Students’ short film places at top

Herald News Intern

JASPER — Three young Jasper filmmakers were recently put to the test with only 10 days to produce a short film

As part of the school’s media program, three now Jasper High School graduates, Joey Wallace, Nolan Harmon and Max Otto, participated in a national film challenge this past spring. The 10 Day Film Challenge required students to plan, film and produce a three- to four-minute film in 10 days.

Jasper High School media teacher Evan Elrod uses the competition as a fun assignment for his students. This was the second year Elrod and his students participated in the competition.

“I’m too lenient on deadlines sometimes, so this is an absolute chance for them to feel pressure of, ‘I have to get this done,’ which is good for teamwork and real-world experience,” Elrod said. “We don’t do a whole lot with cinema. This gives kids that are interested in filmmaking and narrative storytelling a creative outlet.”

So how does the challenge work?

There are five competition divisions: New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Multi-state and Overseas.

Within each division, students are assigned a character, that character’s backstory, a prop, a line of dialogue and a genre, all of which they are required to use in the four-minute-long film they produce. Along with their film, students are required to design and create a movie poster. There is also an optional cinematic technique students may use if they choose.

Competing in the Multi-state category, Wallace, Harmon, and Otto, along with other JHS students, began the competition process in February. The school’s Radio/TV 2 class was split up into groups, and submitted five films in the contest. Each group was given the same requirements: the character name of Bob Haddocks (who was required to have a secret he didn’t want anyone to know about), a calendar as their prop and “Why didn’t I think of that?” as the line of dialogue. To determine the genre of their film unique to their group, the students drew a piece of paper out of a bowl. Wallace, Harmon and Otto’s genre? Sports and games. Other possible genres included fairy tale, romance and thriller. The team also opted to use the optional camera technique, which was point of view.

Brainstorming ideas for their film with Elrod, the three students recalled a TV show they had watched.

“We just built off the idea of being trapped in a virtual reality system,” Harmon said.

“Since our camera technique was point of view, we decided to go with the virtual reality approach since it’s becoming more relevant,” added Wallace.

In the students’ film, “Beta Test,” main character Bob Haddocks, played by Harmon, and his friend, played by Otto, try out the beta test of a new virtual reality gaming system. The system is able to analyze a person’s fear throughout the game; however, this goes terribly wrong in the end, leaving Bob trapped in the game, forcing his friend to hide their secret. The virtual reality concept was executed by using the point-of-view technique, allowing the audience to see from Bob Haddocks’s perspective as he plays the game.

One challenge the students encountered was the placement of the camera to achieve the point-of-view perspective.

The trio said they also struggled with the time crunch of the challenge. “Time was a big challenge because we only had 10 days to plan, film and edit it,” Wallace said. “Toward the end we were running out of time to complete it.”

Harmon and Elrod agreed that storytelling was also a bit of a challenge for the team.

“But when we started looking at the GoPro footage, we all got excited,” Harmon said.

Elrod said their storytelling improved throughout the challenge, especially for Wallace, whose specialty is editing.

The competition allowed Wallace to practice his editing skills and gave him a chance to learn his programs better.

“It was a good experience,” Elrod said. “That was probably the most improving portion I saw was them going through something and him (Wallace) being able to edit it the way he wanted it to look.”

The editing process also presented the team with the challenge of having to cut out some of their footage to meet the time requirement, a challenge Elrod said many filmmakers have.

“They had way more film than they needed, so they had to scrap it and come up with a whole new plot line,” the teacher said. “That’s another skill: being able to trim the fat.”

Despite these challenges, the students’ hard work paid off. The top 10 films in the Multi-State category were announced in April. The three Jasper students received the titles of Best Opening Titles, Best Use of Technique and placed first in the entire Multi-State category, earning them the title of Best Film.

“I wasn’t surprised we placed, but I was surprised we got first overall,” Wallace said.

Since the team snagged first place in their category, their film moved on to the national competition June 10 with the other 19 top-scoring films in the contest.

Although the Jasper team did not claim the first-place title in the national competition, they were awarded Best Opening Title Sequence and were nominees for Best Use of Technique.

“I was pretty excited to see how well we did, but I definitely didn’t expect the results we got,” Harmon said.

“I’m just really proud of what they accomplished,” Elrod said.

Harmon will study small business management and entrepreneurship at Illinois State University this fall. Wallace plans to do freelance videography at Perfleek. Otto will study business at the University of Southern Indiana.

View all the winning films here:


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