BEACON FALLS — A group of aspiring film makers earned top honors at the 7th Annual Connecticut Student Film Festival.
Students from Woodland Regional High School’s digital media class took home the Audience Choice Award for the third straight year and the Best Fictional Short Film in the 84 Hour Film Challenge at the festival held in April at Waterbury’s Palace Theater.
The festival, which is run by the Center For 21st Century Skills at Education Connections in Litchfield, featured over a hundred entries from middle schools, high schools and select community colleges from across the state.
Hawk Productions‘ emotion film, “Unconditional,” earned the group the accolades. The film was selected to be featured as one of the top 15 by a judging panel from the University of Connecticut’s School of Digital Media. The film tells the story of a little girl and the love for her teddy bear left to her by her father, a war veteran on his way home.
“Unconditional” co-producer Ewelina Lemanski was at work when she heard that they had won Best Fictional Short Film.
“It felt like a dream come true because we try to get that award every year.” Lemanski said. “Finally having it was surreal.”
The students only had three and a half days to complete and submit the film. They were allowed to use the home of a fellow team member to shoot the three minute piece.
Woodland junior and classical music enthusiast Drew Chura served as director for the project.
“Doing homework, I was listening to music and the idea just came as I was listening,” Chura said.
According to Hawk Productions executive producer and founder of Woodland’s digital media program, Ralph Riello, Chura contacted German composer Denny Schneidemesser and asked permission to use his piece.
“We haven’t been in the winner’s circle since 2011, so this was a quest for the team,” Riello said. “I believe the music put it over the top.”
Riello commended the young director’s drive for success and leadership.
“He had the ability, the desire and the guts to be professional,” Riello said.
Even before his students submitted the film, Riello knew “Unconditional” had more than a fighting chance to win over the hearts of the judges.
“The film really tugs at the heart strings. To see kids resonates with adults,” Riello said.
Riello, an eight-time National Emmy award winner and former ESPN graphic designer, confirmed everything that was put into the film was entirely student produced, and he expected his students to make mistakes.
“It’s more coaching than teaching,” he said. “I don’t push buttons for them. I just help guide them in the right direction.”
Chura’s second in command, Aidan Music, helped oversee production and served as a representative for Hawk Productions at the film festival.
“Mr. Riello didn’t do much,” Music said. “We basically do it all on our own for the most part. It was mostly just us.”
To all the students involved, “Unconditional” is a testament to Hawk Productions desire for success and professionalism.