See top student productions at Canyon Crest Academy Film Festival


By Karen Billing

Canyon Crest Academy’s Envision Cinema conservatory is capping off an extremely successful year with its sixth annual Film Festival, to be held this Saturday, May 19, at 7 p.m. More than 20 films will be screened, all a length of five minutes or less, featuring several comedies, dramas, a “spaghetti western,” sci-fi, documentaries and even two films featuring hand-drawn animation.

“These kids are doing great work,” said visual arts teacher Mark Raines. “It should be a really good show.”

The festival will crown winners in each category and the audience will get to select the audience choice winner.

As a lucky bonus, the festival will feature two student films that were selected to be a part of the 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival in the Future Filmmakers category, screened on June 16 and June 23 at LA Live. Senior Hunter Peterson and sophomore Josh Masters are only the second and third CCA students to achieve such an honor with their films, “Binary” and “Whither From Above.”

“It’s really a big deal,” said Raines. “I’m so proud of these guys because it’s one of the largest film festivals in the country and the student work is phenomenal. We’re definitely producing that kind of work at CCA and the festival saw that.”

In addition to CCA’s recognition at the LA Film Festival, six CCA films have been nominated for the San Diego County Board of Education’s iVIE Film Festival in broadcast journalism, nonfiction film and Raines’ own video in the classroom about his experience in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010.

Winners will be announced in June.

Josh’s LA Film Festival-recognized movie, “Whither From Above,” is about a student who has a dream that aliens are talking to him and the next day a UFO comes to get him at school. Richard Liu, Alvin Lin and Justin Bartell also worked on the film.

“I wanted it to be something that was unique visually, with a ‘wow factor’ to it,” said Josh. “I wanted to have fun and create something wild and crazy and cool.”

Mission accomplished on the “wow” factor as Raines said the first time he watched the film in class, seeing a UFO hovering over the CCA campus, he was blown away.

Josh made the film in a regular film class last year before joining Envision conservatory this year, which was the reason he made the choice to attend CCA.

“It’s amazing being able to pursue your interests and have the freedom to do it,” said Josh.

Hunter’s film is called “Binary” and is combination of science fiction and a “feel good film,” with a little nod to his favorite childhood movie “Short Circuit.” He received help on the film from Alexander Powell, Alvin Lin, Blake Johnston and Matt Britt.

“It’s probably one of my favorites that I’ve ever done, I’m very proud of it,” Hunter said.

Starring the young Malachy Martinez, it is about a boy who finds a mysterious box that prints an endless stream of binary paper. The boy and the machine figure out a way to communicate with each other in a very sweet, moving story.

Peterson has come a long way from where he started in the film conservatory when he was into effects-driven things. Now he’d rather build something for the set, like the “Binary” box than have an animated one.

“What I learned this year, I’ll stick with for the rest of my life: That it’s better to do something in production not in post,” said Hunter, who will attend USC in the fall, hoping to be in university’s film school by 2013.

A total of eight film conservatory seniors are graduating this year, the first group that Raines has had all four years and the majority have been admitted into some great film schools and programs.

“They’re a stellar group,” Raines said.

This year’s film conservatory was helped by having two amazing guest artists: Destin Daniel Cretton and Brad Kester. Cretton’s film “Short Term 12” played Sundance in 2009 and won the US Jury Prize. His first feature film, “I Am Not A Hipster,” premiered at Sundance this year.

Kester was an assistant director on “Short Term 12” and a second unit director on “I Am Not a Hipster.”

The guest artists provide a unique, “real-world” education for the students and are fully funded by parent donations.

“It’s getting harder and harder to retain them,” Raines said of the guest artists. “There’s a need for more donations and help.”

Fundraisers like the film festival help give the program the boost it needs.

The students also work very hard to fundraise for their guest artists, putting on the Mini Cine fest earlier in the year and selling various artwork, raising a total of $6,000.

“It gives them a sense of ownership of the program,” Raines said. “They’re saying ‘We value the guest artists a lot and this is our contribution and we’d love it if you’d partner with us.’”

Tickets to the Film Festival are $10 for adults and $5 for students, with all monies going toward Envision film. Donations can also be made online at Donations should be designated to “video/film.”