A short film made by Grandview-Woodland students surpassed more than a thousand entries from around the world to win Best Original Score at the inaugural All-American High School Film Festival in New York City earlier this month.
Templeton secondary student Mackie Bryson-Bucci discovered the competition. “I really wanted to know if the films we’re producing are good enough to be put on a world stage or a North American stage,” the Grade 12 student said.
The students not only won best original score for their dystopian film Catharsis, which featured electronic, hip-hop-inspired music headed by former Grade 12 student Zak Youssef, but their film Amelia’s Spyglass made it into the top 75 films. A group of five students made both films.
Templeton submitted three films and was the only school in the competition from Canada. Students Bryson-Bucci, Nesta Toft in Grade 9 and Levi Marshall in Grade 11 and Templeton’s junior film teacher Vince Chan were the group that travelled furthest to the festival.
Tanya Zambrano, a Templeton drama teacher of 17 years, actor Dylan McDermott and actor and director Henry Winkler were among the contest judges.
“Sightseeing was cool,” said Bryson-Bucci who visited New York for the first time. “But [the festival] was just awesome.”
Longtime Templeton drama and film teacher and artistic director Jim Crescenzo started the school’s film program in 1997. “We found that with the theatre program, we were getting a lot of really extroverted kids that had that desire to be in the light, on the stage,” he said. “We figured if we get a film program we’ll be able to get those writers, the guys who create the music, the ones behind camera that are just as hungry and talented but unless we develop a program to tap into that, then we’ve got a problem.”
Parents helped raise money to buy the equipment students needed to tell their stories. The students meet at lunchtime and after school every week, not including the extra time they put in after school to make their films. “These programs keep our at-risk, marginalized youth engaged,” Crescenzo said.
He notes Templeton students have won more than 200 awards in Vancouver, provincial and national film festivals.
Money is raised each year to offer students across the Lower Mainland bursaries to attend the Telus Summer Visions digital film program offered by Big Dream Productions at Templeton and The Cinematheque.
Templeton graduate Evan Crowe was one of the youngest students accepted to the Canadian Film Centre in Toronto. He makes films, teaches at Simon Fraser University and as with other successful graduates returns to mentor Templeton students. The program’s partners include Lionsgate pictures and Mammoth Studios.
Bryson-Bucci, who directed and co-produced Catharsis and co-directed Amelia’s Spyglass, wants to be a writer and director, something he probably wouldn’t have pursued without Crescenzo’s influence.
“One thing he tries to tell us is that whatever our goals are, they’re not too big,” Bryson-Bucci said. “That if you work hard enough anything’s possible.”
The teenager didn’t subscribe to that view four years ago before he started the film program.
“I thought it didn’t matter how bad you wanted it, it would just kind of happen or wouldn’t,” Bryson-Bucci said. “Going to Templeton you just kind of realize you make it happen yourself. You open your own doors. You make it happen, it’s not really a decision that someone else makes.”
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