News Column

Red carpet awaits Pioneer student filmmakers

April 27, 2013

YellowBrix

April 27--WALLA WALLA -- First Seattle, then who knows? Maybe Sundance and Cannes a few years down the road.

Eight Pioneer Middle School students are in Seattle this weekend to walk the red carpet as filmmakers with entries in the 2013 National Film Festival for Talented Youth. Their works, two documentaries and one fiction, are among works accepted for this year's festival and will be shown today.

The students are in Pioneer's Explorers highly capable education program, led by teacher Dan Calzaretta. They are Seamus Duffy, Scott Golden and Trevor Kytola, seventh-graders who created "A Bread Life"; seventh-graders Anna Moore, Tori Matlock and Emma Wenzel, who made "Music to Our Ears"; and "Accepting" creators Emily Coleman and Sophia Gregoire, both eighth-graders.

Their short films beat out hundreds of other selections for consideration in this year's NFFTY (pronounced "nifty"). It marks the third year in a row Pioneer students have had films accepted for showings.

The festival draws talented young filmmakers from around the world, presenting animated films, documentaries and original stories, over four days of events and screenings that kicked off Thursday and end today.

A film by Pioneer alum Peter Tucker, now a student at Walla Walla High School, also has been accepted into the festival and also will show today. His animated short, "Troubled Cow Confides in You," follows a cow contemplating life as it heads to the slaughterhouse.

Calzaretta joined Pioneer as the Explorers instructor about seven years ago. He introduced filmmaking early on.

"My second year there, we started making documentaries," he said. "I had an interest in the kids doing something with film.

"Documentaries are a little bit easier than a narrative film because the story is already there. You still have to find the story and tell the story," he explained.

"Then they have to contact the people, they have to write questions, they have to do research, they have to write the script that they're narrating."

Calzaretta helped past students participate in a yearly film competition sponsored by C-SPAN called StudentCam. But as Calzaretta learned more about NFFTY, he found a festival better geared to meet students' creative explorations. While the C-SPAN competition follows a specific theme and guidelines each year, NFFTY films can cover a range of ideas and formats.

The first year his students submitted films to NFFTY, and a group of seventh-grade boys had their documentary on the Black Door Gallery accepted to the festival.

"When we got there, they walk a red carpet, they're getting interviewed by people on the opening night of the festival," he said. "There are a couple thousand people inside this huge theater. That first year, the after-party for all the filmmakers was on top of the Space Needle. You couldn't beat that."

Calzaretta said his students made an impression, both for their youth and talent. Competing with college film students and older teens, the Pioneer students were able to take home the audience award for their documentary.

"That's how it all started," Calzaretta said.

This year's festival includes the red carpet event, with press interviews, opening night films and a filmmakers party at the Museum of History and Industry on Lake Union. Calzaretta said student films will be available to view online after the festival.

This year Calzaretta used iPad tablet computers that he acquired through an education grant to support the filmmaking projects. Both student documentaries were researched, written and shot entirely with an iPad. "A Bread Life" was also edited on an iPad.

"If you have this one device, you can make a film that gets shown at an international film festival," Calzaretta said.

Calzaretta said he has a goal to eventually bring all his seventh- and eighth-graders to attend the festival. He also believes the research-based model of learning that he uses can work with any student, not just those in highly capable education programs.

"I'm convinced that this kind of method that I use, the project-based idea for teaching, can work for any kid," he said. "It shouldn't just be limited to Explorer kids."

Maria P. Gonzalez can be reached at mariagonzalez@wwub.com or 526-8317.

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(c)2013 Walla Walla Union-Bulletin (Walla Walla, Wash.)

Visit Walla Walla Union-Bulletin (Walla Walla, Wash.) at union-bulletin.com

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