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40 Hour Film Festival offers valuable, authentic learning opportunity

HIGHLANDS RANCH – It was a mad dash, but a group of sophomores from Rock Canyon High School not only completed a horror film in 40 hours, but also won first-place honors for it. The students say the competition was an extremely valuable experience academically, as well as for their future careers.

The team of Will Buffington, Sara Cave, Landon Hogue, Andrew Junge, Chris Theodore and Elysa Veta, won first place in the Intermediate Category (1-2 years of high school experience) of Rock Canyon High School’s 40 Hour Film Festival. A team from Warren Tech in Jeffco Schools placed first in the Advanced Category (3-4 years of high school experience).

WATCH: See all of the 40 Hour Film Festival entries

“It was a blast,” Junge said.

“It was crazy. It was a scram. We were really rushed,” added Buffington. “40 hours is not that much time to make a three-minute film. It was really hard because of schedules with our actors, as well as our fellow group mates. We were really pressed for time. It was really hard to get everything done.”

Time was so tight that at one point the team split in two, shooting two scenes at once.

“Someone would be up stairs in the bedroom and then we would be outside filming another thing. It was crazy,” Buffington said.

“It gave us an opportunity to see if we really could rise to the occasion. Our group works really, really well together, with our different strengths and weaknesses,” explained Veta. “There are other groups that couldn’t handle the pressure of making this happen in 40 hours, so they had to drop out.  Our group—we were way too determined to fail.”

The students say it is authentic experiences like this or the failure of a recent live stream at a football game that really prepares them for the stress they’ll face in the real world.

“Whatever we do here, whether it is the time crunch or broadcasting in front of the school, or just making a film by yourself, it is all going to be applied to the real world,” Theodore said. 

“When absolutely everything goes wrong, you still have to find a way. Quitting is not an option. You cannot just say, ‘it’s not going to work, let’s just try tomorrow.

No, you have a deadline. It has to be on at a certain time and you have people who are paying for that service,” added Junge. “You have to be able to problem solve right then and there, and put something that is at least worthy of being watched, even if it is not your best.”

While this type of work can be extremely challenging, they can’t wait for their film class at Rock Canyon. That is something they can’t say about other classes in their schedule.

“It is first period (starting at 7:40 a.m.), but I still want to come to RCTV. I’m not excited about tomorrow, when I have AP History,” Theodore said. “Imagine one day that I wake up on both days and say, I want to do both, this is going to be a fun day at school. I want to learn.”

The teens say what draws them to RCTV is that they have voice and choice in their learning, which is completely authentic and relevant to their lives.

“[In RCTV] we get to choose what we want to study,” Hogue said. “If you want to make comedy films, then you can study funny scripts and if you want to study action, you learn how to film an action sequence or how to film a fight.”

“We can do whatever we want to do,” Theodore added. “It is what our heart is telling us we want to do. It is not, ‘you are going to read this AP chapter, you’re going to take this test, and whatever grade you get on it is going to determine your future.’ It is more of trying something new. Expand your skills. Start working with different people. Tell stories.”

Theodore says that it’s the same story in other subjects.

“In English, when we are told we have to read this book and now you’re going to have to annotate it,” Theodore said. “How are we going to make that more fun?

He suggests giving students flexibility to find subjects they are passionate about and allowing them to show their learning in their own way.

“It would be awesome to see how this AP chapter relates to common day,” Theodore said. “Can you make a project about it, a multimedia project about it? That is something I would love, because I love film.”

“They need to want it,” explained RCTV teacher Jim McClurg. ”If I tell them they have to do something that they’re not as passionate about, they won’t put as much effort into something that they really wanted to do.”

During class, he guides students ensuring that all students understand the basics, but also being available to support students that want to dive deeper in certain areas. The students have the ability to choose the subject matter and format that best fits their interests and strengths, as long as they are able to show their learning. So, for the final, the students have the ability to pick whichever genre they wish, from horror to comedy to documentary, but all students must meet certain expectations, when it comes to outcomes and skills.

“What says that one of those projects won’t make them good at everything from planning to production to post production?” asked McClurg.

As a result, the students are powered by their passion, even giving up their entire weekend to create a film for a festival.

“We are all passionate about it. This is our life. It is what we love to do,” Veta said. “We wouldn’t be taking this class and spending our weekends, after school and before school in this room or filming, if we didn’t have a passion for it. We love it so much.”

McClurg hopes to organize another 40-hour film festival in the spring. He and the students hope even more students participate.

“I think that if you have a passion for it, you should do it,” Veta said. “If you have your phone, you have all the resources you need, basically.”

November 16, 2015 | By rmbarber | Category: District, High School Education

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