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Student filmmakers screen their best

Theatre five at the Claremont Laemmle was packed high schoolers, their parents and other locals Wednesday, May 17, but they did not come to see the newest Alien movie or other Hollywood blockbuster. These patrons came to appreciate the work of the city’s own filmmakers from Claremont High School’s cinematic arts program at the third annual Claremont High School Film Festival.

The festival featured 27 short films, nine from the introduction to video production class and 18 from advanced video production—all acted, directed, filmed, edited and produced by CHS students.

The films from the classes varied in production style and genre. Many of the films from the introductory class were comedies, and about half were silent and in black and white. The films from the advanced class varied more widely in genre, including documentary, PSA, comedy, drama and horror.

While this is the third year the cinematic arts program has organized a film festival, it is only the second time it has been held at the Laemmle.

“It is a very cool experience for the kids to see their work up on the big screen,” Claremont High School video production teacher Sara Hills said. “It was a great experience last year, so we are back again.”

The video production program, comprising the introductory and advanced video production classes, as well as classes in broadcast journalism, has flourished under Ms. Hills’ leadership. This year, there approximately 175 students in the program, according to Ms. Hills. The program, she said, has been successful because of a combination of community support and student talent

“I love my job, and [the students and I] make a good team,” she added.

The video arts program is also sponsored by Avid Technology, which produces video editing and production software. For the film festival, Avid provided free copies of its Media Composer software as awards for the top students in the video production classes.

Ms. Hills and the cinematic arts program have clearly inspired a passion for filmmaking in students.

“Ms. Hills is letting us borrow some equipment and we’re planning on doing another [film] this summer,” said Finn Pacheco, a student in advanced video production.

Students from the program have gained statewide and national attention for their work this year, winning a host of awards.

A documentary-style film about the environment was screened at a film festival at the White House, where student filmmakers met former president Barack Obama.

Another film took third place in the statewide Directing Change Film Contest and first place in the Los Angeles region. A Claremont student film also took third place in the regional competition, and three others earned honorable mentions. The winning students attended a red-carpet awards ceremony Thursday, May 11 at the Escondido Arts Center.

 At the Streets, Art, SAFE Festival in Los Angeles for PSAs promoting traffic safety on Tuesday, May 16, the day before the film festival, Finn’s group took home the Gold Award, ranking first place overall, with their film named a judges’ choice. Their win earned the cinematic arts program a $1,500 donation.

Other Claremont High School students’ films won first place in the Impact and Message and the Most Original and Creative categories. Two films earned honorable mentions, one of them also earning judges’ choice, and another was recognized as a finalist.

“We were very surprised. We didn’t expect this at all,” Liam Reisch, one of the members of the first place group, said.

The group worked hard on their film and said they were honored to gain recognition for it.

“I was really shocked,” Finn said. “We all put a lot of effort into it.”

While students in the video production courses currently produce only short films, Ms. Hills wants to give the students an opportunity to expand different formats. She is considering starting a YouTube channel for the school’s program, on which students can post episodic series-style content.

—Marc Rod