A computer had swallowed half of Halleigh Gramenz's documentary spoof, and she still needed to add music to what remained. Linda Ly had to delete outtakes from her film, a teenage musical version of "The First Wives Club," and a big bolt of cloth hadn't been transformed into a 27-foot red carpet until Wednesday.
It's far from Cannes, but preparations for Los Alamitos High School's first film festival opening today are just as hectic.
About 20 student movies, from two to 20 minutes long, created in the school's multimedia class will be screened tonight and Friday at Orange County's only festival solely for student filmmakers. An Academy Awards-style ceremony will honor audience-selected winners in a dozen categories Saturday night.
"This festival gives students a place to showcase their work for other students and the community," multimedia teacher Alice Burger said. She and drama teacher Andrea Parsons hope the $6 admission will help the department buy equipment.
Students are counting on attracting a substantial audience, and already have reserved the school's performing arts center for next year's festival, also to be held in March.
Linda, the chief student organizer, has spent months persuading companies to donate money and urging students to finish their films on time. But she isn't thrilled with her almost-finished movie, "Unfortunate Coincidence: The Musical Journey of an Ordinary Girl." Subtitles flash by too quickly and, without music, some scenes drag a bit.
"I worked too much on the festival and not enough on my movie," she said.
The last few days have been a whirlwind of preparations, including screenings of all films by a teacher to ensure appropriateness.
"We're going for sort of a PG-13 cutoff," Linda said.
That means no overtly political statements or girls in skimpy clothing. Jonthomas Oudyk toned down antiwar sentiment in his two-minute movie, a collection of images of apes, skyscraper scenes and atomic mushroom clouds.
"It's a story about human potential and how it can all be ended by one rash mistake," the senior said, pausing. "Like a war." Jonthomas figures some in the audience won't understand his message, but he is glad community members will have an opportunity to see students' work.
"If it weren't for this festival, the only person who would see these films is our teacher," he said.
Even with glitches, Halleigh enjoyed the experience. She enrolled in the class, which also produces the school's weekly news broadcast, because she wants to be an anchorwoman. But as she dubbed in 1980s music to her movie "A Day in the Life of Wedgewick Hampton," she is thinking now of becoming a film editor.
Halleigh rose to her filmmaking challenges, persuading her director's mom and 4-year-old brother to appear in her movie and working around the drilling noise of a kitchen remodeling by making a silent film.
"I'm hoping everyone will think it was an artistic decision," she said. "Even if my movie isn't exactly what I'd hoped it would be, it's such a neat opportunity."
The Los Alamitos Film Festival will be in the school's performing arts center at 3591 Cerritos Ave. The events start each night at 7:30; the same movies will be shown the first two nights. Admission for the Saturday night awards is $8.