BRADENTON -- Few knew what to expect when they stepped into the South Florida Museum on Friday night. A thick crowd quickly filled up the museum's Bishop Planetarium for Film Rush 2014: A Jim Harbin Student Media Festival and were soon greeted with a presentation of wildly different short films made by K-12 students from the Manatee County School District.
In the showcase were black-and-white shorts and adorable documentaries with shaky camerawork. One comedy film titled "Rolling Thunder" hilariously dramatized
the "dangers" of rolling backpacks in middle schools -- the backpacks "attacked" innocents students in the school hallways. Zoe Williams, a student from Bayshore High School, filmed a sombering documentary about the city's homelessness issue.
Film Rush, which is Manatee County's competition for FAME's (Florida Association for Media in Education) Jim Harbin Festival, was coordinated for the first time this year by the Manatee Association for Media in Education (MAME). A jury from the Film Club of State College of Florida reviewed the students' films and selected the top entries.
Marie Masferrer, president of MAME and a media specialist and TV production teacher at R. Dan Nolan Middle School in Lakewood Ranch, hosted the festival. It's the first time Film Rush is connected to MAME and the Jim Harbin Student Media Festival.
"The enthusiasm and engagement that the students have is so much greater when they can apply the skills that they're learning," Masferrer said about the impact she's seen film production have on students. "We're all standards-based, and we're all going for the same goal with our scores but, at the same time, if you approach it through the creative and technical arts, the students have so much more fun in what they're doing."
One of the film festival's funniest moments came courtesy of 10-year-old Magdelana Sindel. The Sea Breeze Elementary School student filmed and edited "A Day with Sassy," a drama short in which she narrates the day in the life of her unsuspecting cat.
In one scene, a still Sassy watches as Magdelana pushes a toy dinosaur closer to her face.
"It is trying to bite me?!" Sassy (Magdelana) narrated. A few minutes later, the dinosaur is seen knocked out on the floor. The cat's job was apparently done.
After receiving an award for her film, Magdelana said it was her idea to film her cat "because she's always doing funny stuff."
"She didn't seem to mind. I'd just be videotaping her, and she'd just be sitting there. There were parts where I actually had to pick her up and throw her," the fourth-grader said. "She didn't like that, but I suppose that she wasn't scratching me or anything -- so I think she actually liked it."
"The Dark Side of School," put together by Nolan Middle School students Sophie Brown, Gina Masterson, Tori Mathews, McKenzie Mazzella, Alexis Schwab and Hannah Sisson, focused on bullying. In the public service video, a female student received a text message from some of her peers which read: "Hey the clowns called... they want their face back." She then ran into the bathroom, and everyone inside the Bishop Planetarium watched silently as she swallowed a bunch of pills. The girls who sent the victim the message ran after her, and two were stopped by a police officer, who handcuffed them after learning it was them who sent the message.
The girls behind the video are some of Masferrer's seventh-grade students. She said she was very impressed with their work.
"They really wanted to do an anti-bullying video because seventh-grade girls really struggle," she said. "It's very tough to find their place and where they belong. Seventh grade is a very tough year, and so they wanted to provide something that really made the point of how important it is that you take care of your friends."
"That was all theirs," she added.
Amaris Castillo, Law Enforcement/Island Reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. You can follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.