News Column

Film festival includes work from local youth

November 8, 2013


Nov. 08--As the curtain rose on the 26th annual Virginia Film Festival young home-grown filmmakers shared the spotlight with directors from around the world.

Students from Light House Studio were featured Thursday in a screening of nine short films produced in the past year by area youth aged 8 through 18.

The films, which ranged in length from 30 seconds to nine minutes, skipped between genres and styles, taking viewers from horror to amusement to sincerity.

"The Collector" told the story of a debt collector for the Devil, while "Off the Market" showed a creepy serial killer who specialized in realtors. Sci-fi also had its place in the showcase, with "Space Girl" revealing a grandmother to be a secret space heroine and "Dimensions" taking three students through the surreal worlds of silent film, space odysseys and zombie infestations.

Music videos matched the teens' creative, kooky ideas with music from local bands. "Weird Mob" portrayed a girl taking an Alice in Wonderland-like trip after falling asleep in the middle of eating toast; and "Dwight Howard Johnson -- Want Me Close" lauding chicken wings as the ultimate party accessory.

Other films turned a serious eye on Charlottesville. One group produced a commercial, "Wintergreen Adaptive Sports." "The Bridge Documentary" told the story of a teen learning to play the game of bridge from area aficionados. "Deliveries at Westhaven" gave a social critique on the fact that many area restaurants will not deliver to the Westhaven neighborhood on Hardy Drive after dark, or will not deliver at all.

After the screening, some of the nearly 50 students who worked on the nine films answered audience members' questions.

Sanders Evans, who acted in the chicken wing-centric video as part of a music video workshop, described his experience as "intense." He said his team of three spent a week on the video, but filming only took two days.

"The hardest part was probably spending two hours with hot sauce on my face," Evans said, eliciting a laugh from the audience.

The films were created in different workshops Light House hosted for students. To create "Space Girl," Madeline Hunter said, students in the advanced directing workshop kept working at the end of the day after class was over, crafting props and tweaking the script at home. "It was a lot of work but we were committed and want to make it happen," she said. "We were willing to commit extra time."

Gould said that the non-profit studio, which is celebrating its 15th year, had 500 students last year, split between summer, weekend and after-school programs. She said the studio has made an effort to reach out to schools and to other organizations to get students involved.

One of those organizations is City of Promise, a group supporting youth in the 10th and Page, Westhaven and Starr Hill neighborhoods with afterschool programming and educational opportunities.

The "Keep it Reel" workshop took cameras to Westhaven and encouraged youth like Zyahna Bryant, JaeLeom Adams-Mallory, Saqwon Adams and others to create documentaries about their community.

Adams, 22, said he enjoyed participating in the workshop with his younger brother, JaeLeom, 10. Adams was the main actor in the documentary, calling a half-dozen restaurants within two miles of the neighborhood to ask for delivery. When he was rejected, he asked for explanations; most said there were safety concerns in the neighborhood. Eventually, a Chinese restaurant agreed to deliver.

"Sometimes, you don't get to make dinner, and you don't want to eat the same old thing." Adams explained. "Your choices [for delivery], basically, are pizza or Chinese, and pizza only until 5 or 6 o'clock. We agreed it was a good issue to highlight."

Zyahna and JaeLeom both said they hoped to participate in another Light House Studio workshop in the future.

"It could be a potential job or hobby in the future," JaeLeom said.

Adams said he, too, had enjoyed looking at his neighborhood through a camera lens. "It teaches them [young people] to slow down and appreciate life more," he said.

A group of Light House Studio students is also participating in the Adrenaline 72-hour filmmaking competition, Gould said. Another group of students will have their work featured in the Digital Media Gallery at Second Street Gallery and will participate in the filmmakers' party there Friday from 6 to 9 p.m.


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