On Monday, May 2nd, Hernando County had a feel of what it might be like to experience the Academy Awards in person. Nature Coast Technical High School’s filmmaking program held its 12th Annual Brucy Awards −named after the school’s mascot, Brucy the Shark. Students from Mr. Ian Wald’s filmmaking classes got to present some of their award-winning films. His program is made up of students from all grade levels. The students were dressed in true Hollywood fashion−the girls in long evening dresses and short formals, the guys in fancy suits and tuxedos. One group of students even arrived in a limo.
Mr. Wald has been teaching film at Nature Coast Technical High School (NCT) for thirteen years. 2022 marks the twelfth year that his students have competed for the Brucys. Like the Oscars, there were various categories in which the films competed−Best Director, Best Editing, Best Cinematography, etc. The genres included horror, fantasy, comedy, drama and documentary. The styles ranged from realistic to avant-garde.
Lily Patterson was the big winner that evening taking home seven Brucys. Her film “Animals” won in three categories− Best Drama & Audience Choice, Best Comedy and Best Production Design. Work on “Animals” was very intensive. It took Lily and her team six months to complete the film, with 12-hour days of shooting and two months of editing. Although the students have equipment and some funds, Lily had to do crowdfunding to make up part of the total budget of $450. The inventive costumes and cinematography gave the film a surrealistic avant-garde feel.
Lily’s film, “Chasing Chupacabra,” won for Best Comedy. It was a mockumentary and starred her father, David Patterson.
“Waiting for the Punchline” won for Best Cinematography. It was the work of Jacy Jarman, Brooke Culp, Amaily Gascot, Shania Jones, Cassandra Coniglio, Austin Edney, Isaiah Casiano, Dillon McPherson, and Jacob Harrington. The group had ten weeks to do all the preparation for the film and then just 48 hours for the actual filming and editing. This took place while they were in New York City last fall at a film festival in which they competed against approximately forty other high schools. The Director of Photography was Jacy Jarman, a senior.
Jacy commented, “It was a challenge because a lot of us hadn’t really interacted with each other before, but it was a tremendous bonding experience and a learning experience that we had to work our way through. The most rewarding thing, aside from the relationships that were created during that time, was that night at the premier in New York when they announced that we had gotten second place it was amazing! We had grown so much in such a short amount of time. We had become a family. I was just so proud of every single person that had worked on the film.” When she finishes school, Jacy wants to work as a freelancer doing short films and promotional videos for companies. She may also become a film teacher.
Best Screenplay award went to Cassandra Coniglio for “Amnesia.” Like many of the other films it had a surrealistic feel to it. It was a poignant and touching story that left you with more questions than answers.
“Room 239” won for Best Editing and was a collaborative effort directed by Autumn Cooper, produced by Madlyn Truog with Abby DeBartolomeo as Director of Photography and Jace Lucas as sound person. All four worked on the screenplay. The cinematographer made great use of speeded up camera motion to convey a feeling of time passing quickly. It had a suspenseful, almost horror, feel to it, with just the right touch of comic relief. Like many of the other films, the meaning was left open to interpretation. “Room 239” was called a Passion Project. This was the first year for this type of project.
“Mr. Wald had this idea to allow us to film something we were passionate about. He gave us very few guidelines instead of assigning a theme or topic. Not everybody gets to do one. You have to interview in front of the class. The class has to accept your project and he [Mr. Wald] has to accept your idea and know that you’re willing to put in the work,” said Autumn.
Attending the film festival in New York City has inspired her to pursue a career in films. Although only a sophomore, she already has her sights set on attending UCLA, her “dream school.” Her second choice is Florida State University.
Jace Lucas, a junior was the boom operator on “Room 239” and created the sound effects.
“When I saw Mr. Wald’s class I really fell in love with filmmaking. It opened my mind to a lot of things. What I find most enjoyable about sound is I like creating the atmosphere. The sound is one of the most important elements. If you don‘t have good sound your film won’t be as good. I love putting all the pieces of the puzzle together,” Jace remarked.
The winner for Best Experimental Film was “Waiting for Violet” by Ava Melton, Ashley Bowerfind, Ayva Rhoades, Samantha Walker, Riley Collar, Jonah Jonse van Rensburg, Chloe David, Anthony Basile and Riley Bresser. The theme of the film was innocence. The shots alternated between a little girl and the teenage version of the same child. The use of the violet colors in the dresses, balloons and other objects made for a very impressive effect.
