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High school wrestler's film to be shown at Cannes

Eric Sondheimer
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El Camino Real wrestler Rory McClellan's film, “Pride,” is being shown at the Cannes Film Festival

It took 11 takes for novice filmmaker Rory McClellan, a Woodland Hills El Camino Real senior, to get the opening scene right. That meant he had to scream 11 times and punch the gym locker with his fist 11 times.

"My hand started to hurt," he said.

Such are the ups and downs when you're the writer, director and star of a short film entitled "Pride," about the personal struggles of a high school wrestler.

The 13-minute film turned out so well that it was chosen to be shown during the Cannes Film Festival (non-awards portion) in France this month. Another El Camino Real student, Noah Kentis, will have his film, "Delirium," shown. They are part of El Camino Real's Careers in Entertainment Academy.

"The part I enjoyed the most was probably the editing, because it's where it all comes together," said McClellan, 18. "Directing is a pain in the butt until you get into the editing bay, and if it's not good, you have to reshoot. Once you get the final product, it's the best feeling ever."

McClellan shot his film in the middle of his wrestling season. He ended up winning the City Section championship at 195 pounds. He wasn't supposed to star in the film, but he wasn't satisfied with the student he cast, so he changed plans.

"I decided if I wanted to do it my way, I had to act," he said.

El Camino Real student Garrett Dunn worked as his cinematographer.

The film's message is about not giving up.

"It entails the personal struggles of what a high school wrestler has to go through, from losing a match, cutting his hair, giving up sleep at night, overcoming that first fall and getting back on his feet," McClellan said.

"Even though life can put you on your butt and even though things might not seem good, every day you have a new opportunity, and every day you wake up with a different opportunity to change the direction of your life."

High school is about helping teenagers figure out what they might want to do as adults, and the 6-foot-4 McClellan said wrestling opened his eyes to the future.

"I guess you really can say I discovered my life through wrestling, because when I was in the eighth grade, I really didn't have a purpose," he said. "I didn't know what I was going to do. Wrestling has given me confidence. It's taught me how to build my body. It's taught me about what it truly means to be successful."

He still can't forget his first match in high school, when he was uncertain what he had gotten himself into.

"I had no technique, no muscles on my body, and I was scared," he said. "I just wanted to win one match. I prayed to God, 'I want to win one match.' At that moment, my life changed. It was the first time I believed in myself."

McClellan won't be going to France to hang out with the rich and famous. He's saving his money to buy a new camera, so he'll be working at his part-time job at McDonald's.

He plans to attend Cerritos College in the fall, where he will wrestle and study filmmaking. He's convinced he has found his calling in life.

"If you stay with wrestling, you'll always find yourself," he said.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATSondheimer

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