Eight minutes for excellence: Surf City Student Film Festival

Huntington Beach High School students Max Kozik, left, Holly Schow, Skylar Davis, James Hammil and Eden Hawes run through lines of a short film on Feb. 26.
(SCOTT SMELTZER, HB Independent)

They share a love of filmmaking, and for one night, Huntington Beach Union High School District students will present their work on the big screen during the fifth annual Surf City Student Film Festival.

The 42 films, submitted in January by students from most of the high schools in the district, range from comedies to dramas to documentaries. No entry could exceed the maximum running time of eight minutes.

“I love the sense of camaraderie in all the schools in the district,” said Jamie Knight, a teacher and department coordinator who, with colleague Michael Simmons, founded the Academy for the Performing Arts’ Music Media and Entertainment Technology program.

“This is not just a Huntington Beach High show,” Knight said. “It’s about all these incredibly artistic students in the district who are able to showcase their talent.”

Knight said students also receive guidance from master teacher David Gutel, who graduated from Huntington Beach High in 2010 and Cal State Long Beach in 2014.

“He keeps us abreast of what’s happening in the colleges and how we can stay current,” Knight said. “It’s a big family of networking with future colleagues.”

Gutel said he aspires to become a director and that his next project is to direct a music video.

“Not everyone is born to make a film, but everyone can help collaborate and be a component to the filmmaking process,” Gutel said. “We encourage anyone to apply.”

Huntington Beach senior Nick Trollman,17, entered his film “The Interceptors II” in this year’s film festival, marking his second entry into the competition.

His film, a sequel, is a comedic story about police officers in the 1970s.

“I’ve always liked making films,” he said. “This one came out the way I wanted it to.”

Other films submitted include a story about the overuse of cellphones and how the form of communication causes discord within families.

“The audience will see patterns in what is happening to our youth and how they are experiencing life in the 21st century,” Gutel said. “It’s an interesting time to make movies.”

The films will be shown before an audience and evaluated by a panel of judges who are industry professionals, including Stu Rosen, a Cal State Long Beach film and electronic arts professor who has received 10 Los Angeles Emmy Awards and the George Foster Peabody Award, which recognizes storytelling in electronic media.

Entries will be judged on seven categories: plot, visual quality, editing, sound, acting, originality and writing, and entertainment.

The winners will be announced at the conclusion of the screenings, which start at 7 p.m. Friday. The public is welcome to attend.

The films had to be submitted online through YouTube, Vimeo or similar software and had to be G- or PG-rated in language and subject matter. Students were allowed to submit up to four films.

It’s a student-run production, Knight said, that showcases students’ creativity and ability to uphold high entertainment standards, similar to the Academy for the Performing Arts’ presentation in February titled “Playlist 2015.” In that production, pop music majors created a show devoted to new music, featuring current and trending artists as well as their own original compositions.

Some students in the media program were selected to create original short films to play in the background as a group of singers performed onstage. Others were asked to bring their camera operation skills to film the event.

“They get to practice filming like they would for television,” Knight said. “Friends and concertgoers always comment on how professional and confident these students are.”

He said giving students the opportunity to incorporate video skills through any form of entertainment is part of the Academy for the Performing Arts’ mission to train young artists and art enthusiasts.

That discipline, dedication and commitment to the arts is why Gutel returned to his high school alma mater to guide the pre-professional directors, technicians and performers.

“I want to teach the students everything I didn’t learn in high school,” Gutel said. “These students are amazing. They get better each year.”



What: Surf City Student Film Festival

When: 7 p.m. Friday March 6; award ceremony follows screenings

Where: Huntington Beach High School Auditorium, 1905 Main St.

Cost: $10

Information: (714) 536-2514, Ext. 4025, or