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Midvale Journal

Canyons District film festival extended its deadline during shutdown, amount of entries doubled

Aug 11, 2020 12:13PM ● By Julie Slama

Hosts Katie Blunt and Jeff Haney recognized film festival winners virtually, including next year’s film festival poster-designer, Midvale Midvale’s Elena Parker. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

The show must go on—and that includes the academy awards of Canyons School District’s film festival.

In its first virtual setting, the hosts Katie Blunt and Jeff Haney congratulated elementary, middle and high school student winners in five categories: short film, documentary, animation, public service announcement and newscast. They also applauded winners in the American Graduate categories, a teacher film competition and a film festival poster contest.

“So many things have been canceled—orchestra concerts, debate tournaments, award nights—because of (the response to) COVID-19, that we realized this is something we didn’t have to cancel; we could do it in an altered format and keep the tradition alive and keep the students’ spirits up,” said Blunt, the District education technology specialist who oversees the festival. 

That wasn’t the only difference this year.

The film submission deadline was set one week into the soft closure of schools. At that time, 95 entries were submitted.

“We realized filmmaking is something students can do at home as an engaging activity and it ties into the classroom curriculum. It’s an opportunity that students could take advantage of when so many activities and events weren’t available, so we extended the deadline to encourage more students to get involved,” she said. “We hope it gave students something to have fun with and learned from while at home.”

Blunt said by the extended deadline, the number more than doubled, with 194 entries. It’s the second highest participation rate in the film festival’s 11-year history.

“We had more high school entries that came in after the original deadline,” Blunt said. “We had 22 high school short film entries; that may be the highest ever. We also had way more elementary documentary submissions, middle school PSAs, and we had 35 elementary animation entries—the most in any category.”

She credits a surge also to teachers and specialists who introduced filmmaking to students.

“Filmmaking is a good way to solidify what students are learning in class, taking the concept and demonstrating their knowledge,” Blunt said. “They’re also learning to plan, outline, write scripts and storyboards, communicate, work as a team and learn the process of filmmaking.”

That was the case with Altara Elementary’s TV news entry that won the elementary newscast category, upsetting four-time recent winner, Quail Hollow Elementary’s news team. 

“Quail Hollow is so stinking good, their whole crew and crew leader; we were just shocked,” said Altara teacher aide Monica Fowler, who stepped up to direct the third-graders in their newscast as the school’s broadcast announcements had been on hiatus a couple years. “We were hoping to get to be a finalist so we could be at the ceremony and cheer. We did not expect to win at all, so it was really exciting and fun.”

Fowler said she didn’t come into advising the third-graders with a master game plan.

“Our goal was to start slowly and get into our groove,” she said. “I was watching YouTube videos, trying to figure out what to do and how to teach the kids. I’m not an experienced filmmaker, but I love the film festival idea—and it was so cool to do.”

Fowler said that the 15 third-graders worked together so every kid could be part of it from title card holder and microphone holder to operating or being in front of the camera. They met 30 minutes per school day in the extended learning program, and brainstormed, discussed story options, figured out rotations and edited in iMovie, in addition to filming.

“Many of the kids are already familiar with videoing on phones, so we were able to teach those who weren’t, and make it a fun learning experience all together,” she said. “I was sad we weren’t there in person when the announcements of film festival winners were made, but I made sure parents knew they were broadcasting it. I hope when we’re back together, we can do something special, like have a popcorn and viewing party to watch the awards ceremony.” 

Blunt said that there are plans to broadcast many of the top films on a UEN special program, but the date has yet to be announced. Winning films can be seen online at the Canyons District website

This year’s elementary winners are: Sabrina Smith and Lillian Smith, Sunrise Elementary, PSA; Ashton Lee, Draper Elementary, animation; Addi Short, Addie Leon, Avery Schmidt, Lizzy Watts, Emmett Robinson, Karly Rennemeyer, Kathrin Rennemeyer, Makenzie Hall, Maycie Dierig, Mila Breivik, Owen Bodell, Sophie Rigby, Sully Osborne, Tori Clark, and Vivian Lee, Altara Elementary, newscast; Cohen Williams, Reed Larson and Zander Stanley, Park Lane Elementary, documentary; and Nora Jackson and Eli Jackson, Ridgecrest Elementary, short film.

Middle school winners are: Maya Yrungaray, Draper Park Middle, PSA and short film; Liam Morgan, Albion Middle, animation; and Lia Timoney, Butler Middle, documentary.

High school film winners are: Amber Parker and Abigail Slama-Catron, Hillcrest High, PSA; Mason Stokes, Corner Canyon High, animation; Katie Tripp and Jackson Light, Corner Canyon, newscast; Audrey Stubbs, Corner Canyon High, documentary; and Abram Iman, Jordan High, short film.

The American Graduate education profile award winners are Hayden Earl and Zack Scheidell, Canyons Youth Academy; the American Graduate call to action award winner is Gavin Jensen, Alta High; and the American Graduate documentary of the year winner is teacher Jenni Perkins, Albion Middle. The teacher film winner is George Pechmann from Corner Canyon High. 

The poster contest winner is Elena Parker of Midvale Middle. Her poster design will be used to promote next year’s contest.