Young filmmakers compete at Arlington Heights library's Teen Film Fest
Edin Ramovic begins his freshman year next month at DePaul University as a film and television production major, but already he is an award-winning filmmaker.
He picked up his second award for best overall film last week at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library's Teen Film Fest for his psychological thriller titled "Kris." Just last year, Ramovic won best film at Prospect High School's Film Dreamers' Festival for his short titled "Pali."
And while the name of the festival says "teen," make no mistake about it. These films were high caliber and engrossing, and all under 6 minutes long.
The dozen entries that were screened at the fest ranged from "Doughnut Time" by Wheeling High School sophomore David Petratos, who won the award for best special effects, to an animated film featuring Lego characters and made using stop-motion filmmaking by Jacob Painter, a freshman at Rolling Meadows High School.
His younger sister, Madeline Painter, will be a seventh-grader at South Middle School. Her film "Jelly Beans" was voted the audience favorite, while best editing went to Prospect High School freshman Geoffrey Buck for his film, "Control Freak." Graham Reid, a senior at York High School in Elmhurst, won for best screenplay/story, and Hayden Westerfield of Overland Park, Kansas, won the best acting award.
Another standout was a nearly 3-minute film, "Wandering the World," made by Xavier Lipani, an eighth-grader at Thomas Middle School in Arlington Heights. It featured spectacular visuals that he shot while visiting seven different countries over the summer.
Ramovic's entry really gripped the audience of nearly 100. Judges commended him for his sound design and cinematography, as well his special effects in building the suspense with his 5-minute film.
"The sound design was so immersive," said Mat Lauterbach, a documentary filmmaker and editor who served this year as the library's first filmmaker-in-residence.
"The constant whispering really kept you on the edge of your seat."
The other two judges, Rolling Meadows English and Fine Arts Division Chair Mary Luckritz and last year's film winner, Jeevan Acharya of South Elgin, agreed, acknowledging just how much the film succeeded as a psychological thriller.
"You did such a good job of building up the suspense," Luckritz said. "There was a real sense of foreboding."
Ramovic admitted he drew inspiration from the 1980 film "The Shining," and particularly in its use of the typewriter.
"I thought it added to the old school, horror film style that I was trying to create," Ramovic said.
This was the 13th film festival at the Arlington library, and teen librarians gave it a Hollywood feel. Filmmakers and their fans walked the red carpet when they arrived. They watched the entries in the Cardinal Room, converted into a theater, before the panel of judges critiqued each one and interviewed the filmmaker.
"It's amazing to see teens grow as filmmakers and to see how their work and dedication to filmmaking evolves over the years," said Alice Son, teen services supervisor. "I suppose you could say that the sophistication of their work is really based on the investment we put into the teens to provide them this space."
In 2012, the library renovated its studio, which encompasses several production labs equipped with the latest technology, including the Adobe Creative Cloud suite, iMovie, Garageband, Logic Pro and Final Cut, as well as audio and video digitization kits.
Members of the Friends of the Library funded the renovation and teen librarians have encouraged participation with their young patrons.
"The technical work of the films has really grown over the years, and teens are becoming more savvy with their technology resources," Son adds.
"With YouTube being a prominent part of teens' lives, and phones doubling as cameras, it's easier than ever for a teen to pursue filmmaking."