Prosper High School’s Eagle Production Group, the school’s film and production team, had two films qualify to advance to the UIL State Finals in the traditional animation category.

The four students who produced the films attended the UIL Young Filmmakers Festival for the state finals at the Paramount Theater in Austin, Texas on March 1, 2017.

The film “Welcome Home,” produced by Ryan Arias, won fourth place in the category and “The Misfit,” produced by Jessica Hirthler, Mason McCarter and Nicholas Gonzalez, won fifth in the category. Prosper High School AV Production teacher Michael Logan said he’s proud Ryan was able to make his first animation film all by himself and Jessica, Nicholas and Mason were able to confront a sensitive topic through their film.

“I am most proud that these students were able to take an idea that they had and turn it into an award-winning film,” Logan said. “They put in hours and days of work in these films, as this type of animation is very time-consuming.”

He said he was excited the students got to network with like-minded people at the film festival.

“I think it was really cool that they were able to meet filmmakers their age from around the state,” Logan said. “By meeting students with their same interests, they are inspired to go further in film.”

Logan said he structures his AV Production classes based on the goals of his students, so he pushes them to do what they want to do in film, whether it’s documentaries, special graphics, digital animation or anything else.

“My video teacher inspired me to pursue film, and it’s an artform that I fell in love with,” Logan said. “Hopefully I can inspire some of these young students and maybe they can experience really cool stuff like I have in this industry,”

Jessica Hirthler, who directed “The Misfit” and went to the state finals for animation last year as well, said her film conveys the message of being yourself and accepting yourself instead of trying to change to fit into the rules of society. She said she was surprised when they found out they advanced to the state finals.

“Seeing how much (our hard work) paid off in the end was very rewarding,” she said.

Jessica plans on doing two years of community college close to home, and then she hopes to transfer to SCAD in Georgia to major in film and minor in animation.

Ryan, who directed “Welcome Home,” said the first stop motion he did was 10 years ago with the help of his stepfather. He took some of his toys and took photos of them with a small camera, so his new film is somewhat an inspiration from the one he did when he was young.

“The most fun part was editing it and seeing it come to life,” Ryan said. “Because when you’re taking all these photos you’re just thinking about how long it’s going to take when you put all these individual photos together. And the video was probably between 200 and 300 photos.”

He said he was genuinely surprised his film advanced to the state finals and was eager to learn what the judges critiques were so he could learn from his mistakes on his stop-motion film.

Ryan said he hopes he can continue working in the film industry after he graduates and pursue a career in editing or special effects. He is setting his sights on New York Film Academy for his higher education in the future.

Logan said this win will continue to inspire and motivate the students as they move into their college and professional careers as filmmakers, editors and special effects artists.

“I am very proud of these kids,” Logan said. “With their strong work ethic, creativity and technological skills they gain from this program, I am confident they will be successful in this field. I just hope they let me visit the studios when they are animating the next round of Pixar films.”