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Van Nuys, California
The Student News Site of Van Nuys High School

The Mirror

The Student News Site of Van Nuys High School

The Mirror

Excelling in the art of digital media: A Showcase of creativity and innovation

The ideas of aspiring student filmmakers in video production classes were brought to life on the big screen during the VNHS Digital Media Showcase.
Mr. McCluskey’s students celebrate after two nights of a successful and fun-filled showcase.

The Digital Media Showcase was held on Thursday, May 30 and Saturday, June 1 and featured over 20 student-made and directed films, produced by all five of the school’s video production classes.

“Each year, we screen our advanced projects, each completed with high quality,” film teacher Mr. Thomas McCluskey said. “Parents and audience members come up to me constantly and say how impressed they are with the quality of the finished work. The quality level made them forget it was student-made.”

In preparation for this year’s showcase the film students spent last semester, brainstorming their ideas starting last semester. Mr. McCluskey then reviews the rough drafts of numerous scripts and incorporates his take alongside other students’ feedback through a compulsory workshop process. 

“When students submit their scripts, I try to visualize it and encourage them to use some writer’s tools taught in class,” he said. “For example, incorporating the audience’s view by requiring them to be in suspense and predict what comes next, to wonder about a character’s motives and the reasons behind their actions. You must tell the story well and lay out crumbs for the audience to follow. By the time the film is completed, students reflect upon whether it is ready to be shown to an audience or is in need of more beats or elements that show the development of the storyline.” 

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For video production students, it can be difficult to delve into a world of ideas at first, figuring out what they want to explore and how they plan to explore it in their films. It can also be difficult for them to hear critical feedback, which is why video production students go through a realistic and rigorous filmmaking process. 

During the first semester, the course covers story analysis to delve deeper into structuring ideas and incorporating more intriguing twists. Mr. McCluskey introduces a series of writer’s tools during the course in hopes of guiding his students to success.

“You have to present the progression of a story that the audience can identify with, indicating the basis, stakes, and worlds the stories take place in,” he said. “The story structure, commonly followed through the 3-act-structure, solidifies stories with a beginning, middle and end. Each story needs crypt; something that serves as an obstacle, bringing a character a disadvantage and risk.”

Once the students had gained a basic understanding of story structure, they began distributing roles for each film, signing on producers, directors, editors, camera workers, actors and sound designers. 

Students interested in a specific role are required to provide a bit of their background and past experience. Then, from there, they are then assigned to roles based on their level of experience and desire.

“Each student learns about the different roles of film production,” he said. “They submit scripts all reviewed by me and the class. Films are chosen through my consideration of their producer ability and topic relevance, as well as the way other students perceive them. I choose films and students vote on them.”

Video production allows student minds to flourish. 

As aspiring filmmakers, students get to implement their interests into their individual projects, showing total creative freedom. 

When crafting a script, students consider their skill and ability to produce their ideas successfully.

“Last year, students started to come together outside the class, forming a group called Midnight Studios,” McCluskey said. “They would put copious amounts of extra time into making their films, with one group making a 50-minute film. I love to see students viewing this classroom as a clubhouse, taking the ideas learned and going with it, having fun. Yes, the class is graded and there is a curriculum, but students who enter with a creative mindset tend to excel in their performance.”

During each of the two show nights, the showcase culminated with an Audience Favorite Award, given to the student film with the best audience reaction. “The Wizard’s Quest” won the award Saturday night, a story following a wizard who is in the woods, out of touch with regular urban life. 

“I wasn’t able to personally receive the award last night, but my producer informed me that we had won and I was really excited,” senior Ari Goldin said. “My crew was a little disappointed to have not won on the first show and so it was incredible to hear that we ended up winning on Saturday. We spent over two months working on the film, and it was fun yet exhausting at times so it felt really good to have all that hard work pay off when we won the award. I think I speak for my whole crew when I say that we are incredibly proud of what we have created!”

The Saturday screening ended with the Wolfie Awards, highlighting individuals who have shown exemplary work and have accomplished great skill in directing, acting, editing and other skills.

“When selecting the recipient of an award, one thing I consider is the level of creativity they display, along with the level of work and dedication, as the students have strong willfulness to execute it from beginning to end,” Mr. McCluskey said. “There is a great level of maturity and organization when it comes to filmmaking, but the creativity to make something so different and unpredictable gives the audience a great experience. There have been instances where some films have had a strong beginning, but were never completed, so it is important not to underestimate the amount of work required for the completion of a film.”

The winners of this year’s showcase are as follows:

Audience Award – Thursday: The Fool

Audience Award – Saturday: The Wizard’s Quest

2024 Wolvie for Best Producer: Kaden Berve (Killer Content)

2024 Wolvie for Best Director: Maya Diaz (Be Careful What You Wish For)

2024 Wolvie for Best Screenplay: Kerra Bae (Sincerely Lost)

2024 Wolvie for Best Actor: Sean Cousins (At Death’s Door and The Wizard’s Quest)

2024 Wolvie for Best Actress: Aurora Caradonna (Adolescence)

2024 Wolvie for Funniest Performance: Sean Cousins ( The Wizard’s Quest)

2024 Wolvie for Best Editing: Maya Diaz (Be Careful What You Wish For)

2024 Wolvie for Best Sound: Anthony Castaneda (Solace)

2024 Wolvie for Best SFX / Animation: Alyssa Pontines (Q)

2024 Wolvie for Best Cinematography: Jalyn Bautista (At Death’s Door)

“The creativity of the students at Van Nuys is the greatest I’ve ever seen from the schools I’ve taught at, which means the variety of scripts and projects is unmatched, with their individual, unique styles incorporated into each,” Mr. McCluskey said.

Completed films will be shown on the Van Nuys Youtube Channel soon, so if you weren’t able to attend the Digital Media Showcase, be sure to tune in.

Additionally, any student interested in learning how to make films or find out about careers in the entertainment industry should talk to their counselor or Mr. McCluskey in Room 118 about joining Video Production One, the intro course, next year.

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About the Contributor
Lilit Aprahamian
Lilit Aprahamian, Marketing Manager
Singing, acting, and writing all serve as an entrance into the creative world, and a platform to creatively express my own words and thoughts in an articulated way. It is fascinating to see the flow within poetry, and to bring that artistic side wherever I go. The creative elements within greatly complement each other and have helped me discover who I am. As a new voice to journalism, I hope to bring this insight, as well as my other passions, to a wider audience through my featured writing. When aside from the stage, I drift my focus on volunteering and providing support for children with special needs. Currently, I am involved with Drama Club in my fourth year, now President, and am the Secretary of the Senior Board. I am also involved in the Choir Program as the Class Representative and am Secretary of the Improv Club.
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