This weekend, Griffin Loch, an eighth grade student at Santa Clarita Valley International (SCVi) charter school, saw his first full-length feature film up on the big screen.
The 13-year-old spent the past year perfecting “Calling the Shots,” a film he wrote, directed, produced, edited, designed and acted in, before he invited the public to his premiere at The American Film Institute (AFI) Sunday.
“I had the premiere at AFI, which was fantastic, about 87 people showed up,” Loch said. “It was stunning to see it up there in 4K… It was just amazing to see it up there on the screen.”
A mix of crime, action, adventure and mystery, “Calling the Shots” follows a group of young filmmakers who decide to make a film based on a bank robbery that happened in their neighborhood.
Loch said the film’s cast and crew—who are also his classmates—family, people who donated to the film and those who had a part in its creation attended Sunday’s premiere at AFI. It was the first time the entire cast and crew had seen the film in its entirety.
“There were a lot of laughs, a lot of thrills throughout it. Everyone was cheering,” Loch said. “At the showing I like to sit the farthest in the back so I can watch everyone reactions. That’s a lot of fun for me so I can see what people like and dislike and build it into the next one.”
During the premiere, Loch also gave a speech where he thanked everyone for their support and held a raffle to give away a poster and a signed T-shirt from “Calling the Shots.”
“It’s amazing when you get that kind of response to all your hard work and get these people together and they enjoy it,” Loch said. “It’s hard to explain with words how outstanding it was.”
Loch spent his entire summer editing the film while he was at his parent’s cabin. He worked all day in his grandfather’s sculpture studio and would take periodic breaks to walk through the area’s trails and forests.
“It was an amazing creative process for me to create this and think of how people are going to think of it,” Loch said. “The entire process of making the films is something I’ll always remember.”
The film was also part of Loch’s schoolwork with SCVi’s Innovation Studios, a program that allows students to build personalized curriculum based on their interests.
Loch earned leadership scores for directing, computer science grades for editing and adding special effects, math grades for keeping a budget and credit for screening the film at school and submitting it to film festivals.
“I’m putting the flyers out and seeing how many people I can get in,” Loch said of the upcoming premiere at SCVi. “I’m charging $5 per ticket so I can try to start getting a fund for the next one.”
And Loch has already started to create the script for his next film, based on a true story from his grandfather and his friend when they were 13 years old.
“They would go to girls’ houses and play the ‘William Tell Overture’ and stand up and TP their house and then they would run away,” Loch said. “It’s almost like a Wes Anderson film. It will have a fun, feel-good feeling.”
Through this process of creating films and experimenting with styles, Loch hopes to find his “trademark” as a director.
“At my age now it’s a lot of experimenting with what I like and dislike and what genres I care for more. That’s a lot of what I’m doing now,” Loch said. “It’s something I enjoy. I can’t see myself doing anything else. It’s something I was born to do.”
On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_