High school never looked so good.
That's thanks to the smart lighting, careful directing and crafty editing of Marina High School students in MHS TV, a 3-year-old video class that has received countywide recognition for its work.
Class videos received 12 nominations for 10 awards at the Orange County Film Festival, a 10-year-old gala that recognizes the best work from high school video programs in the area. The black-tie awards ceremony is Jan. 4 at City National Grove of Anaheim.
Despite its relative youth, MHS TV is one of the best recognized of the 13 schools participating from across the county.
"It's really cool that Marina has that many nominations this year because it's one of the newer schools that we've been working with," said festival director Rayka Zehtabchi. Marina received five nominations last year.
MHS TV teacher Don Hume said going to the film festival is right up there with the Oscars for his students.
"It's a really exciting night for them. It's something that they actually work hard for all year," he said. "They want to do a good job for our school, but this film festival is always in the back of their minds."
Hume's MHS TV class, also known as Digital Cinema Theory and Production, films three types of projects during the year: broadcasts, school events and independent projects.
The class produces schoolwide broadcasts every two weeks, including public service announcements, commercials and features on funny or newsworthy stories at the school or in Huntington Beach. MHS TV shoots 65 school events, including rallies, dances and sports, which are compiled into the school's two-hour yearbook DVD.
But it's the independent projects that seem to interest the students most.
"We spent a good eight months on the graphics, making sure they'd be almost photo-real," said junior Mark Samuel Estefanos, 16, of a music video the class made for indie rock band Florence and the Machine's "Shake It Out."
For the song, class members filmed a story about a stranger who inspires three people in difficult situations. The video garnered seven nominations at the festival, including best music video, best director and best actor.
Hume called Estefanos the class' "graphics guru" for his lively and natural animations, which can include playful 3D text, superimposing objects into videos or making realistic gunfire. He and Brian Hart, who graduated in the summer and now attends Orange Coast College, served as student directors for the class.
Estefanos said he gets inspiration from YouTube and Vimeo, and he eventually wants to work in Hollywood, maybe as a cinematographer or director.
"I couldn't be happier" about being nominated, Estefanos said. "It's truly an honor to get recognition for something you've been working on all year."
"I think it's my best chance for a promising career," he said.
Hume never saw himself doing film professionally. The 12-year English teacher graduated from Marina High himself and also teaches British Lit. He's taken a few short film editing classes, but said his real skill is in working on the narratives, like character development and conflict resolution.
He finds the chance to work on students' creative projects rewarding.
"Being an English teacher, working with an English curriculum, there's not a lot of room for creativity," Hume said. "With this class, I get to help kids create their dreams. They imagine it, we make it happen."
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