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Tuesday, Jun 19, 2018
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It’s lights, camera, student action at Wesley Chapel High film festival

— Just like professional movie makers, Emma Bjornsen and Daniel Alfonso left a lot on the cutting room floor when they produced a film for Wesley Chapel High School’s 14th annual student film festival.

After a massive editing job, they transformed 30 hours of footage into six minutes of film.

The time-consuming effort paid off and their movie, “Lockdown” is one of five nominees for Best Picture when the film festival happens Thursday afternoon.

“I think it’s cool to have something in your head turn into this tangible movie,” said Bjornsen, a 15-year-old sophomore.

The film festival is the brainchild of drama teacher Sean Gaudet, who has worked at Wesley Chapel High since the school opened in 1999. Creating a film broadens the horizons for his students beyond stage acting and provides them with a well-rounded portfolio. Plus, it’s just fun.

“You don’t have many classes where you build stuff,” Gaudet said. “I think we all want to build. I think we lose that in the rush to test, test, test.”

Students, working in small teams, produced about 50 films, and from those were chosen the five Best Picture nominees.

In addition to “Lockdown,” a thriller about a jail escapee who ends up at a high school, the others are “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” “Secret of Diana,” “Maggie’s Flower” and “British Invasion.” Awards also are presented for acting, editing, screenplay and other categories.

The film festival is a major event at the school, with students crowding into the Performing Arts Center to view the five nominated films, which can’t be longer than 9 minutes and 30 seconds. Judges brought in for the occasion also watch and afterward render a decision on the winner.

The student filmmakers mostly wing it when it comes to equipment, so camera quality can vary. One team might use a camcorder and another an iPhone.

“You work with what you have,” said Alfonso, 17, a senior who used a Canon Vixia camcorder borrowed from the school’s TV production department.

Cassandra Cross, Jordan Bourque and Taylor Gonzalez, all 18-year-old seniors, said their movie, “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” wasn’t exactly big budget. For props they mostly used whatever they could find around their homes, and for costumes they wore clothes they normally wear.

“We basically spent zero dollars,” Gonzalez said.

They described their movie as like a funny version of “Inception,” the Leonardo DiCaprio film about a group of people who can infiltrate the subconscious of others through dreams.

The main characters, who want to make a better movie than their competition, fall asleep and dream of movie possibilities.

As a team of seniors, the trio said they had the advantage of experience. Bourque and Gonzalez have made films since their freshman year, and Cross became involved as a sophomore after moving from New Jersey.

Cross said the most difficult part was “collaborating to get one amazing idea.”

“Everyone has a bunch of great ideas,” she said. “We found a good balance.”

The students said they are fortunate to attend a high school where they get the opportunity to work on such a fun project.

“I don’t think a lot of schools get to do this,” Gonzalez said.

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