Middle Row, Centre: Student Filmmakers Get a Crash Course in Moviemaking

Graduation time for local high schools is almost here, and with it comes the usual round of bush parties, barhopping and celebrations, too often combined with poor judgement when it comes to transportation.

In an effort to curb incidents of impaired driving during grad celebrations, a number of secondary school students have joined forces with the Yukon Department of Highways, the Yukon Film Society and the RCMP to bring home a vital message.

Porter Creek Secondary School students Skyler Isaac and Marcus Cammidge are the directors of two short films that they hope will discourage their peers from drinking and driving this grad season. With the help of a mentorship program from the Yukon Film Society, the pair have written scripts, assembled casts and crews, and worked out distribution plans for their creative efforts. The pair plans to upload their videos to YouTube, and to show them at the upcoming high school grads and proms. Department of Highways personnel will actively promote the films, and there’s also a possibility of them being shown on Northwestel Cable’s community channel.

Cammidge, 18, wrote the original script for the short film he directs, The Unrevealed. As the story begins, we see Josh, the main character (played by Brogan Bell), framed in silhouette in a darkened classroom, talking about being at the wheel while driving home with a group of his friends from a party.

The camera cuts to a janitor mopping a hall, and then to a flashback of Josh and his friends at the party. The janitor flips on the lights, and reveals Josh’s scarred face, as he now recounts in detail the tragic aftermath of the party.

“I awoke a week later, found that I was the only one who survived…and now, I have to live with the consequences of what I’ve done,” Josh recalls. “Seven people murdered.”

Professional makeup artist Teri Kinton also lent her talents to the project. She’s responsible for the realistic effects in the film, and conveys through her skills the graphic outcomes of drunk driving, embellishing victims’ visages with fake blood, glass and scars.

The as-yet-untitled short from Isaac, also 18, shows the ramifications of drinking and driving from a different perspective. Centred on a group of high school friends, the film tells the story of Steven, (played by 17-year-old Michael Atkins), who has just broken up with his girlfriend. Depressed, he goes to a party to try and forget her. His friends get him very drunk, and he stomps out of the party when he discovers Nick (Robin Darnell), making out with his ex-girlfriend. Steven’s friends do little to stop him as he drives off drunk in his car, with tragic results.

“The message is, don’t drink and drive, because it’s bad,” says Isaac, “but at the same time, don’t be a bad friend—don’t allow your friends to drive drunk.”

Edward Westerhuis, the technical director for the Yukon Film Society, played a key role in the development of the student film project. The society’s mentorship program set up eight workshops under Westerhuis’ supervision, where students learned editing, storyboarding, scriptwriting and camerawork, among other skills.

Producer Jessica Hall was brought on to the project by the Yukon Film Society to aid with logistics, and budgeting, and to help pull together equipment, crew, locations, casts and anything else required by the student directors.

Hall described the aim of the student project recently, stating that the films served “to underscore the dangers of drinking and driving, and the potential loss of life, loss of limb, loss of friends … There’s consequences to your actions.”

“This sort of project is great”, says Hall, “because the kids get to learn, with a professional crew, how their productions went from page to screen, and what happens in between that. It’s always kind of an eye-opener, especially for newcomers … when you look at all the little bits and pieces that were needed for each shot, each scene and each effect, then you realize that it is a painstaking process …We’re shooting it in a day, and it will take about two weeks to finish.”

Hall is impressed by the quality of the students’ films.

“So far, from the footage I’ve seen, I think that these kids could enter them in to film festivals directed towards youth or high school students, because they’re great little stories.”

It’s highly likely, from what I saw of their efforts, that the students’ peers will agree come graduation time.

Brian Eaton is a cinema buff who reviews current films and writes on other film-related topics on a regular basis.

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