By Rodney Hays
Two Prosper High School students were recently honored for their filmmaking skills by the All-American High School Film Festival. Lauren Baker and Jordan Shelwood were selected to be recognized at the festival out of more than 1,000 film submissions.
The selection was a PSA (public service announcement) originally put together by the pair at the Student Television Network festival in Los Angeles last spring. Baker, a 17-year-old senior, said the PSA
"focuses on calling 9-1-1 when it’s appropriate," Baker said.
In LA, students were given four hours to shoot and edit the video.
"I wrote it. Jordan filmed everything and did the color-correcting. We edited it together. We work well together because we have different strengths," Baker said.
The video has teenagers having fun at a sleepover. During some down time they decide it might be cool to prank call 9-1-1. The film then cuts to next door where a girl is struggling with an asthma attack. As the video comes to an end, viewers see the girl collapse to the floor and a busy signal coming from the phone. The message, "There could be a real emergency next door," splashes across the screen as it fades out.
The PSA took top prize at the competition in LA.
Baker and Shelwood, who turns 16 in a week, said they were surprised it won the competition in LA. Gramly said she was not.
Gramly said she was there when the PSA project was shown at the workshop in LA. "When it ended, you could hear the audible gasp from the audience," Gramly said.
Baker decided to submit the PSA for the New York film festival too. "I didn’t even know she submitted it," Shelwood said. But he’s glad she did.
Shelwood said he is interested in working in film as a career. Baker said she wants to be an actress and will audition for a spot at Juliard.
They are both part of the growing video production program at PHS. The program didn’t even exist at the high school four years ago. It started in the middle school when Baker’s class was in eighth grade.
Gramly said the program hopes to offer students "real-world experience."
"We use very high-end, professional-grade cameras, equipment and software. I want them to be able to leave the program and have those marketable skills. They are going to know what they are doing when they walk in the door for a job," Gramly said.
Students get the opportunity to learn the technical side of filmmaking, but Gramly said they also focus on the story-telling aspect.
"Today anybody can be a filmmaker with an iPhone," Gramly said. "But you have to have that foundation of being able to tell a story. What sets our program apart is the ability to do that and then take it to the next level with our equipment."
Filmmaking is growing at schools across the state. The University Interscholastic League will also host its first film competition this spring. At PHS, it will be open to all students and not just the students in video classes. There will be a film festival at PHS in February to review the submissions and decide on which ones will be submitted for the UIL competition.
The All-American High School Film Festival took place the past weekend at the AMC Theaters in Times Square in New York City. Offerings were judge by dignitaries like Ed Burns, Dylan McDermott, Morgan Spurlock, Andrew Jenks, Diablo Cody, Kristen Stewart, Henry Winkler, Danny Rose, and Carlton Cuse.
Baker and Shelwood said they have learned important lessons during their time in class.
Shelwood said he has learned the importance of "Pre-planning." Baker said she has learned to be able to work independently.
"You have to be independent," she said. "You need other people, but you have to be able to work by yourself and know your strengths.
The PSA is available for viewing on the Eagle Production Group’s Youtube page.