Cinema du Cannes Project

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Pflugerville students entering film festival once again

Sebastian Gomez remembers exactly when he fell in love with movies. He was 8 and he had gotten sick. Stuck indoors, all he had to keep him entertained were movies and his parents’ video camera. From then on, he knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life.

Now, 10 years later, the high school senior and about 50 other Pflugerville students are working after-hours, over weekends and during school breaks to create a film they hope to debut at the Cannes Film Festival in France.

The students are part of the Cinema du Cannes Project, a newly established nonprofit that lets students write, create, film, produce and promote a short film to submit to one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious film festivals.

“The program, yeah, it’s about making a film,” Cinema du Cannes co-founder Dana Glover said. “But it’s about more than that. It’s about the teamwork, the collaboration.”

The producers

Glover and Michelle Carter, owners of Round Rock production company Midian Films, proposed the idea to Humberto Perez, a video tech teacher at Connally High School, last year.

From there, about 22 Connally students controlled every aspect of the creation of the film “Fallen,” which was ultimately accepted into Cannes. For the program’s second year, the group has expanded its scope significantly.

It was opened to students at all three PISD high schools, and now there are more than twice as many students involved in the production.

This year’s film is called “Carney’s Darkness” and was written by Hendrickson High School sophomore Justin Mendoza. It follows a man as he looks back on key moments in his life through flashbacks and contains a bit of a twist.

In addition to the film, the students produced a documentary on Cinema du Cannes, a “making of” video, a series of webisodes and a website dedicated to the project—www.cinemaducannesproject.org.

Cinema du Cannes also applied for nonprofit status, hoping to draw in more donations, both to help finance the project and to send more students to the festival. The group is hoping to find funds from corporate sponsors, donors and through fundraising projects.

“[We’re looking] everywhere. I’m actually looking under this table,” Glover said.

The goal is not only to raise money for the film, he said, but also to send as many students as possible to the film festival.

The kids are alright

One former student who went on the trip last year is Irving Juarez, a 2010 graduate who came back this year as one of several graduate supervisors of the project.

“It’s just great working with all of the kids,” said Juarez, himself only two years removed from high school. “I get to know all these kids personally.”

The program, it seems, makes all of these “kids” grow up fast.

Take one night in December during the film’s preproduction process. Anyone walking through could certainly see a few kids goofing off, acting like teenagers.

But, generally, the mood was quite businesslike. One group of students was meeting in a conference room to discuss costuming and special effects for some of the flashback scenes. If they weren’t all dressed in hoodies and graphic T-shirts, it would be fairly easy to walk in and wonder if the staff at a studio had gone completely Doogie Howser.

Gomez, for one, spoke at times like he was on the set of a Hollywood production, praising his cast and crew as if he were a veteran of the process. “We have a lot of creative people in one room,” Gomez said of the cast and crew.

But at the same time, he talked about the project as a learning experience in the way only a teenager can. “I’m learning how to be more social. I’m learning how to develop my leadership skills,” Gomez said. “This whole thing is a learning experience.”

Pflugerville High School senior Rhonda Huynh echoed Gomez.

“We’re not all about filming, filming, filming,” said Huynh, who works on the film’s publicity. “The goal is to actually gain experience with communication, people and with what we are doing.”

For now, though, the students are waiting to hear back from Cannes. The group is submitting films to three different parts of the festival and expects to start hearing back sometime in March.

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