Hundreds of eager eyes stared at the projection screen over the stage, waiting for the title of the film they spent hours working on to appear under the words “first place.”
For 14 School District of Manatee County student produced, directed, edited and filmed movies, the hard work paid off Thursday night at the 11th annual Jim Harbin Student Film Rush Awards at the Manatee Performing Arts Center. Overall, the awards recognized 48 films created by students in third through 12th grades.
Lauren Wolfe, an eighth-grade student at Braden River Middle School, saw several projects she was involved in win awards.
One of those projects, “What is a Cheerleader?” received first place in the Middle School Documentary category.
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“It’s amazing. It’s really cool to see that all our hard work as has paid off. Our teacher really helped us out, and overall I’m just so proud of me and all my classmates,” Wolfe said.
She worked with or was featured in several other projects that were honored Thursday night.
“It was definitely really overwhelming. There was time I would be working on another video and asked questions about another,” Wolfe said. “It was hard work, but it was worth it.”
Films ranged from humorous to informational to dramatic. One in particular struck a chord with one of the evening’s emcees, Frank Brunner. A film by Braden River High School students, “Soldiers to Civilians,” showed interviews with veterans and families of soldiers discussing the adjustment of returning from military service to becoming civilians again. After the award-winning film was shown, Brunner fought back tears reading comments from the student filmmakers.
Evan Fredd, a fifth-grader at Rowlett Academy, got togther with his friends Joshua Block and Trenton Goodman to create a film about school pranksters who learn an important lesson.
Organizers said this year saw a record number of entries, totaling 115 submissions. Last year, the Film Rush Awards saw just 70. Students have been tackling these film projects since they returned from winter break.
Film Rush is Manatee County’s competition for Florida Association for Media in Education’s (FAME) Jim Harbin Festival. Harbin, a former Florida Department of Education consultant, originated the idea of a statewide student media festival. Requirements and criteria for the state competition are incorporated into the Film Rush Awards.
Those who took home the hardware Thursday night were also eligible to move on the regional level of the film competition.
“I think it’s really fantastic because there’s not many opportunities for kids to express their creativity now, and I think it’s really important for them to realize that they have a voice,” Joanne Torlucci, event co-chair, said.
Students took home first- through third-place finishes in categories such as Animation, Comedy, Documentary, Drama and Instructional, along with several others. However, not every category had a first-place winner, as organizers explained.
In order to win first prize, the films had to meet certain criteria. It was also noted that several student films were disqualified this year because of concerns over copyright issues. Organizers said it is an important ethical and legal lesson for the students and hope it gives them a sense of determination to get their projects recognized next year.
All the projects recognized at Thursday’s awards will be available by the weekend to view online at jhfilmrush.weebly.com.