Lights. Camera. Griffins.

Los Al High students create first-ever student short film

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When teachers announced a call for cast and crew to students at Los Alamitos High School, they say they were inundated with requests from students hoping to either act in or help produce the film. The student production premieres June 14.

By any measure, the students of Los Alamitos High School, like students everywhere, have had a very difficult year.

Even though students were confined for part of the year, afraid for most of it, they have managed to find new ways to communicate and prosper. The dance team, the choir, the Jazz and Orchestra department, among others, all of them found ingenious ways to craft productions that have aired throughout the year. 

Now comes the announcement of another first.

According to Conner Brown, the school’s new Video Production teacher, he and Stacy Castiglione, the school’s Drama Teacher, have teamed up to empower students with the talents and skills to make their own short film.

Brown said he and Castiglione created a plan to provide students with the skills and talents they would need to write and direct their own short film. 

“This film opportunity came at the best time.  In a “normal” year, we never would have been able to collaborate on a project like this because of competition and production schedule, but here we are!  It has been amazing to watch students from different activities come together to learn a plethora of new skills, leadership, and a different way to create art,” said Castiglione.

“This has truly been an experience of a lifetime,” she said.

The resulting film, entitled “6:20 a.m.” will have a red-carpet premiere at the Los Alamitos High School Performing Arts Center, June 14 at 5PM, said Brown. 

According to Brown, when the effort began earlier this year, students submitted scripts they had written, and a panel of students and advisors read them all before selecting one script that would be produced. 

After the “6:20 a.m.” script was chosen, Brown said the students selected two directors, Madeliene Berry, a senior and Lily Gomoljak, a junior. 

Berry, said Brown, “has an extensive knowledge of filmmaking and directing while Gomoljak has experience with acting and directing actors.” 

Following the selection of directors, Brown said the school held “open casting auditions” to the entire school. Anyone who wanted a part in the film could sign up to try out for it, he said.

Also, they offered students an opportunity to work on the film crew and “we were surprised when more than 80 students applied to work on the film,” said Brown.

“What happened next was amazing,” he said. A team of students began the planning and pre-production process, said Brown, “with no help from the adults.”

“They began rehearsals with the actors as well as started to collect props, costumes, makeup, etc. and began location scouting for scenes,” the video production teacher said. 

Brown said pre-production lasted five weeks and the principal photography started April 19. He said students shot film for four straight weeks. “Students used all the highest tech equipment to produce this film. They used professional lights, cameras, and sound equipment,” said Brown. 

Students got plenty advice from himself and area industry professionals who volunteered their time were able to teach students how to operate all the fancy equipment. 

Brown said by the end of the fourth week, the students were fully self-sufficient with the entire set. 

“They were able to run the whole show,” he said. 

Once all the scenes were shot, Brown said another team of students went to work on the post-production process, editing the scenes and putting all of the elements together into a finished film.

Post-production lasted eight full weeks, he said, noting that the students “edited together the scenes, added music and sound effects, color graded the footage, and assembled a final product. Brown said, he and Castiglione were astounded at the result, “a 30-minute short film that looks like it came out of USC.” 

With the premiere set for June 14, Brown said students are all clamoring to see the final product. The amount of knowledge and experience these students gained from working on this project is encouraging,” said Brown.  

“The final product is something that all of them will be putting on their portfolios for years to come,” he added.  

Brown and Castiglione hope to make this an annual project to continue to give students a creative outlet to explore as well as an opportunity to gain hands on experience with industry-grade equipment. 

Be looking for the film “6:20 a.m.” to be posted to YouTube after the June 14 premiere.

Vital info:

When: June 14, at 5 p.m. and 6:20 p.m.,

Where: Los Alamitos High School Performing Arts Center (PAC)

What: Premiere of Los Al’s very first student produced short film titled “6:20 a.m.”

There will be a live audience. Tickets are free, but tickets can only be reserved in groups of 4 for social distancing. In addition, at least 1 person from each group must fill out a waiver stating they understand that they are going to be sitting in a theater during COVID.

Lights. Camera. Griffins.