REGION — Student filmmakers at Canyon Crest Academy screened two eight-minute documentaries they produced with a $5,000 grant the Carmel Valley high school received last year from the inaugural IMAX Big Picture In Focus program.
“Change Is in the Water” and “Bee Conscious” were shown June 7 to family members, friends and faculty who nearly filled a theater at Edwards Mira Mesa Stadium 18 IMAX & RPX.
“We got to talk to people about it,” said Reed Martin, one of two students who worked on both projects. “They asked us questions about the films. It was fun to show off our work.”
Canyon Crest was one of five schools nationwide selected to participate in the program, created to encourage students interested in filmmaking to develop movies that promote change.
IMAX worked with the All American High School Film Festival to select the participants.
Each school had to produce two documentaries that aligned with the United Nations Environment Programme’s sustainable development goals by focusing on climate action, life above water or life below water.
Visual arts teacher Mark Raines selected the students from his Envision Cinema Conservatory class based on past performance, quality of work, ability to meet deadlines and overall character.
“Change Is in the Water” was created by mostly upper classmen Navin Bose, Ceren Fitoz, Gabriel Gaurano, Jayden Gillespie, Daria Miller, Kalani Newman, Skyler Stewart and Jackie Tullie.
Reed and Noah Hecht were the only sophomores.
They worked with Thomas Wade, Roberto Pino, Melanie An, Campbell Moore and Ryan Curcio to produce “Bee Conscious.”
Each group pitched story ideas for the films and Raines made the final decision. Both ideas came from Reed.
“Change Is in the Water” is about handplanes, a device made from broken surfboards used for bodyboarding.
Reed said he met local creator Ed Lewis a few years ago and thought it fit well with the required theme.
Because it was his idea and he had most of the connections, he was given the role of producer despite being one of the youngest members of the team.
“It was kind of daunting at first but the seniors helped,” he said. “I would have liked to have taken more of a backseat in that one and just observed the seniors because we have some very skilled people here.”
His inspiration for “Bee Conscious,” which illustrates the role of the honeybee in sustaining human life, came when his real estate father had to have a hive removed from a property.
The students said challenges including meeting deadlines, finding and scheduling the right people to interview and working among the elements.
“We got turned down a lot,” Reed said, partly because they were students. But school and work conflicts also made scheduling and conducting interviews difficult.
For Reed and Noah, getting footage for “Change Is in the Water” was also challenging because that film was due in January, so they had to shoot for two or three hours at a time on the ocean in winter.
“And working with bees I got stung a lot trying to get close-up shots,” Noah said.
“We also learned how to work with a bigger group of people,” he added. “You would think more people might make the job seem easier but to get it all coordinated and everyone on the same page is hard to do.
“There were times we were disconnected,” he said. “Once we started working together everything flowed much better. I can take away some leadership skills from this.”
Many of the students had limited experience making documentaries. Raines said it is one of the hardest things to teach teenagers.
“Part of it is you get so much information and you have to form a story out of that,” he said. “With a narrative you create the story and write and shoot what you’ve written and designed. Documentaries are almost backward to them.”
“A documentary is very straightforward,” Melanie said. “It was something I always wanted to do and I’m glad I was exposed to the format and style.
“You’re trying to convey someone else’s story on a broader topic,” she added. “A narrative is more in your head and brought to life. There are challenges with both.”
Raines said the films were two of the toughest projects he’s helped students develop.
“The deadlines were fast-paced and we were involved in so many other productions we were committed to when this opportunity came our way,” he said. “That doubled or tripled our load this year with the same amount of people.
“It was stressful for me and stressful for the kids but it was totally worth it,” he added. “It gave them such a real-world experience. We already try to create a very real world environment in our classes but this stepped it up another notch because there was this outside entity checking their work at every part of the process, telling them what needed to be changed.
“And all those changes had to be made,” Raines said. “These were non-negotiable, must-do changes coming from the organization that funded these projects.”
Raines said he used the grant money to buy equipment that will benefit his program long term.
The documentaries will be screened at the All American High School Film Festival in New York this fall. They can be viewed at IMAX.com and will be shown as trailers during full-length IMAX movies in theaters.