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Student film-makers from local schools make silent flick competition finals

Flagstaff Team

Howdy pardner… Ten-year-old Charlie Grey and his compliant steed were among the stars when a group of young film-makers brought a version of the Wild West to Takapuna Beach.

Several Takapuna students have made the top 15 in the local leg of an international silent-film competition.

The International Youth Silent Film Festival (IYSFF) is a global competition for filmmakers aged 20 and under to create a three–minute silent film, set to one of 10 musical scores composed for the festival.

AGE School in Takapuna produced three films which made the top 15 in the New Zealand competition, run from Tauranga. On one, Operation Sparrow, they had help from Westlake Girls student Emma Wagner who volunteered as camera operator on a film directed by AGE student Timothy Chen. “The actors did a great job and altogether it was a really organised and well-thought out film,” said Emma.

Emma Wagner

Timothy said he really liked planning the film, being creative, writing the story and finding props. The production itself had more time constraints, requring focus and problem soliving, rather than so much creativity. He learned a lot.

Action… Timothy Chen (centre) and Pearce Christian plot a film scene with Ben Baker (right) waiting for his chance to skate into shot

AGE film-maker Sveta Hackett, who directed The Good, the Bad and the Dolly, said she enjoyed picking and choosing ideas that would work within three minutes. “My favourite part of the production has to be the beach scenes where the three kids end up becoming cowboys/cowgirl and running around Takapuna Beach on their hobby horses.

“We actually had to teach one of our actors how to gallop, but he could not get the hang of it. We kept trying but in the end he just decided to wiggle from side to side. I remember thinking at the time, ‘Well, that’s not going to work like I wanted it to’. But we went back and edited it, and now it’s pretty much the best shot we have. Everyone laughs when they watch it.”

But there were setbacks, including Covid interruptions. “We had an actor pull out the day before we went to shoot. We had an actor who knocked his teeth out, so we were out of action. We also had an actor leaving the school, so it was a rush to finish everything before he left. Then of course, this big Delta lockdown.

“I had no hope that we would be able to enter this year. I was so gutted; I thought that was it and there was nothing to be done. But with the power of very good editing and great minds, we pulled through and produced something that, I would say, is absolutely epic.”

Sveta said she could possibly take filming into her career one day. “I do have plans to be a journalist and I’d love to be a TV presenter. I’ve always been the one in front of the camera or on the stage. So this was a different experience this time around as I had to pull back and let the kids work their magic.”

The eight-year-old director of Reach Out…’n’ I’ll Be There, Ben Baker, said he enjoyed taking ideas and making them a reality. “The filmmaking process is really creative. I especially love combining visual images with sound effects to create something really cool.

“I loved being able to combine two of my favourite things – skateboarding and filmmaking. And it was even better doing that with my friends.” Ben said he would continue to do filmmaking as a hobby but he wanted to be a pilot or an astronaut.

AGE School teacher Sherry Wagner said the filmmaking process – from planning through to editing – taught the students many skills, from communication to problem-solving, on top of the technical learning.

“The fact that it’s a silent film festival allows students to really focus on visual storytelling. You can’t rely on the subtitles or rely on dialogue.”

It was great that there were primary and intermediate students competing, she said, giving work the chance to be seen beyond school.

Emma said she hoped to be in the film industry one day, either in front of or behind the camera. She had already done quite a few acting jobs. on TV shows and commercials.

● The festival finals will be streamed on 11 November. The top two Kiwi films will go to the IYSFF Global Awards 2022, held in Portland, Oregon, in the United States.

It’s a wrap… The AGE school team after filming ended (from left) teacher Sherry Wagner and students Amelia Barnes-Hogan, Sveta Hackett, Charlie Grey, Oscar Cornes and Timothy Chen. Below: On location at Takapuna Beach during a stand-off in the shoot for The Good, the Bad and the Dolly cast members (from left) Grey, Barnes-Hogan and Cornes show their acting chops.

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