Spotlight shines on Stevenson Elementary fourth-graders during second annual film festival

Grady Pullin, 9, left, Hannah Dufour, 9, and Jamison Karp, 9, all fourth-grade filmmakers from Stevenson Elementary School, pose for pictures on the red carpet before the premiere of the second annual Fourth Grade Film Festival at Stevenson on Wednesday.
(James Carbone)

A rolled-out red carpet extended from the classrooms at Stevenson Elementary toward the school’s front gate and ended at its auditorium on Wednesday evening.

The second annual Stevenson Fourth Grade Film Festival included a step-and-repeat backdrop for glamour shots, popcorn, juices, a 30-minute question-and-answer session, bloopers, behind-the-scenes clips and a series of short films for a crowd of students, parents, teachers and staff.

The stars, however, weren’t named DiCaprio, Cruise or Streep or but rather Pullin, Karp and Dufour.

The local trio was part of a group of about 95 fourth-graders who worked together to submit three films, one for each classroom, which not only marked the culmination of weeks of planning and months of raising funds, but which may also be the launching point for future film-industry careers.


“It feels pretty nice to make a film and to show everyone what you made and what you accomplished,” said Stevenson fourth-grader Grady Pullin, an actor in the film “Jurassic Pork.” The film was submitted by students in teacher Jasson Przebieda’s class.

“My teacher thought I’d have a funny line at the end of the movie, and I got to say it, which makes me want to get even more involved,” he said.

In addition to “Jurassic Pork,” the other two films were titled “Candy Detectives,” and “Trapped in the Museum.” All three films ranged from four to six minutes each and involved students in a variety of roles.

Jamison Karp, 9, uses an iPad for the music for the film “Jurassic Pork” during the premier of the second annual Fourth Grade Film Festival in the auditorium at Stevenson Elementary School on Wednesday.
(Photo by James Carbone)

The six-minute “Candy Detectives,” created by teacher Yolanda Trujillo’s class, had 11 actors, four camera operators, four costume designers, three lightning technicians, three set designers, two editors, one continuity editor, one music editor, one special effects director and one film director.


The 12-week filmmaking program was run by artworxLA’s Gustavo Alberto Garcia Vaca, a visual artist, writer and educator.

“This is my second year with the school, and I love working with kids,” Garcia Vaca said. “They bring a tremendous amount of energy, creativity and ideas, and I try to help them turn those ideas into film.”

Each fourth-grade class met once a week under Garcia Vaca’s tutelage, and the veteran multidisciplinary artist handled each aspect of the filmmaking process.

One of Garcia Vaca’s students was Hannah Dufour, who worked a camera in “Candy Detectives.”

“There were three other people with me, but it was so much fun,” Dufour said. “I got to see all the filming being made.”

Much of the success behind the showcase on Wednesday can be attributed to the efforts of Families for Stevenson, a parent-run volunteer group.

Film instructor Gustavo Alberto Garcia Vaca introduces his film students during the premier of the second annual Fourth Grade Film Festival in the auditorium at Stevenson Elementary School on Wednesday.
(James Carbone)

Neela Woodard, president of Families for Stevenson, said the group raised $98,000 last school year through direct-task campaigns and also through fundraisers, like the school’s spring carnival. A portion of those funds covered the costs of this year’s event, and some of that money went to pay Garcia Vaca’s stipend.

In the past three years, the group has raised funds for two iPad carts with 32 computers each as well as accessories, such as keyboards and headphones, all of which are available to all students throughout the school. In addition, the carts were used in editing the students’ films.


“We wanted a really exciting and special evening for the kids because they’ve spent all this time doing their awesome little films,” said Woodard, who added Families for Stevenson raised nearly $19,000 during a recent campaign.

“We’re the only elementary school in the district to have a film class, and we also wanted to show parents what their money was going to fund,” she added.

Student Jamison Karp, who was a music director on “Jurassic Pork,” said his job “was hard” but he enjoyed it.

“I had to pick the right music, which isn’t easy, and it had to fit into the right scenes,” Karp said. “It wasn’t my first movie, but it was fun, and I want to do more.”

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