Five students at Salt River High School recently wrote, directed and produced short films during a three-week summer camp with the Film School at Scottsdale Community College. During the camp, they attended classes and learned techniques of film production, earning three credits toward their college education.
The subject of the films was autism awareness, and the storyline was inspired after student Marisela Valadez looked down at her “autism awareness” bracelet.
Believing that the world needs to change its outlook on people with special needs, she was inspired with the concept and the title, “Waiting on the World to Change.” In addition to Valadez, the participating students were Jeremiah Shaw, Jasmine Wilson, Aaron Rivers and Cade Clah.
“They were a great group of students; working with them was one of the better experiences of my teaching career [so far],” said Kyle Asmundoson, who taught the class. He noted how the students matured during the process, and said, “Even though they knew very little about the filmmaking process, they made great decisions.”
Along with Asmundoson, the students worked with the help of Anna Thorlaksdottir, department chair of the Film School at SCC, and Chris McIntier of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Education Department.
The film shows three young actors playing with blocks. One of them, a boy, represents a child with autism who is playing alone. The other two, a boy and girl, are playing with each other. The boy who doesn’t have autism doesn’t understand the actions of the boy with autism, and the girl says, “He can’t hear.”
The girl ends up going over to play with the boy with autism, and eventually the other boy comes over and plays with them too, in harmony.
The students worked with the filmed footage and edited it to create their own short films to showcase their interpretations of how the film should be. The film was screened at the SRHS auditorium for an audience, who saw how the film was edited from three different perspectives. Shaw and Wilson edited one film, Rivers and Clah another, and Valadez edited her film alone.
The summer film camp on the Community started when the American Indian Film Institute in San Francisco brought its Tribal Touring Program to the Community several years ago to give Native youth hands-on experience with filmmaking. That led to developing a summer program with the help of Scottsdale Community College.