ShortDocs Film Fest showcases local talent
By Lou Fancher
The next Ken Burns might be Zoe Seaman, a student in teacher Terry Garcia's fourth-grade class at Los Perales Elementary school in Moraga. Or, 15-year-old Jack Lewis, a freshman at Miramonte High School in Orinda, is a young, award-winning filmmaker in the making.
Regardless, the first annual Lamorinda ShortDocs Film Fest promises to showcase local talent with a competition and public screening of winning films created by anyone age 5 and older who lives, works, or attends school in Lafayette, Moraga or Orinda. An update online notes that, at the discretion of the Festival Committee, outside applicants are acceptable.
Sponsored by the Lamorinda Arts Council, local filmmakers Vicki Abeles ("Race to Nowhere," "Beyond Measure") and Julie Rubio ("East Side Sushi," "Too Perfect") and Los Angeles filmmaker Jon Gun ("My Date with Drew," "Like Dandelion Dust," will serve as judges.
The films of at least two finalists in four categories (elementary, middle and high school, and adult) will be shown May 15, at the Lafayette Library Community Hall.
Co-chairs Meredith Friedman and Kal Deutsch said more than 40 people attended a workshop, where experienced and novice filmmakers learned documentary film basics, including tips on writing, interviewing, shooting and editing, and more.The training videos and a list of resources and informational links are available on the film fest web page atlamorindaarts.org/shortdocs.
"The class was very basic and I imagine extremely helpful to the younger kids," says Lewis. "I learned about the documentary genre; it's history, what makes a good one, famous documentaries."
Lewis is already handy with the tools and techniques of filmmaking. He began producing point-and-shoot films with a neighbor, then learned from YouTube videos to create special effects. Saving up for Final Cut Pro and Motion 5 software, working part-time jobs to purchase a Canon T3i Rebel camera and other gadgets, attending Adobe Premier iDTech summer camps, and primarily, shooting projects combined to feed his fever for the craft.
Lewis has produced a 31-minute video documentary of the Orinda Country Club Swim team and filmed a Dance for Kindness freeze/flash mob dance on World Kindness Day last fall, among other projects he posts on Instagram.
"I've been trying to work on scripting more. I usually have the whole thing in my head, choose camera movement based on the tone and instinct, then jump into editing. I need work on the planning part," he says.
His festival entry captures a day in the life of a Lamorinda swimmer using interviews and royalty free customize-able music he downloads from online music score site Triune. An admirer of films "that make you think and have to pay close attention" like 'Inception,'" his older films tend to be ironically light, upbeat explorations.
"I'm starting a darker one about depression. (Minimal) dialogue, steady shots, silhouette effects, dark and classic. I'm going to Spain in the summer and I'll document the trip. I used to make action films, but Nerf guns don't tell stories."
At the other end of the spectrum -- in terms of experience -- Zoe will make her first-ever film.
"It sounded fun. If I was good at it, I could do it more," she says, about entering the competition. Although she intends to be a veterinarian and wants to treat not only cats and dogs but to "do reptiles" like her pet, an albino gecko named "Snowflake," the 9-year-old tends to plunge wholeheartedly into unexplored terrain.
"I like trying new things, like drama," she says. "I went to a class and I liked it, so I just started doing plays. I did 'Alice in Wonderland' where they divided the Alice into five parts and it was all fun."
Zoe plans to shoot her film about her school's librarian, Mrs. Russell, with an iPhone. She'll upload the footage to her mother's computer and use iMovie and MovieMaker to edit the film.
She learned from the workshop that questions have to be interesting, a storyboard helps the pace, and that by shooting the backs of people's heads in the foreground, she can create visual interest without having to get permissions "that would take a while."