Ashley Bowerfind, co-writer, director and secondary editor of the film remarked, “You sign up for roles and Mr. Wald randomly puts you together in groups, so the kids I worked with some of them I had never interacted with before. Getting to know the learning styles of each person and incorporate all the ideas into one thing was a challenge. Our film went from a drama to a comedy to an experimental film and there was a lot of evolution with the different ideas. The most satisfying thing was that was my first time being appointed as director, having say-so over certain decisions.”
Brooke Culp’s film about mental health, “In the Minds,” won for Best Documentary. This is a subject Brooke is passionate about. As student representative to the Hernando County School Board, she has made this issue a priority in the schools.
Amaily Gascot won Brucy’s in two categories. “Silence” won for Best Horror/Sci-Fi/ Fantasy film. “Mr. Tough Guy: Life on the Wild Side” won for best Public Service Announcement.
“Silence” was another film that utilized parents or other adults in the cast. This could be described as dark comedy. There was an uneasy atmosphere around the dinner table that caused one to laugh nervously and it wasn’t until the very end that you find out why no one is discussing “that subject.”
“Mr. Tough Guy: Life on the Wild Side” demonstrated that a humorous touch can be very effective in getting the point across about a serious subject. Collaborating with Amaily on the film were Cassandra Coniglio, Isaiah Casiano, Austin Edney and Lily Patterson.
Best Visual Effects award went to “Block Buster,” a film by Dillon McPherson. This spoof of car chase films was “laugh-out-loud” hilarious and even poked fun at the filmmakers, themselves. Filmed in black & white AND color, with clever graphics and creative use of props, it’s easy to see why “Block Buster” won in this category.
Iviannah (Ivi) Ramirez is a junior who has worked on several films this year. One of her films, “Dear Donut Dude,” was nominated for Best Comedy. It was a Weekend Challenge project which meant that over the course of just a few hours, they had to do everything− from coming up with the idea and writing the script to filming and then editing the film.
Ivi was the producer of “Waiting for Eighteen,” which was nominated for Best Screenplay in the first round of judging, but didn’t make it into the top five. It was filmed over a period of nine weeks. Being a producer is a big responsibility, even for a short film like this.
“We have to make sure that every part of the film happens, make sure everything gets done. The biggest job is to keep everyone in your crew happy. That was probably the biggest challenge.
She had a budget of $50 to shoot the film. They ended up only using a small part of that budget and that was to purchase pizza and cupcakes. I’m sure that went a long way towards keeping the crew happy!
The rest of the awards went to the following films in these categories:
Best Theatre Collaboration – “More Sugar” Some of the actors were in the drama department at NCT. Olivia Lopez, Molly Shannon, Autumn Tomlinson, Evan Williams and Lily Patterson collaborated on this humorous short film.
Best Music Video – “Little Things” Samantha Walker, Madlyn Truog, Autumn Cooper, Abby DeBartolomeo.
Best Digital Cinema Production (DCP) Level 1 – “Open Your Eyes.” This serious film by Tanner Zipperer, Austen Auperlee, Presley Mason and Alexandra Fennel dealt with abusive relationships and date violence.
Best DCP Level 2 – “Love in Oblivion” by Madlyn Truog, Autumn Cooper, Abby DeBartolomeo and D J Lannon was a film that used foreshadowing to lead up to a heartbreaking conclusion.
In addition to making the films, the students also created movie posters to accompany their films. The posters utilized techniques ranging from realistic photography to collage and featured imaginative graphics and text fonts.
This school year the students in Mr. Wald’s film classes had a wide range of experiences that helped them to grow as individuals and as future filmmakers. These included touring several college campuses around Florida and competing in the Gasparilla International Film Festival High School competition. Here they won Best Film Grand Jury which included a $3,500 scholarship and Best Cinematography which earned them a $2,000 scholarship. They competed in two film festivals out of the state−the one in New York City and another in Long Beach, California. The juniors did mock interviews with businesses in the community. Many of the students filmed Public Service Announcements for local nonprofit organizations, such as Ability Tree and the Dawn Center.
This summer Mr. Wald will be conducting a Youth Film Camp for children in kindergarten through eighth grade. An experience like this might just set the groundwork for future endeavors in filmmaking like those of the NCT students. Watching the Brucy Awards and talking to the students that evening, I was impressed not just by their talent, but by their passion, joy and love for the process of filmmaking. Also noteworthy was their camaraderie and the love the students expressed for each other. The ones who didn’t win cheered for the ones who did. They were happy to see their classmates succeed and they felt that the time and effort they put into the films was well worth it, whether or not they went home with a Brucy.
To view the award-winning films, as well as trailers of other films nominated in each category, go to: https://www.youtube.com/c/NCTFilms09/videos