Cannes, watch out for Chapman filmmakers

What do Cannes, France, and Chapman School have in common? 

For starters, they both start with “C.” More importantly, however, they attract some talented filmmakers. The 2013 Festival de Cannes is happening May 16-26. Thousands of miles closer to home, Chapman’s Student Film Festival was Tuesday.

Taking their artful animation, skillful directing, scriptwriting and computer know-how from small audiences of classmates to a larger presentation before family, friends and the public, the students entertained with a showing of their work from 6-7 p.m.

There, for all to see and enjoy, were students re-enacting the Terra Nova Expedition to Antarctica led by Robert Falcon Scott in the early 1900s. As filmmakers are known to do, the students put their own twist to the fate of the doomed expedition, set against increasingly suspenseful music composed by Chapman teacher Jonathan Crocker. 

A touch of humor was introduced with a silent movie, complete with slapstick comedy, Crocker’s piano music, the hilarious over-acting of Chapman Principal Conrad Woodhead and the good-natured pranks of a host of students. 

There also was a sampling of scientific subjects, such as Iris Strongheart and Codey Woolsey’s animated changing of the seasons.

The expertise of the students’ abilities was evident by their entries in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s annual Quest Film Festival in April. That festival included five-minute films in an elementary category for students up to grade 6 and a second category for students in grades 7-12. The entries were judged on audio, camera technique, lighting, composition, smooth editing, special effects and the titles and credits.

“I think they had about 45 entries and showed 12 or so. We had to submit videos ahead of time to be juried into the festival. We weren’t able to submit some of our best work due to the videos being too long,” said Crocker. “Our seventh-graders’ film won first prize at the secondary level, so we can brag about showing ‘award-winning’ films.” 

Earlier this year, the Chapman students also made a documentary about their school that was used by Woodhead when he gave a presentation about the school to the district’s school board. While that assignment had a specific purpose, the topic of other student work has been done with few guidelines from Crocker.

“I would veto the ideas if they weren’t feasible, but mostly the students did what they wanted,” said Crocker. “My only guidelines were to make things practical. They had to conform to the technology we have available, the time we have available and the facilities.”

Technology included iPods for filming, Windows Movie Maker for editing and Crocker’s Mac for adding soundtrack elements. 

Crocker said he began making films with students several years ago when he was teaching in the Bering Strait School District. One of those videos, “Alappaa!” can be seen on YouTube.

“I found that it was a good motivator to get students to write, so we made things like commercials, poetry videos (nature poems based on photos they took), short documentary-type things, a newscast and a music video,” said Crocker.

And what about those Chapman students who might not be interested in the technology of filmmaking?

“Writing our own scripts made it possible to have a role for every student who wanted to act, and also made sure we had enough ‘crew’ work for those who didn’t,” said Crocker.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at