Film Fest adds showcase for students' work

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From left; McNeel Middle Schoolers Kyal Christianson, Tanner Castle, Braedon Churches, Tre Robinson and Keegan Meiers are thrilled with a film of basketball trick shots they are producing for submission in the Beloit International Film Festival's Student Film Makers Showcase. Several student groups are using technology at McNeel to produce short films.

Students will launch basketballs off trampolines and drip ketchup from their vampire mouths during the upcoming Beloit International Film Festival's (BIFF) Student Filmmakers Showcase.

"We are going to keep going until we are old and can't do anything," said McNeel Middle School sixth grader Tre Robinson. "We love what we do."

Tre, Team Captain Braedon Churches and friends Keegan Meiers, Tanner Castle and Kyal Christianson have been shooting basketballs off many stray surfaces. They've bounced off trampolines, climbed in trees and whacked at balls with hockey sticks to produce the ultimate trick-shooting film.

The boys trimmed their endless footage with special software to include only their best moves, and will submit "Kid Amazing" as part of the BIFF competition. Their footage is also available in four various editions on YouTube by typing in "Kid Amazing."

"I drove my parents crazy watching it over and over," Braedon said.

The Student Filmmakers Showcase is a new BIFF event in 2012, and is being put on thanks to a partnership with the Beloit Public Library. Melissa Hawks, an associate librarian and BIFF's director of educational programming, said the showcase is for 6th - 12th grade students. Entries can be of any genre and must be between three and five minutes long.

The student films will be screened as part of BIFF Feb. 18 at the Beloit Public Library and will be free to the public. The grand prize winner, however, will receive an award at the annual Launch and Laurels party on Feb. 16 at the Eclipse Center.

At McNeel Middle School Media Specialist Lydia Bertram has been helping students utilize the proper filming tools. She said students are allowed to check out flip-phone recorders at the school and other technologies to edit footage. Students often meet after school to work on the projects.

McNeel sixth graders Rachel Goff, Savanna Hemmerling and Mikayla Hoey created a film about a scary dented-head monster. They call their flick "The Haunted Truth," and said it's both a comedy and horror film.

"We kept giggling a lot," Rachel said.

"There are like 89 bloopers," said Savanna.

McNeel seventh graders Abby Miller, Alyssa Reitan and Sydney Turner wrote "Epic Attack," an elaborate screenplay about a girl on a computer reading a scary Facebook chain letter. A zombie, played by Alyssa, scares Abby before reappearing in her bathroom mirror and then bedroom. The scared girl then takes cover in her room, covering her face with a pair of pants.

"She (the zombie) goes to the door, pops out and bites her," Abby said.

Alyssa said the biggest challenge of filming was keeping her zombie mouth full of ketchup for five minutes. She later spurts the bloody goo on Sydney during the biting incident.

"It's so un-scary, it's funny," Abby said.

Abby said she hopes her experience will help her goal of performing with a band and debut in Phantom of the Opera. Alyssa said she hopes to become an actress and singer.

Sixth graders Mya Montalvo, Micah Lytle and Justin Hall are producing "The Stupids" about a stupid person who talks randomly to his patient and long-suffering pit bull.

Eighth graders Ana Pemberton, Makaela Tyler, Ja' Lexus Hamilton, Porshalya Jones and sixth grader Marcus Range are producing a music film titled "B City Kids."

The girls will be rapping and singing while Marcus breaks out his dance moves. Lyrics include "Get out of my space, get out of my face."

Sixth graders Trinity Wright and Breanna Reitan are creating "The Haunted Room" where a girl is haunted by a she-spirit who died in the home. Breanna will be performing ghostly antics from the girl's closet. Breanna noted she hopes to be a chef or filmmaker, while Breanna hopes to take her talents using cameras far in her future career.

Both girls hope they win and get the chance to attend the BIFF Launch & Laurels party. However, Trinity said her mother has plans to take her out to eat and to give her ice cream, whether she wins or not.

Students will be able to get more help with their films on Saturday at the Beloit Public Library at a prep day held from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. Students will be able to bring in their projects for feedback or help with technical issues in the film making process. The submission deadline is Saturday, Jan. 28.

Hawks said the Student Filmmakers Showcase gives young people the opportunity to experience the film making process without having to commit to a huge project. The Student Filmmakers Showcase web page will links to help students get started, as well as links to copyright-free music and sound effects.

For more information visit the BIFF website at

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