By Jim Walker
Signal Staff Writer
Filmmaking is alive and well in the SCV, and the next generation of filmmakers is upholding that tradition proudly. Seven students from Saugus High School recently won the Sci-Fi/Thriller category of the Academy of Scholastic Broadcasting 76-hour film contest with their production, “The Aftermath.” Alex McArdle, Joaquin Soto, Caden Bazo, Matthew Eberhardt, Jacob Mendez, Krystal Meza and Matthew Hollenbaugh were given 76 hours to create, film and edit a video. And they did that, very well.
There were nine categories the students could have competed in, but whichever they chose, their teachers were only allowed to advise them. Teachers were not allowed any handson participation, such as helping to shoot or edit.
The Sci-Fi/Thriller category introduction put things this way: “Sci-Fi and Thriller films make us see the world in a way that is often warped, skewed or foreign. They use an unfamiliar vehicle to challenge what we see in ourselves. Teams will receive an inspiration package for the film that includes dialogue, a prop and a shot or editing style. Reminder: This is a film contest. Judges will look at all of the formal elements of the film as they come together to tell the story. This includes cinematography, lighting, framing, camera manipulation, editing and acting. Teams that follow the inspiration package will be more likely to place in the event.”
Wade Williams is the Industrial Arts Department chair at Saugus High School, and heads the Film-Video Production/TV Broadcast section and the Saugus News Network at the school. He was the teacher overseeing the winning film students.
“We are members of the ASB classroom, the Academy of Scholastic Broadcasting, and entered their 76- hour Sci-Fi/Thriller contest,” Williams said. “I let the students get into groups and gave them the prompt in the morning before a weekend. They had a blast with it, or so they tell me. We entered Drama and Sci-Fi/ thriller, and won first place in Sci-fi.”
Hollenbaugh said, “My intention in filmmaking is to work in the industry as a camera operator. What motivated me to get into this program was all of my classmates were in one group, so I really was looking forward to making something special with them. Winning shocked me because we had figured out what we were going to do the night before filming! The fact that we won the contest means a lot to me and my classmates.”
“This was a really fun and challenging project,” Soto said. “It was especially fun to try and make a garden shed look like a space ship. The thin walls meant, when we were outside, we had to whisper when filming. I never would’ve had this opportunity if I wasn’t in this film program. I’ve had such great experiences and chances to use professional equipment that I otherwise wouldn’t have used. This program has just strengthened my love for making movies and I’m excited to spend the rest of high school in it.”
“What motivated me into filmmaking was originally me just trying to find a hobby, and it ended up working out,” Bazo said. “I now want a in IT or as a movie editor. My part in the production was to set up everything and edit the film. I also acted as one of the protagonists. I didn’t think we would win, especially since we are not an experienced group of individuals, yet, in the area, so I was surprised. This was a fun experience to hang out, joke around and also take it seriously. I would love to have a chance to do it again in the future.”
Alex McArdle said, “I joined Video Productions last year as an outlet to express myself. I found joy in being creative with lighting, storytelling and angles. I had zero expectations of winning. We got, arguably, the most difficult prompt and 90% of our efforts went toward finding a creative way to make the atmosphere feel ‘spacelike.’”
“It was a great honor to win this Sci-Fi/Thriller category,” Mendez said. “Aside from being my first step toward being a better filmmaker, it fanned the flame of confidence that I needed to see that I could be successful. Winning this award has motivated me to keep pursuing bigger contests and harder challenges to increase my experience and knowledge within the film industry. I am really thankful for my film teacher, Mr. Wade Williams, for seeing the potential in me when, at first, I could not.”
Meza said, “I joined this program because I’ve always had an interest in writing. I wrote the script. It was a little difficult to write a script in 20 to 30 minutes. I also helped with audio. There was always the hope of winning, but I was looking at us as more of an experience than contest. Honestly, I’m most excited about the experience, plus it was a lot of fun. People treat me the same and nothing really changed, we just got back to work on our next project. I definitely felt that the program helped, it taught me a lot and I’d definitely recommend it.”
Eberhardt added, “My intention with filmmaking is that I want to start on writing scripts for shows and movies. I actually did not know we were in a contest, to be completely honest, but what motivated me was completing the project on time, and getting an ‘A.’ Winning the contest was just the icing on the cake. My part was being a protagonist in the film, and writing the script. The joys were working with everyone. They made it such a positive, fun and hilarious set to be on, and so far, it has become my favorite project yet. Winning has made me realize that acting and writing are things I really want to pursue.”