Every year, film festivals across the nation feature finely tuned passion
projects by up-and-coming talent. Selection to any one of these festivals
is an honor and could do wonders for an aspiring filmmaker.
At the top of the list is selection to the seventh annual
Burbank International Film Festival in the heart of the Hollywood scene and the
All American High School Film Festival (AAHSFF) in New York City, the largest high school film festival in the nation.
And that’s exactly what a group of talented Village Christian School
graduates have achieved.
“Playground” by Soren Persing (Class of 2014) and “A
Timeless Captivation” by Aidan Benitez and Austin Wolff (both Class
of 2015) have been nominated for Best Picture in the LA County Student
Filmmakers category at the Burbank International Film Festival, while
“Divine Liquidation,” also by Benitez and shot by Jesse Hanckel
(Class of 2015), was selected for AAHSFF.
Hanckel, Vince Schiro, Anthony Macias, and Matthew Lefler also worked on
“A Timeless Captivation,” which served as a final project
in Village Christian’s Advanced Media Production class.
The Burbank International Film Festival will be held Wednesday, September
9 through Sunday, September 13, with screenings at the AMC Theaters in
the Burbank Media Center [click here to purchase tickets]. AAHSFF is October 9-11 at AMC Empire 25 Theaters in Times Square.
“It is such a thrill that they are getting the recognition for their
excellent work,” said VCS Theatre Arts Director Thom Babbes, who
taught the students’ Advanced Media Production class. “I am
so proud of them. They worked hard, and now they get to reap the reward.”
Two Films, Two Festivals
For Benitez, who is currently in film school at New York University, making
“Divine Liquidation” was an opportunity to build his confidence
and professionalism, he said, further growing his love for directing.
So to be honored by both prestigious film festivals for two of his pieces
only compounds his artistic accomplishments.
“The biggest impact these nominations give me moving forward is confidence,”
Benitez said. “They give me confidence in my future films and my
ability as a filmmaker.”
“Divine Liquidation” is a short story based on the Book of
Job about a hard-working, young, and loyal employee who is sent into a
sudden and unwarranted downward spiral that causes him to question his
loyalty to the company and his mysterious boss.
“I want to be a director because I want to show audiences things
they have never seen before,” Benitez said. “I want to make
people think about what they see in a new light that I hope to provide.
I want to evoke emotions people didn't know they had.”
That mentality carried over to “A Timeless Captivation,” which
was written by Wolff and directed by Benitez. The film tells the story
of “a little girl, Britney, who is trapped in an old man's house,
seemingly being held hostage,” said Wolff, a former actor and current
screenwriter. “Then, once the old man's daughter walks in and
sees the hostage, the danger becomes even more evident for Britney…”
The film forces audiences to look deeper at a heart-wrenching and devastating
“It's a wonderful feeling knowing that hopefully more people
will be emotionally touched by our film,” Wolff said.
Persing, meanwhile, is no stranger to the festival scene after his films
“Samaria” and “3AM” made him the first director
in the history of the Sacramento-based Tower Of Youth Festival to have
two separate top-scoring films in the same year (2013).
But this year is different for the current California State University,
Northridge student, who says he is entering a new chapter in his artistry
and made “Playground” as part of a college application.
"[Playground is] about a little boy named Calvin, who, after getting
rejected by the big kids at the park, decides to tear up the blacktop
and have some fun of his own,” Persing said. “We shot the
entire movie in five hours with one camera for no money at all on Halloween,
the night before the application was due. So safe to say, I was up editing
all night. But it was totally worth it, and I've never been prouder
of anything in my life.”
“Playground” comes on the heels of “Mirrorboy,”
a film Persing refers to as his “artistic awakening,” which
caused him to step out of his comfort zone and rediscover his love for
“‘Mirrorboy’ might have been the artistic awakening,
but ‘Playground’ was the first movie I made in this new chapter
of my life – as an adult,” he said. “That's never
going to happen again – there’s only one first time. So, even
if it was absolutely hated by everyone who saw it, it would still hold
a special place in my heart. But the fact that people seem to really like
it and that I still enjoy watching it and that it got in to the festival
as a regular comedy short (not as a student film) really just makes it
all the more special.”
“Playground” and “A Timeless Captivation” are scheduled
to screen during the Saturday, September 12 session, which begins at 10
a.m. at AMC Town Center 6. Tickets to the Burbank International Film Festival are