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Celebrities-in-the-making set for student film festival
by MATTHEW NASH
The next Steven Spielberg or Sofia Coppola could be living in Sequim.
Students are channeling their inner filmmakers for the Sequim Education Foundation’s Student Film Festival premiering Friday, April 15, at Sequim High School’s Performing Arts Building.
Elna Kawal, event coordinator, said this year the competition has the most junior high and sibling competitors in its six years. Of the eight films and 22 filmmakers in grades six-12, many are new to the craft and competition and vying for a $3,000 first-prize scholarship.
“It’s exciting to see more first-timers and younger students participate,” Kawal said. “Their skills will only get better the more they do it.”
Films range in genre — comedy, documentary, drama, sports and suspense — and are a few minutes to just under the seven-minute maximum.
“One video is less than two minutes … It’s surprising how much you can say in a short time,” Kawal said.
Brendon Hudson, who won second place last year with his sister for “Survivor Banana Belt,” said his newest film, “The Predator’s Prey,” came within seconds of the maximum because he added bloopers again this year.
Margaret Norlund won second place two years ago for “The Ripple Effect” but ran into some copyright issues this year. The festival doesn’t allow music in films without consent from the artists, so she had to re-edit her film “Storm Weathered” with different music. Norlund asked local musician Kory Nagler for a few songs to be inserted.
Kawal said other students have e-mailed or called musicians for permission.
Big ideas, low budgets
Other than having equipment, such as a camcorder and an editing program, students filmed their movies on the cheap. Hudson said his biggest expense was buying two lollipops as a treat for his 2-year-old child actor. Someone accidentally stepped on one so they needed another, he said.
Hudson said his inspiration for “The Predator’s Prey” came from the TV show “America’s Most Wanted.” It portrays the kidnapping and rescue of a little girl; he wanted to bring to light safety issues for adults with their children.
He and his friends Aran Burke and Dorian Halverson went to great lengths to finish the film. In one climactic scene, Burke, an FBI agent, finds kidnapper Halverson and flips him over his shoulder to subdue him.
They shot five takes but Halverson wasn’t hurt because they found a place with no rocks.
Halverson said he felt a little slimy playing a kidnapper but he’s proud of the film.
Hudson said he’s proud of the little actress — Cassidy Duncan, 2.
“The hardest scene was her being kidnapped, and she was great,” he said.
Strong subject matter
Norlund’s “Storm Weathered” doesn’t stray from controversial matters either.
Her film follows a newly pregnant teen girl discovering all her support systems failing.
“She struggles but a person comes through for her — or at least it alludes to that,” Norlund said.
Norlund said she didn’t want to go into the subject matter too much due to the controversy about what decisions a teen mom must face.
“I leave it to the viewer to interpret,” she said.
A scene that stands out to her is when the mother, played by Georgia Williams, a former Sequim student, kicks Sarah Burke, playing the teen mom, out of their home.
Norlund’s intent is to raise awareness about teenage pregnancy.
Most of the films are comedies, including one by last year’s winners Michael Cullinan and Ravi Carlson with Dalton Ackley: “Over the Fence – Outside the Law.”
Newcomers and siblings Skyler, Jacob and Carson Lewis, with Torrie McIntyre, said they tried to match their love for horror and suspense with their film “Outsiders.”
Skyler said it’s about two people moving from California into a haunted house.
“Then crazy stuff happens,” he said without wanting to spoil the ending.
The brothers said they’ve made several films together but this is their first entry.
Their favorite scene is the end of the film because it pieces things together nicely.
It’s filmed similarly to “The Blair Witch Project” and “Cloverfield,” using handheld camera effects.
“But it is way better,” Skyler said.
Framed original poster art, a ride-along with Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict, a handmade quilt by Caity Karapostoles, two coupons for two meals to Oak Table Café and more are slated for auction during the event.
Proceeds benefit college scholarships and cash prizes, with restrictions in place for maximum earnings per student. First place is $3,000 in scholarships and $300 in cash; second is $2,250 in scholarships and $150 in cash; third is $1,500 and $60 in cash.
Audience members choose The Elkie Award — best in show — and the Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society gives $250 toward an environmental award.
A panel of judges determined the winning films and best actor and actress last Thursday. All high school competitors are entered into a drawing for a free laptop and middle school competitors for a video flip camera.
For more information, visit www.sequimed.org.