Anna HS narrative film team wins state

By Joshua Baethge
For the Anna-Melissa Tribune
Behind the scenes with the Anna High School narrative film team.

The Anna High School Narrative film team earned top honors at the 2021 UIL Young Filmmakers Competition.  The team took home the Division 1 gold medal for their film “Justin Yuso Saves the World.” The win comes one year after the team, featuring many of the same students, placed a close second for their film “Tommy Superstar.”

“It is incredibly gratifying to see the kids rewarded for all of their hard work both this year and for last year’s,” Anna High School audio/visual teacher Randall Kramen said.

Thanks to COVID-19, this year’s coemption was a little different. Instead of traveling to the state meet, students watched a slide show on campus. They also screened competing films as well as their own. After that, a final slide announced that they had won the competition.  

Upon hearing the news, students erupted into a victory celebration that included an impromptu performance of the Queen classic “We are the Champions.” Co-writer and director Gabe Silva, a senior who also acted in the film, said it was the greatest feeling in the world.

The Anna High School narrative film team celebrates after learning they were the 2021 state champs.

“I think we won because our film was a comedy and it was vastly different from any other story,” he said. “In a time where life has become harder for many and people have lost so much, they can at least enjoy themselves with the best medicine: laughter and joy.”

The original idea for the film came from sound engineer Camden DeMetrovich, who also plays the film’s lead character. He thought it was a fun idea but didn’t figure the story would go anywhere. Then Silva and film producer Jonathan Chih started working on some re-write ideas. Through a collaborative effort, the team tweaked the plot into a short film that is relevant to today’s current event but still humorous.

“The keys to success on this production were the creativeness and strength of the concept, the determination of the crew, and the relentlessness of the creative leads,” Chih says.

It took a new level of relentlessness to make the film a reality. In past years, students were able to check out equipment from school and take them to other locations with teach supervision.  COVID protocols prevented that this year, but that didn’t stop filming. Oftentimes students found their own equipment to use for many shots. 

Camden DeMetrovich wields a weapon in the short film “Justin Yuso Save the World.”

Kramen says the film’s success was a direct result of those students’ commitment and dedication to putting in the time required to make it a reality. They started with a shared love of narrative film and worked to learn all of the technical skills required to make an idea a film. He hopes that seeing their success will inspire underclassmen who witnessed as well as future students.

The high school film program has been in place for six years now. This year the program added new special effects capabilities that were used on the film. Kramen hopes that the program will continue expanding just a bit every year to push it further and make more things possible for the next wave of students.

After a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the high school plans to hold a film festival on May 22 at the football stadium. It will feature several student productions as well as “Tommy Superstar” and “Justin Yuso Save the World.”

“I am immensely proud of the success of this team,” Kramen sad. “They’re tremendously talented and they are absolutely motivated to pursue this as a career.”