A brush with fame
SONOMA VALLEY HIGH SCHOOL senior Danny Wirick works with Media Arts program director Peter Hansen in the video editing lab at the school.
Sonoma Valley could be home to the next Quentin Tarantino, Spike Lee or Kevin Smith. Thanks to funding from the Sonoma International Film Society, the newest generation of filmmakers are honing their crafts using state of the art equipment at Sonoma Valley High School.
"It's so amazing to have this program in school," said Ghitta Ferrara, 16, a junior in the Media Arts program. "There's no way I'd have access to all of this equipment otherwise."
The film society, which hosts the 14th annual Sonoma International Film Festival that takes place this week, not only funds opportunities for the students to make their own films, it also gives them a chance to show their work during the popular student works screening, set for Thursday, April 7, and Sunday, April 10, at 9 a.m. at the Sebastiani Theatre. It's a chance for the students to bask in the glory of their hard work and share their creativity with not only friends and family, but the entire film-loving community of Sonoma as well.
"I'm just really excited for everyone to see it and to see their reaction to it," said Anthony Lucchesi, 17, who created "Gleeful," a short musical comedy film inspired by the hit television show "Glee," which follows the members of a high school glee club. Through film, Lucchesi was able to share a melodic journey of finding acceptance while also paying tribute to his love of "Glee" and musical theater. It was a process that took constant dedication. One of the most important lessons the students learn from Media Arts program director Peter Hansen is exactly how much work it takes to make a movie.
"Every waking hour I wasn't in school or doing homework, I was working on the film," Lucchesi said.
It is a common sentiment among the young filmmakers. While they are given a few hours of class time to work on videos each week, the major shoots and the bulk of the editing happens on nights and weekends. From coordinating large cast schedules to securing filming locations to ensuring all the right equipment is available and on site - producing the film is often the most difficult aspect of the project.
"For sure," agreed Ferrara, "It's a lot of time coordinating."
Ferrara's film, "There's No Such Thing As Magic," was a particularly laborious project. The film follows a little girl who has lost her faith in the existence of magic. Ferrara had to use her skills in special effects to make magic come to life for her heroine.
"I just started watching magic tricks online all the time," she said, explaining that she needed to get a feel for how sleight-of-hand and misdirection can be used on video.
For senior Danny Wirick, the project was as personal as it could get. The aspiring musician, who will be attending USC's prestigious Thornton School of Music next fall, made his first music video, showcasing his own work. Using his original song, "On My Side," Wirick got the experience of bringing a visual element to his musical world.
"That was difficult for me. I didn't have a clear vision for it at first," he said, adding that he finally found success after sitting down and drawing a storyboard for each set of lyrics. By the end of the project, he had something he not only could show at the Sebastiani, he could send out to potential bookers to further his musical career.
"He has something that is completely original, that he owns the copyright (to), it's totally his," Hansen said.
Not only do the students get to show in the festival, they get a filmmaker's badge, giving them access to some of the more than 80 films to be shown during the week. All the young filmmakers see it as an important aspect of participating in the festival, and enjoy learning by watching other's work.
To learn more about the Media Arts program, visit www.svhsvideo.com.
For tickets and details about the Sonoma International Film Festival, visit www.sonomafilmfest.org.