Move Over, Steven Spielberg

By Alina Prahl, Current Staff

Five movies by West Bend students have hit the big screen.

The short films were featured at the inaugural Lake Country Film Festival, hosted by the Oconomowoc High School film department at the Oconomowoc Arts Center on April 8. The festival’s intent was to create a platform for exhibiting student films. WBHS was well represented, as its talented student filmmakers received many accolades.

East junior Mckayla Heuer won best music video for “Marionette.” The piece came about as somewhat of a happy coincidence. While she was looking for inspiration for a video, Heuer attended a house show featuring the band Brave People.

Film Fest Poster“A bunch of my friends are all in a band called Brave People, and I really like their stuff, so I asked them then, and we planned a day to record their song and then I filmed a video based off the lyrics of the song,” Heuer said.

Tom McCurdy, while not present at the event, was surprised to hear he had won the one-minute category with “Doritos.”

“We had to make a 60-second commercial around the time of the Super Bowl,” said McCurdy, an East senior. “So I figured I would do a Doritos commercial.  It’s about a family that is at a funeral for their recently lost bag of Doritos.” The traditional humor of Doritos Super Bowl commercials is not lost in this video.

Kendahl Skomski, an East sophomore, came in second place for her passion piece, “How Cancer Affects Us.” The documentary, which concerns West sophomore Kyle Koenig’s battle with cancer, is very close to Skomski’s heart. She hopes to raise awareness for cancer patients and cancer research.

“I don’t want people to associate me with the film,” Skomski said. “I just want people to know that cancer can literally happen to anyone.”

A tragic-yet-uplifting stop-motion film, Angela Heniadis’ “The Crash” was runner-up for experimental piece and best digital effects. “My film was a stop-motion that had a car crash that had a couple, and one of them died, and then the other just had to move on,” said Heniadis, an East junior.

“The audience had a say in the vote,” said Michael Krill, the festival director and film teacher at Oconomowoc. According to him, this makes the experience “more authentic.”

Lucas Lang’s “Adequately Uncommon Activity” was also featured at the festival. Lang, a West senior, gave the one-minute parody of “Paranormal Activity” its title at the last minute. It’s a sarcastic and witty christening that reflects the film’s humorous and parodic tone.

The festival screened 42 films in eight different categories: short films, passion pieces, photo montage, 1 minute movies, single topic videos, documentary or narrative: animated or live-action, experimental pieces, and original music videos and songs by local high school artists.

“You get the final product, but people don’t realize how much comes before that,” said Mike Bentdahl, a technology teacher at WBHS. “There’s the idea, and you just write the general synopsis, and then there is storyboarding to draw out every scene and your camera angles. After you have that done, then finally you have your filming.”

Students then edit their videos with Adobe Premier Pro, an editing program.


McKayla Heuer in the WBHS studio. Photograph by Alina Prahl, Current Staff.

“I actually spent two days filming it,” Skomski said about “How Cancer Affects Us.” She spent hours filming in a hospital for footage related to her theme. “I had to get permission from the head of the hospital and go all the way to the social workers to see if they would let me do videos,” she said.

Skomski’s passion for her subject is exactly the kind of artistry the festival was looking for.

“We wanted a forum for students to express their artistic talents,” Krill said. “We wanted to involve many high schools and we wanted to have a similar community that sports and other established groups or organizations have. We wanted to offer a showcase to sharpen each other and to demonstrate the value and importance of filmmaking.”

According to its website, the Lake Country Film Festival’s mission involves encouraging future filmmakers to practice their visual artistry, sound design, and storytelling. This was the festival’s first year.

Bentdahl was impressed by the festival. “Having these [videos] out there in the community, and especially the larger community, not just West Bend, to see them was cool,” Bentdahl said.

“I loved it,” Lang said. “It was very shocking, too, at the same time. All of these people saw my film on the big screen. You go to the movie theater and see movies on the big screen, and I got to do the same thing.”

(Image: Promotional poster for the 2016 Lake Country Film Festival.)

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