The GPFF sponsored a “youth media” program this year. The winners take home part of the festival’s prize money, enough to convince any ambitious kid that he or she can make it in the movies. Nik Fackler, Megan Berg, and The Park Middle School Latino club won forSinless,Sterilization in America, andLas Quinceañeras.
The festival packaged most of the kids’ entries together into one program that we saw on Day 4. It features:
mouse, cat, dog(Allison Schroeder);Play Ball(Graham Pansing Brooks, Joel Schroeder, Jack Rodenburg);Allison & Avary present An Alphabet(Allison Schroeder, Avary Pansing Brooks);The Mysterious Mugs, (Allison Schroeder);Habia una vez... (Once Upon a Time)(Los Niños de Adelante);Cake Fraud: A Mean Chocolate Cake(Shannon Schroeder, Max Rodenburg, Taylor Pansing Brooks);A Dream Displaced(Neil Rutledge);Las Quinceañeras, (Park Middle School Latino Club);6:30(Taylor Pansing Brooks);Sterilization in America: Ignoring Rights or Upholding Responsibilities?(Megan Berg);Jack & Jill(Nik Fackler);Ripples, (Chris Luckey); andLinen Tomorrow(Miles Roper, Doug Norby).
The range in these movies is surprising. Convince these young filmmakers to collaborate in just the right way, and they should be able to produce something outstanding.
Some have great concepts, likeCake Fraud, a funny little exposé on grandmothers who bake from mixes and not from scratch, orLas Quinceañeras, which documents a Latino coming-of-age event I hadn’t even heard of, much less seen.
Others have outstanding writing, like the well-researched documentary on forced sterilization in early 20th century America and elsewhere in the world.
Some have surprisingly good acting. Shawn Carney gives a natural and even performance as Max, a teen who has dreams about suicide inRipples. And for Allison and Avary, it’s not the acting, it’s the charismatic personalities that make the screen light up.
Still others show great skill with a camera, like Nik Fackler, whose cleverJack & Jilllooks like it might have originated on film instead of video.
Most of these kids could benefit from a good teacher. Their movies suffer a variety of ills: inaudible dialogue from a windblown microphone, unfocused plotting, incorrect camera settings (one was anamorphically squeezed, others weren’t color-balanced), even a misleading title (Sterilization in Americatakes a position, rather than exploring both sides of the issue). Some just looked like they needed a little more time to put on the finishing touches.
But all of them show promise in one way or another. The mere fact that these kids produced a movie, submitted it to a festival, and competed for real prize money, is more than most of us film critics can say for ourselves. Kudos to them all, and may they keep working and find success in whatever they do.