Young and making movies

Jesse Bergquist plays Dick Frasier in Scoot: The Tommie Boi Story, best overall film at the Boulder International Film Festival’s Teen Shorts Competition

BIFF | FEB 13 - 16, 2014

Perhaps the best gauge of a film’s quality is the depth of emotion it elicits, and one BIFF audience went for an unpredictably wild ride at Saturday’s Teen Short Films Competition Showcase.

Held at the Boulder Public Library, the exhibition screened seven short films from a pool of competitive submissions, each written, shot, acted, edited and produced by locals ages 12 – 18.

Budding technique was certainly on display, but stellar storytelling made a bigger impression. The audience was drawn in by the young filmmakers’ raw creativity; their willingness to experiment with new material and to re-imagine what we have seen on screen before.

“Connecting young filmmakers to BIFF is the best way for us to stay in touch with the future of film,” says Kevin Smith, BIFF’s executive producer.

Local teens serious about the art form are using the competition as a stepping stone. At BIFF’s first Teen Short Competition last year, the winner for best overall film was Peter Zachwieja, a senior student of the IB film studies program at Fairview High School. Since graduated, he is now enrolled at New York University’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts  and “having the time of my life.”

This year’s entrants are inspired.  Noteworthy winners:

Best Documentary: THE LAST MILE
LM inside photoMonarch High School senior Dane Fogdall has made a moving 17-minute documentary that lovingly embraces one family’s story of fathers and sons, traditions and grit. Set mostly in the Grand Canyon, Mr. Fogdall’s film combines vacation-style footage with interviews and still photography, creating a remarkably perceptive chronicle of, well, love actually. For Mr. Fogdall, filmmaking is a passion and music even more so. He composed and performed the soundtrack for this film and for The Wedding Crasher, also recognized at the showcase. He will attend Ft. Lewis College in Durango this fall.

Best Director and Best Overall Film: SCOOT: THE TOMMIE BOI STORY
TB inside shot
Unpretentiously zany, Scoot is the story of an orphan with a talent for push-scootering who overcomes long odds to become a champion. Actors give BenStilleresque performances, playing every absurd situation with straight-faced reverence.  It works. The laced-in physical comedy, varied pacing and well-composed shots do too. Even the cheesy special effects are rightly mocked. You get the impression that this movie was fun to make, but director Ian Riedel assembled all of the pieces and parts to good comedic effect, and that’s harder to do than it looks. Mr. Riedel played in this and another award-winning short, Eclipse. He is a senior at Fairview High School and a member of BIFF’s Youth Advisory Council. He aspires to write comedy professionally.

Best Screenplay:  THE WEDDING CRASHER
WC inside shot
With no dialogue, The Wedding Crasher is an ironic win for Best Screenplay. Filmmaker Derek Wayne Aiello was surprised to take this category, but explained that his goal for the film was to tell a good story wordlessly, which he did. Mr. Aiello seeks out creative complications in his work these days, because “they force me to overcome challenges and grow as a filmmaker.”  With a penchant for details, Mr. Aiello forked over his $300 summer savings  to buy the gorgeous wedding dress featured in the film, knowing it would generate greater authenticity. (It’s for sale, by the way.) The movie is short and very sweet, with a twist we won’t give away here. Mr. Aiello suffices to say  that his film demonstrates that there are “different ways to love people.” He is currently a senior at Monarch High School, a member of BIFF’s Youth Advisory Council, and an applicant to several film schools.

Best Cinematography:  ECLIPSE
Eclipse inside
This film – written, directed and edited by Kolby C. Rowland – is intentionally mystifying and visually compelling. The film draws the audience in and creates curiosity:  A beautiful young woman is unable to find peace despite having someone who loves her, and eventually takes her own life – or does she?  Mr. Rowland was gratified to see the film recognized for cinematography. “My goal was to create visual fluency. I wanted a film that would flow like a river.”  It does. Currently a Fairview High School senior, Mr. Rowland will enroll at Chapman University in Orange, California next fall as a film production major.

Also of note:

Kaya Tone and Jordan Groth, a sophomore and senior at Boulder High School, were awarded Best Music Video for their exhilarating compilation of sights and sounds in RHYTHM OF SCHOOL.

Boulder High School’s Shay Eberle-Gunst and his sister Mayze, who attends Casey Middle School, won in the category of Best Performance for Shay’s dark comedy MISTAKES, in which Siri (of iPhone fame) holds a key role.

The competition’s youngest participants, Cenntenial Middle School 8th graders Cassady Adams and Mia Greene, were recognized in the Up & Coming Filmmakers category for their beautifully filmed THE FRIENDSHIP.

All of these young filmmakers deserve to see their work on a screen bigger than YouTube. Some of them, we’re sure, have a lot of big screen time in their future.

BIFF’s Youth Advisory Council is greatly expanding film opportunities for young people in our community. Many of the filmmakers in this story are members. Read more about the council and how to participate here.