The movies that premiered at Sunday’s film festival at Lanterman Auditorium touched on serious subject matter that ranged from refugees to animal adoption and bullying. Naturally, the heavy emphasis was on fun: pizza, pre-show games of tag and popcorn lofted skyward and caught (often) in the mouths of the young directors.
Those first-time filmmakers, recognizable in their red polo shirts, were participants in School-X, an entrepreneurship program for young “thinkers and tinkerers” between 7 and 11 years old. At this screening, the films’ producers hailed mostly from Paradise Canyon Elementary. A second screening would feature the work of Palm Crest Elementary students.
The movies — minutes-long public service announcements conceived of and executed completely by the School-X students — were the result of more than three months of work.
School-X is run by a pair of PCY dads, Eric Lin and Zach Jennings, who wanted to mentor youngsters in a way that would help them develop an entrepreneurial spirit.
The Young Directors session, which had support from the Pasadena Apple Store, followed the young nonprofit’s previous ventures: The Young Artisans class, during which students learned how to create and sell their own products at the Farmer’s Market, and Young Social Entrepreneurs, in which students learned to fundraise to support a need with their ideas.
Tessa Schulz knitted leashes and scarves and collected stuffed animals, efforts by which she raised $291 for the Pasadena Humane Society. She also focused her film on the Pasadena Humane Society.
“She had such a clear vision of it,” said her mom, Jessica Cushman. “I come from a film background and I was like, ‘Oh, you should interview this person and —‘”
“And I was like, Nope!” Schulz, 8, said. “Nope! Nope! Nope! Nope!”
“Because she had a clear vision of what she wanted,” Cushman said. “She wanted still [photos]. She picked the music she wanted. She did the editing. She did her little interview.”
And then, Tessa made 17 more movies, including a commercial for her Shakespeare class and another couple about best friends.
“If nothing else, they walk away with the experience, thinking, ‘I can do this,’” said Jennings, who works in marketing and branding. “‘I’ve done this before, right?’
“And sticking with something over weeks and weeks, and then knowing ‘I made a product and I was able to talk to people who I don’t know about my idea,’ that’s all hard to do.
“They get a great foundation of education here, obviously, so we’re just building upon that foundation and giving them some other things. Videos are applicable to other things they’re going to do.”
Cost to participate was $365 — and, for the Davé family, the price of the family’s first iPad, which they elected to purchase so young Trentan could make his film about “5-2-1-0,” Kaiser Permanente’s nutrition and exercise program.
“It was pretty amazing, watching him go from not knowing how to turn on the iPad to making his own movie,” mom Karen Au said.
Up next for School-X: a Young Restaurateurs course that will teach about baking, cooking and marketing what they make. An expansion of the program to LCHS 7/8 also is being considered, Jennings said.
On Sunday, the film festival ended with rousing cheers and a group bow by all of the films’ producers, plus gummy Oscars for the top three films.
“It was hard,” Trentan Davé said. “And it was fun.”