Compass School hosts 13th annual Student Film Festival
Lila Shaw and Japanese exchange student Koto Katayama consult during a film shoot.

Compass School hosts 13th annual Student Film Festival

WESTMINSTER — A group of 16 juniors and seniors at the Compass School have spent the past six weeks studying films, writing screenplays, and producing their own short films.

Last week, they put the final touches on those films and created blooper reels in preparation for the 13th annual Compass Student Film Festival on Thursday, April 13, at 7 p.m. - a culminating event for their filmmaking class.

Professional filmmakers serve as judges for the films, which brings a touch of competition and added pressure on the students to make films with wide audience appeal.

This interdisciplinary course is a popular elective at the school. It is led by myself (I am a humanities teacher at Compass) and science/technology teacher Eric Rhomberg.

We enjoy team teaching the course because the students are completely invested in their films throughout the process, working well beyond school hours to edit, perfect, and complete their projects.

“This is one of the most complex, creative, and organizationally-challenging projects these students have ever taken on,” Rhomberg says.

From writing the script, recruiting actors, arranging shooting locations, and organizing props, to adding sound, editing, and continual reworking, film-making requires students to develop decision-making, teamwork, and management skills.

As 11th grader Morgan Brooke-deBock observes: “There is a huge amount of problem solving and thinking on your feet.”

Silas Holmes adds, “This is a completely student-driven project where we are in charge of our own schedule. So we have to be responsible for changes and improvising when there are changes in the schedule.”

The course allows for close analysis of films as well as lots of hands-on practice with the camera. On the first day of Rhomberg's class, students dive right into learning camera operation and audio recording. They then make 2- to 3-minute silent films over the course of a few days.

In the meantime, in my humanities class, they discuss qualities of a good story, watch film clips for both analysis and inspiration, and learn screenplay formatting.

Eventually, all students write and “pitch” their original screenplays, and the students as a team choose what films they want to produce in the final weeks of class.

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