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Irvine teen tops digital video contest about dangers of distracted driving

Claire Offenberger, 18, of Irvine is the grand-prize winner of a $5,000 scholarship in the second annual CTIA Wireless Foundation "Drive Smart: No Distractions, No Excuses" teen digital short video contest.

Claire Offenberger, 18, of Irvine is the grand-prize winner of a $5,000 scholarship in the second annual CTIA Wireless Foundation “Drive Smart: No Distractions, No Excuses” teen digital short video contest.

(Kevin Chang / Daily Pilot)

You wouldn’t drive blindfolded, so why text behind the wheel?

That was the question Irvine resident Claire Offenberger, 18, asked herself while making her winning 30-second video for the CTIA Wireless Foundation’s “Drive Smart: No Distractions, No Excuses” national digital short video contest for teenagers.

More than 400 videos created to discourage distracted driving were submitted for the second annual contest presented by CTIA, a nonprofit that develops technology initiatives. But Offenberger’s work, in which blindfolded characters with a phone in one hand stumble through tasks such as pouring coffee and even driving, ended up winning the $5,000 grand-prize scholarship.

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In this screen shot from Claire Offenberger's short video, a blindfolded character with a phone in her hand carelessly pours coffee as a metaphor for distracted driving.

In this screen shot from Claire Offenberger’s short video, a blindfolded character with a phone in her hand carelessly pours coffee as a metaphor for distracted driving.

(Courtesy CTIA Wireless Foundation)

“When you’re on your device, you’re essentially blindfolded, so that’s the image I went with,” said Offenberger, a senior at the Orange County School of the Arts in Santa Ana. “When we’re distracted by our devices, I’m sure we’ve all dropped things or run into things.”

The final seconds of the video reveal one character, played by another senior at the School of the Arts, getting into a car blindfolded with her device in hand. As she slowly begins to drive, danger to others on the street quickly ensues.

“It’s a strong metaphor,” said Aaron Orullian, director of the School of the Arts’ Film & Television Conservatory. “Having a good visual concept is always powerful, especially for a [public service announcement].”

As a student in the school’s film conservatory, Offenberger has tried her hand at screenwriting, sound design, video editing and TV and film production.

The aspiring filmmaker is currently working on a short documentary of her travels to Vietnam in the past year with The TongueOut Corp., a Fountain Valley-based nonprofit dedicated to providing medical care and school construction to communities overseas.

“Pairing filmmaking to activism is what I want to do,” Offenberger said.

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When the opportunity to enter the CTIA contest came along a few months ago, it proved a perfect fit for her, she said.

“Driving can be fun and liberating, but it is also a great responsibility,” she said. “I think that visually expressing this point through film in an unpretentious, familiar way is the most effective approach to fueling more introspection and discussion.”

Offenberger said she’ll use her $5,000 scholarship from the contest toward college film classes.

Offenberger was accepted into the USC School of Cinematic Arts, which generally accepts only 4% to 6% of the thousands of people who apply annually. But she said she can’t afford the tuition this year and plans to study film at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa.

She plans to reapply to USC after two years at Orange Coast.

“Yes, I’ll have to apply all over again, but all the work will be worth it,” she said. “I’m very thankful for the opportunities I’ve received and the people I’ve known who have helped me find success.”

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Alex Chan, alexandra.chan@latimes.com

Twitter: @AlexandraChan10


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