Young Filmmakers Contest Will Thank Local Teachers

Brooks School Eco Eagles submitted a futuristic film about the “Little Mermaid.”

Brooks School Eco Eagles submitted a futuristic film about the “Little Mermaid.”

By Lisa Biehle Files

Local students took top prizes in the One Earth Young Filmmakers Contest at the elementary and middle school levels in both 2018 and 2017. Winning films premiered at the One Earth Film Festival in March at Columbia College along with top films from across the country at high school and college levels. At that time, students were fêted with monetary prizes, certificates, T-shirts, and a reception.

In order to thank local teachers for encouraging their students to enter the contest, a second screening of local winners will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 9, at the River Forest Public Library, 735 Lathrop Ave. This Teacher Appreciation Breakfast and Screening is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be available.

Teachers who will be recognized are:

  • Jenny Raia, art teacher at Longfellow Elementary School in Oak Park.

Raia teaches a stop-motion animation class to 5th graders annually; hence, she decided to incorporate the Young Filmmakers Contest into her existing curriculum. “I used to make the assignment open-ended, but the contest provided more structure, which the kids seemed to enjoy,” she said.

For the Young Filmmakers Contest, students are asked to create a film of 3-to 8-minute (or a minimum of 45 seconds for animation) about one of six sustainability topics: energy, food, transportation, waste, water, or open space and ecosystems. They present a problem with one of the topics and then follow up with a solution.

A group of Raia’s students (Rachel Kralik, Evan Richardson, Carolina Rios, and Capri Scatton) won the top Young Filmmakers Contest prize at the elementary level for their animation, “Go Green, Go Clean.” In their 45-second stop-motion Claymation, two young people clean up the litter at a park, hanging signs to remind people to recycle their refuse.

In addition to winning $75, the students also received a matching gift to donate to the sustainability organization of their choice that supports the theme of their film. Their gift went to Oak Park Community Foundation’s PlanItGreen.

  • Cory Kadlec, science teacher at Roosevelt Middle School in River Forest.

Kadlec offered the Young Filmmakers Contest as an optional, extra credit assignment to his middle school science students. Seventh grader Andrew Edwardsfilm submission, “Plastic Not Fantastic,” earned the top middle school prize of $100.

In his almost 4-minute film, Andrew cites statistics about plastic: it is 90% of ocean debris, it remains in the ocean for 400 to 1000 years before it breaks down, and we could circle the globe 4 times with the plastic we throw away in one year. Andrew encourages us to take action by using reusable bags and disposing of plastic bags properly in special recycling containers at the grocery store.

Andrew donated his matching gift of $100 to the Plastic Oceans Foundation.

  • Laura Stamp, science teacher and head of Eco-Eagles at Brooks Middle School in Oak Park.

As the moderator for the Eco-Eagles at Brooks, Stamp has encouraged her students to enter the Young Filmmakers Contest since 2016. In 2017, the Eco-Eagles won an honorable mention for their film, “Yard Hunters,” a humorous spoof of the HGTV show “House Hunters.” In this film, a family of pollinators looks for the best yard to call home, namely one with native plants and milkweed for their caterpillar children. First, the realtor squirrel shows them a lawn treated with pesticides, then a yard with beautiful non-native flowers, and finally the perfect yard with native plants.

Winning students were: Amparo Acevedo, Josh Dingman, Sam Dingman Laurel Ditzel, Danielle Guralnick, Cerys Hattersley, Amanda Janusz, Zoe Klein, Sophie Larratt, Julian Palko-Flores, Julia Patson, Daliah Ramos, Mateo Reyes, andSarah Ungaretti.

  • Jonathan Moeller, filmmaking teacher at Beverly Arts Center in Chicago.

Moeller incorporated the Young Filmmakers Contest into his summer camp assignment at the Beverly Arts Center in 2017. Elijah Spencerfrom Clissold Elementary School in Chicago, Isaiah Pinzino from Sutherland Elementary School in Chicago, and Lily O’Connor from Most Holy Redeemer School in Evergreen Park created “The Stop-Motion Animation Electric Car Movie,” which won an honorable mention award at the middle school level for 2018.

Their 2-minute film explains that cars emit greenhouse gas which contributes to global warming and air pollution. Electric cars can be the future solution, they say. Students use Legos for the film’s set and characters, adding a AA battery to the back of their Lego car to create an electric vehicle. Background drawings and sound effects combine to make this a delightful, short film.

The Young Filmmakers Contest invites teachers and students to attend the Teacher Appreciation Breakfast and Screening to learn more about the Young Filmmakers Contest or go to Contest Details: to watch a 1.5 minute video about the contest.

Prize money for 2019 will increase to $100 at the elementary school level and $200 at the middle school level, along with matching gifts to donate. To see winning films at all levels, including high school and college, go here: Prize money at the high school level is $350, and the $1,000 college level prize is a scholarship.

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