El Camino High School Students’ Film Wins First Place at National Film Festival
OCEANSIDE – After traveling to New York City in early October to win a first place award at a national film festival, students in El Camino High School’s broadcast journalism class left inspired and motivated to explore new storytelling projects.
The audiovisual journalism course is still very new for the school, since it just started last year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Teacher Sharon Strong reiterated her concerns about how to virtually teach a new, mostly hands-on classroom, but they pivoted to make it work.
Strong’s class ended up making a short film that would later win first place in the Public Service Announcement (PSA) category at the All American High School Film Festival in New York City almost a year later.
The film was one of more than 40 other submissions in the category and one of 1,500 total festival submissions from across the country.
At the start of last school year, the students brainstormed together and came up with the film, “The masked thief”, a PSA short film on the label of wearing the COVID-19 mask told through a parody of an old country-western movie.
“We were trying to entertain our students and staff during quarantine while also educating them,” said Anna Velazquez, a current senior who worked on the film last year.
The class had to receive special permission and agree to social distancing restrictions in order to physically meet on set at the Rawhide Ranch children’s camp in Bonsall to film their film. For most of the students, it was the first time they had met.
“It was nice to finally be able to meet in person,” said Velazquez.
The film was directed by students with Strong as an advisor and another former student, Aaron Saldaña Cisneros, who directed and edited the film. Each student has alternated roles on the set, going from audio production to filming, including the camera.
When the students arrived at the festival in early October this year, they were told that the event would be both a rewarding and inspiring experience.
“I didn’t really think about it at first, but after seeing all the other student-made films I felt so humbled and so inspired,” Velazquez said.
Many places where the students were able to film on their own impressed Strong. She noted that the pandemic gave students around the world the opportunity to film in interesting places that weren’t populated by visitors, like Rawhide Ranch.
“It was a creative time for students to take advantage of places that were closed to the public,” Strong said.
The students also improved their networking skills and made new friends during the festival, some of whom look forward to seeing again at the next Student Television Network convention in February.
Sam Rosales, a senior in this year’s Broadcast Journalism class, has a knack for networking and making connections with other student filmmakers who could be future colleagues.
“When you meet other filmmakers you never know when there will be an opportunity for me to be in another city to make a movie, and I know someone there who maybe knows places and cool places, ”said Rosales.
According to Strong, nothing would have been possible without Career Technical Education, a department in the school district that offers several educational paths such as broadcast journalism through hands-on training and mentoring.
In the future, the class hopes to make another film – or a few films – that they could submit to different competitions, including the All American Film Festival, so they can return to New York next year.
They also want to master all the new equipment that was not used last year in their studio on the El Camino campus, clean up and improve their regular ‘ECTV’ broadcasts and ultimately set a high standard that will continue with future broadcast journalism courses.
“Our focus is on storytelling,” Strong said. “We want to be storytellers. “