Hawk Productions pulls off hat trick

Members of Woodland Regional High School’s Hawk Productions pose for a photo at the Connecticut Student Film Festival in May. -CTSFF2015 PHOTO COURTESY OF N.Y. VINTAGE CAMERAWORKS LTD
Members of Woodland Regional High School’s Hawk Productions pose for a photo at the Connecticut Student Film Festival in May. -CTSFF2015 PHOTO COURTESY OF N.Y. VINTAGE CAMERAWORKS LTD

BEACON FALLS — Hawk Productions is used to coming away from the Connecticut Student Film Festival with some hardware. The Woodland Regional High School digital media program pulled off an act that no one has done before this year: a hat trick.

Hawk Productions swept the awards’ category at the 2015 Connecticut Student Film Festival in May for its short film “Foster.” Hawk Productions won the Outstanding Fictional Short, Audience Choice Award and the Parent Choice Award. The film was submitted as part of the festival’s spring 84 Hour Film Challenge.

“Foster” follows the character Lane, a foster child that had a rough childhood and lived in different foster homes his entire life. The film centers on Lane’s choice to finally leave the foster home he lives in and the decision he faces of where to go from there.

Senior Michael Marti, who was the writer for “Foster,” said the group wanted to create a film that would hit close to home and pull on the heartstrings of the audience.

“It was an idea that we figured can touch the hearts of people, and that’s what we wanted to go for,” Marti said.

Senior Meghan Terry, an executive producer on the film, said the key to making a successful film for the festival is to have a character that can connect with people.

The 84 Hour Film Challenge requires students to produce a film within an 84-hour window starting at 7 a.m. on a Friday. The crew that worked on “Foster” included all 12 seniors in the digital media class.

Senior Aidan Music, who was the team leader and an executive producer on the film, said the seniors were focused on trying to do their best video so far, since the film would be their last.

“We really needed to overcome the past things that we’ve done. We needed to top those,” Music said.

When “Foster” was all said and done, the students were confident in their work.

“We were confident in our video and we thought that we had a really good chance of winning,” said senior Drew Chura, who was the director, editor and worked on the story.

Karyn Skinner, organizer of the Connecticut Student Film Festival, said 58 films were submitted between the fall and spring challenges for the 84 Hour Film Challenge. The top ten from each challenge went to the finals for judging. Professors and students from the University of Connecticut Digital Media and Design program did the judging for the overall Outstanding Fictional Short award, she said.

The film Hawk Productions submitted in the fall, “The Martyr,” also finished in the top 10 overall, Skinner said.

The Audience Choice Award and the Parent Choice Award are voted on at the festival.

“Foster” won the audience choice and parent choice awards by a landslide, Skinner said.

Winning Outstanding Fictional Short was “the icing on the cake,” Music said.

Terry said the accolades earned by Hawk Productions are a reflection on how Ralph Riello, Woodland’s digital media teacher, runs his class.

“It’s not that we have him telling us what to do,” Terry said. “He’s allowing us to do it.”

Riello gave all the credit to the students, particularly the seniors. The 12 seniors are the first group of students to go through the digital media program, which started in 2008, for all four years of high school. He said the seniors are leaving big shoes to fill.

“These guys found their voice and their passion,” Riello said. “Now it’s up to the next group to find it.”

The seniors made sure their legacy lives on by taking the underclassmen under their wings. Several underclassmen teamed up with seniors to work on “Foster.”

“Next year, for those positions, they know what they have to do so they’re not just left in the dark,” said senior Kristen Cullen, an executive producer on the film.

Ian Romanski, a junior who played Lane and was a production assistant on the film, said to be included in the film was a great experience for the underclassmen and shows a lot about the program.

“Now that these seniors are moving on and passing the baton to the underclassmen, they set a pretty high bar,” he said. “It only motivates the underclassmen to try harder again next year and try to meet the standards of what Woodland has put out.”