Archives for September 2010

Lexington Film Club to Hold First Annual Film Festival

The Lexington high school film club will be holding their first annual film festival at the Lexington Venue on Massachusetts Avenue, May 24th from 7-930 p.m. The festival is cosponsored by Lexington High School’s Television Production program, the LHS Tunnel Vision Film Club and the Lexington Venue.

Attendees will be treated to a variety of short films in a number of different genres. Lexington Venue owner Peter Siy has generously donated his theater for the evening. The PTSA has made a contribution to the festival that will cover the rental of a digital projector. This two-hour evening event features student written, directed and acted films. The event’s MC for the night will be former LHS student and present Emerson film student Sam Ruocco. Drinks and food will be offered by the Lexington Venue and DVDs with all of the movies shown for the event will be sold to the public.

LexMedia will be funding cash prizes for the winners. “Two areas of great interest to us are Youth production and working with the school system,” says Florence DelSanto, Director of LexMedia, “So naturally we jumped on the idea. This festival gave us an opportunity to work directly with the LHS media class and for them to learn about LexMedia and the equipment and resources we have to offer,” she says. “It’s also very special to have a privately owned movie theater in the center of town and it’s nice that the high school can take advantage of that community asset as well. I look forward to being on the judging panel and seeing the exciting and diverse entries and to a successful and fun event.”

It is expected that up to 100 films will be entered into the competition. All entries will be screened by members of the Lexington High School film club and group of finalists will be selected from the original entries. Volunteers have been selected from the community to serve as festival judges and each judge will be supplied with a compilation disc of the shorts to screen and to rate.

Lexington High School TV production teacher Mary Pappas is very excited that her small program has developed to this level. “I always wanted to have a film festival,” she says. “It just came together this year. “A number of my students are very passionate about film. They started Tunnel Vision which is the film club in October of ’09. They really wanted to have a film festival, and I said, ‘If you guys will work with me, we can pull it off.” The club started brainstorming, they did research: should we have an angle, should we have a theme? And we don’t,”  Pappas says. “That was deliberate. What we really wanted was a number of different types of films of different films in different genres that are really good quality. We are stressing quality and not the length, or the genre of the films.”

“I really can’t believe we’ve come this far,” Pappas laughs. “When I started here there were only two computers in this room! The first year I wheeled equipment around on a cart into the elevator and upstairs to the computer lab every day!”

Pappas talked with then-acting principal Van Seasholes and he recommended that she apply for a Lexington Education Foundation grant. “He really helped me with it. and I got it,” she says. “The grant was for 12 computers and a couple of pieces of equipment for the control room. Then, the PTSA gave me a grant for a number of cameras. I’m so grateful to these people because that really was the start of the program.” Since then FOLMADS has funded items like Final Cut Express software, several instructional videos and DVDs a Sony Cybershot still camera, and podcasting bundle.

Pappas was a television producer in New York City with ABC News before moving to Boston where worked for the Discovery Channel in the 90s. After she had her first child, she decided to change careers and went back to school. “I was always interested in computers, so I enrolled in a program for technology integration in education at Harvard Graduate School of Education. The program stressed all different kinds of technologies and how to integrate them into the schools. I loved it! It was a two-year program and Pappas went to work for the Weston Schools in 1997. When the TV production job at Lexington High School opened up she applied.

“I really wanted the position because it is the combination of everything I have done. And I love it. And the kids love it. Whatever you do today you’re going to have to know technology, space and you’re going to be using video whether you like it or not. What kids learn in this class will be really valuable to them in the future.”

Working on a film festival has given members of the television film club a look into the business side of getting films out to the public. Rae Aggerwhil and his friend Kevin Choi were instrumental in the formation of the film club. They brought the idea to Pappas and she was supportive.

“Everyone thought it was a great idea, we were all amped up,” Rae says. “When Peter Siy agreed to let us hold the festival at the Lexington Venue, the idea really took off. Everyone wants to see their work on the big screen,” Rae says.

Julia Friedman, another club member agrees. “It’s a really cool feeling to see something you do on a big screen. Now with everything on MySpace, we’re taking movie theaters for granted.”

These film students are really excited to have the opportunity to showcase their work. “We have lots of singing and acting and art here at Lexington High School, but we don’t have a place to showcase filmmaking. This film festival will give kids who want to be filmmakers a chance to show people what they can do,” Friedman says.

Magdalena Bermudez says that she finds film to be a very intellectual pursuit. “LHS produces a lot of intellectual students and film making gathers all of those skills together. It gives students a chance to reflect what they are learning here.”

Magdalena is interested in documentary filmmaking, but for this project she has chosen to interpret a friend’s dream. “It’s very surreal and dreamlike and I wanted to edit it in a style that’s like French new wave film.”Leo Gaskell comes to filmmaking from photography. The film that he has been working on for the festival is based on Ernest Hemingway’s short story Hills Like White Elephants. “I’ve been working on this for maybe a year now,” Gaskell says. “I’ve had lots of time to think about the techniques I want to use. Ideally, I’d love to shoot in 16mm—I have kind of an attachment to the actual medium of film—but, I have to work with what’s available.”

Leo has found that limitations have led him to think more creatively about his project. “It’s like when you’re writing a poem,” he explains, “if you want to make two lines rhyme, just making them rhyme will take you to a place that you wouldn’t have thought of.”

Leo has taken advantage of the facilities at LexMedia. DelSanto and her staff have encouraged all the members of the club to come in and use the editing equipment and the studios. Leo made use of the green screen in studio A to shoot some of his film.

During our meeting the students had a vigorous debate about film versus video. The ease, accessibility and relative low cost of shooting digital have made the medium more accessible. However, Kevin Choi talked about the “almost therapeutic” aspect of actually working with the film. “Now your only investment is time. Before, there was a huge investment in materials.”

Working in digital makes it possible to shoot endless amounts of footage. It’s something that the students seemed to view with mixed feelings.

Tyler Vendetti is working on a documentary video about Lexington firefighters. “With digital you can be less disciplined,” she says. “You can be excessive. Before digital you’d probably spend more time planning.” Tyler loves working in film because it allows her to bring her ideas to life. “You can write something down and then you can get actors to come in and make it come to life just as you visualized it. You can show your thoughts and your emotions. I like that whole aspect of filmmaking.”

Kevin Choi is working on an animation for the festival. “Recently I’ve been attracted to motion graphics and animation,” he explains. “With this new technology you can do an entire frame with the click of a button. It saves so much time. You can make a choice of having thirty frames or six—each frame is very valuable. You have to respect each frame.”

Kevin’s fellow founding member Rae Aggerwhil is immersed in film. He describes a project that he and some buddies worked on. They each took the same footage and edited it into three or four minutes. “We all had the exact footage and everyone edited it completely differently!” For Rae it’s a great form of self-expression. “Everyone has a different perspective,” he says.

All of the creative energy from these students makes me really look forward to the First Annual LHS Film Festival when the Lexington Venue will be transformed into our very own Sundance for a night!

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