when his uncle paid him to act like a TV meteorologist to his video production debut as a high school junior to his amateur video production at WVU, he was smitten with video. One day when he was in Jeff Houghton’s management class at the College of Business & Economics, Houghton said something that struck him.
“Dr. Houghton said, ‘Turn your somedays into today.’ I went right out and bought my first camera,” Langue said. “I decided right then and there – it was time. No more talking, no more thinking. All doing. Later I got involved in this video and, well, here I am.”
His talent spread to Vine, a mobile video medium that lets individuals submit videos that last six seconds or less. His popularity there grew to more than 10,000 followers, and then he was on to YouTube.
This is where Langue’s dream intersected with opportunity: that Campus Moviefest flyer at the Mountainlair.
Langue’s SugarK Productions team had nearly six hours of footage to sift through to create a five-minute movie, but it was worth it. The movie was selected as a top 16 finalist and then won the Best Picture award.
“It was like a dream come true. For once in my life, as talkative as I am, I was speechless. It just felt like I had finally found my calling,” Langue said. “It felt right.”
The Campus Moviefest award brought them a ticket to Hollywood in June to compete with the top-three films from each other school in the United States. The winner gets $20,000 and other prizes, and is the culmination of a week full of workshops and meetings at Universal Studios.
In early March, Langue was sitting in class. He had forgotten, in all of the excitement, that the top 58 movies in the video competition from around the world are sent to the Cannes Film Festival. He received an e-mail inviting him to Cannes.
“At first I thought it was an ad or that I read it wrong, so I called Campus Moviefest and they plainly told me that out of 1,600 films submitted worldwide, our movie had been selected to go to Cannes. My heart dropped. I’ve always believed that if your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.
“They said that only 26 people can attend the festival, and that I was picked and I could bring one guest. It all just seemed so surreal, like a dream.”
The reality of Cannes is trickling into his brain, with the genetics of his parents’ work ethic coming out in their son. “I always said that I had to work my way up,” Langue said. “I am prepared to work hard and long at this. I never thought I would be a part of the biggest movie festival in the world. I want to have fun, but this is a business trip for me,” Langue said. “I’m there to learn, meet people and make connections.”
And though he wants to make the most of this opportunity, he is well aware it will take work. Still, he has dreams of his own.
“Once I graduate, I see myself moving to Los Angeles to be right in the middle of the industry,” he said. His love for writing both screenplays and scripts has virtually exploded, and he has a passion for video editing.
“My dream is to do movies and to have a long-running sitcom,” he said with a laugh. “If I’m able to do it, I want to come back to WVU one day and donate a movie studio. The honor of going to Cannes is for WVU, too.
“I have this vision that one day I win an Oscar. Every day, everything I experience, everything I do is helping me write that acceptance speech.”
It would be great if Kevin could catch that dream, too.
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