MWMS students Kaden Rogers, Thomas Abel, Joseph Abel, Joshua Kulinowski, Rylee Tarcola, Emilee Thompson, Nico McKinley, Ashton Owen and Adam Houser created films for Copa Shorts Film Fest. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Language arts isn’t all about parsing sentences, and science isn’t all about the periodic table. For some Maricopa middle schoolers, language and science came together to become filmmaking.[quote_box_right]Copa Shorts Film Fest
Feb. 17-19
Friday, VIP Party, 8 p.m.
Saturday, films, noon-10:30 p.m.
Sunday, noon-10 p.m.
UltraStar Multi-tainment Center[/quote_box_right]

In the case of three teams of student filmmakers, their movies surpassed their classmates just enough to be chosen for the student section of Copa Shorts Film Fest.

Four classes of 20+1 Blended Learning students at Maricopa Wells and Desert Wind middle schools completed 12 films and screenplays. Those chosen for the film festival were The Fault, The Wild Wonderous West and The Lockdown.

Because the middle schoolers are young and rookies at filmmaking, the three films will be shown as non-competitive ahead of the competitive entries in the Student Competition block on Feb. 18 at 6 p.m. at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center.

Maricopa Wells Middle School teacher Robyn Rice said the filmmaking exercise achieved specific goals in language arts and “actually falls under the science standards.”

For the students, it was fun, team-building and challenging. Teams worked as directors, editors, cinematographers, actors and writers. They had to create storyboards before they hashed out the script. The process brought about big changes from conception to finished product.

Emilee Thompson, who edited The Wild Wonderous West, said one of the early ideas was something called “Juan and the Zombie Apocalypse.”

Instead, they created a western about a sheriff.

“We really learned a lot about what to do,” Emilee said.

“We learned what not to do,” said Kaden Rogers, co-director of The Fault.

He said their idea was always a disaster movie, with team members Thomas Abel, Joseph Abel and Rylee Tarcola trapped in a precarious situation.

“The goal is for them to survive as long as possible without food or anything,” said Joshua Kulinowski, the other co-director.

But there were difficulties attached to middle school filmmakers destroying New York City.

“We said, ‘Why don’t we stick to something we can actually film,” Rylee said.

That became an earthquake in Maricopa. They used cell phones for filming, a skateboard as a dolly and some animation provided by Joseph Abel.

Adam Houser, who directed The Wild Wonderous West, said he used his mother’s camera and a tripod to capture the story with Nico McKinley and Ashton Owen.

Rice said the knowledge gained in putting a film together had great value for the students outside the curriculum. The process involved problem-solving and collaboration.

The students attended a filmmaking workshop in September through Copa Shorts Film Fest. At the time, only a couple had thought about making movies. Now, after their own filmmaking experiences, most want to do it again.

And don’t worry. “Juan” may meet his “Zombie Apocalypse” in the future. The middle schoolers are coming up with ideas for next year.

This story appears in the February issue of InMaricopa.