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High Schoolers On and Off the Screen: Next Gen Filmmakers Tackle the 48/48

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Jamie Andrews and Kaden Kramer in Killer Valley. Credit: Rogue River High School

Much like a qualifying round for the Scripps Spelling Bee, a high school film contest in the Rogue Valley has been whetting the desires of young moviemakers in southern Oregon for a decade now to produce short films of national caliber quality. The 48/48 Video Challenge, created by local director, Ray Robison, sparks students from Josephine, Jackson and Klamath counties into writing, producing, scripting and directing a short film in 48 days.

Klamath Union took first place and best acting for Ivy Grant’s performance in their Twilight Zone-style psychological suspense, Midnight Zone. Second place went to Logos Public Charter School for their time travel sci-fi, An Apple in Time, which also gave writing team Ian Jones, Sasha Hanson, Katana Anderson and Nolan Christensen best screenplay award. Phoenix High School won third place for their romance, Our Last Weekend, as well as best cinematography award for Gabe Wilson.

“So many schools have competitions between other schools in the region, but when it came to something like filmmaking nothing existed at the time,” says Robison. Wanting to motivate young filmmakers and help structure guidelines for making movies, he proposed the idea to teachers where it was well received.

Students have 48 days to complete it, with a 48-hour window just to shoot, and are given a genre, a couple lines of dialogue, four different props and descriptions of two of the characters that need to appear in the film.

“They can’t just grab whatever camera or phone and run around shooting,” Robison adds. “They need to be organized enough to get things done in a limited time; find a crew, get the equipment, shoot the film and save time for post production work.”

Technological advancements have drastically aided the contest over time. “They were reliant on what equipment the school had and the quality of it wasn’t as good. How they’d edit wasn’t easy to accomplish,” Robison shares. “I remember I’d have to burn DVDs of their videos and mail them to the judges. Today they can do incredible, high quality, high definition videos simply with what they own themselves and I can just send links of their entries to the judges.”

Films are graded for shot selection, composition, pacing, innovation and the ability to tell a story while conveying emotion. Though kept confidential, judges have included a Sundance Film Festival programming manager and Oscar-winning sound editor. “What’s really nice is these professionals are giving critiques of student work, which is something independent filmmakers don’t often get from the industry at that level,” says Robison.

Klamath Union High School instructor, Dan Stearns, believes it is the professionalism of the contest that helps these young filmmakers to prepare for industry expectations.

“In today’s world, media students need to understand deadlines and learn how to take criticism, to have thick skin,” says Stearns. “Someone’s always going to judge their work. Employers want to see a variety of skills, including design, video and photography. The more diversified they are the more likely student’s are to get work. They gain a great deal when they win and almost more when they lose.”

Six films were completed and submitted by students at Logos Public Charter. “The contest is actually an amazing process,” says Matt Luoto, the creative writing and cine-tech instructor. “It helps them realize just how much goes into pre-production, production and post production. It’s incredible for the students to be able to come together and work as a team to produce this final product, which turned out to be a really good short film.”

“It rejuvenates my students unlike any project that we participate in,” says Jeff Rhoades, Digital Media teacher at Phoenix High School. “They get to experience their curriculum being turned in to real life practical application and they look forward to it every year, working harder on this project than any other. I think the contest is a testament to Ray [Robison]’s belief in the next generation to tell great stories.”


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