The winners of this year’s monster movie contest are being announced just in time for Halloween. The contest is part of the Future Filmmakers program run by the Portland Film Festival. Students from Oregon and SW Washington submitted monster-themed films from one to seven minutes long. Ima Kennerly and Oscar Goranson are sophomores at Catlin Gabel High School in Portland, who collaborated on the film “Shadow” and were finalists in the High School films category. They join us as well as Rebecca Brown, senior director of community impact for Comcast, which sponsors the film festival and contest.
Editor’s note: During the interview, Dave announced that Kennerly and Goranson were in fact the winners (not just finalists) of the contest in the high school category.
The following transcript was created by a computer and edited by a volunteer.
Dave Miller: From the Gert Boyle Studio at OPB, this is Think Out Loud. I’m Dave Miller. The winners of this year’s monster movie contest are being announced just in time for Halloween. The contest is part of the Future Filmmakers program run by Portland Film Festival. Students from Oregon and Southwest Washington submitted monster-themed movies anywhere from one to seven minutes long. Ima Kennerly and Oscar Goranson are sophomores at Catlin Gabel High School in Portland. They collaborated on the film “Shadow.” They are finalists in the High School Films category. They join us now along with Rebecca Brown, who is the senior director of community impact for Comcast, which sponsored the film festival and contest. Welcome to all three of you.
Oscar Goranson: Hi.
Rebecca Brown: Good afternoon.
Miller: It’s great to have all three of you on. Ima, you play the main character in your film and, like you, she is a high school student. Can you give us a sense for what she’s dealing with as the film opens?
Ima Kennerly: The movie is about basically the stress that she faces in her daily life and it kind of manifests in this monster that follows her around. We just really wanted to talk about mental health and what kind of things students have to face that might affect the amount of stress that they’re feeling.
Miller: Oscar, where did that idea come from? The idea was you have to make a monster movie. But the monster that you came up with is focused on [and] is kind of like the embodiment of a real thing: of all the stresses and fears and concerns that this character is experiencing. Where did that idea come from?
Oscar Goranson: Well, I really think we took inspiration from work from Jordan Peele where it focuses on real life scary issues. And we wanted to think of something that we found scary to ourselves. We were trying to embody that into the prompt of the monster movie.
Miller: In one of the scenes, you show the character having to watch a film strip, like an old fashioned filmstrip, about diversity in one of her classes. And then she makes a comment and then the teacher calls her aside. Let’s have a listen to part of this scene.
Film Narrator: Here at Lake Shore High School we take the treatment of our students very seriously. We recognize that our diverse student body..
Ima: I’m the only Black student here. [laughter]
Film Narrator: ..no offensive language, gestures, or clothing is tolerated on our campus. We trust students to maintain our thoughtful and friendly community.
Teacher: Hey Ima, I’d like a word before you go. I heard what you said during the filming and thought it was inappropriate.
Ima: What do you mean?
Teacher: The school’s doing its best to stay progressive during these divided times and it’s not fair to your community or your peers to make witty comments like that.
Ima: What do you expect me to say? How can school be diverse if I’m the only student of color?
Miller: Ima, how much did you rely on your own experiences in writing and crafting this movie?
Kennerly: I’d say a lot. Like Oscar mentioned, we really wanted to take things that were scary and stressful for us and apply them to our movie. So, for that part, I guess I just focused on what it felt like to be a student of color in a predominantly white school and what kind of feelings that brought up for me.
Miller: And has it felt like a kind of monstery shadow behind you at times?
Kennerly: That was a bit of an extreme, but it definitely is something that follows you around. And you never can really let go of the fact that you’re.. the only one.
Miller: Rebecca Brown, what’s the idea behind this monster movie contest?
Rebecca Brown: Yes, exactly this and what’s happening right now. But what is so exciting for us around this partnership and program that we launched.. I’m going to take a step back, if I can for a minute, kind of around the genesis of this and then the evolution of it turning into this monster-movie contest. The partnership with the Portland Film Festival is that intersection of who we are as a company, a technology and entertainment company, and... when we first came on board with the Portland Film Festival about five years ago, part of those initial conversations with Josh at the film festival, who’s the executive director, was around how we could positively impact our communities. That’s very important to us as a company; it’s part of our culture. One of our focuses is around providing access and developing pathways for emerging talent, diverse voices and underrepresented youth to explore their career in arts and entertainment. The film festival, turns out, also passionate about engaging youth and finding creative outlets where they get to experience opportunities that they might not otherwise have access to. So we launched the “Future Filmmakers” workshop. That workshop started as a partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland. Club kiddos, they could come in on a Saturday for four to five hours and they were exposed to industry professionals that were volunteering their time -- screenwriters, directors, editors -- and they got to utilize and have access to professional equipment that they might not otherwise have had access to. And they got to experience this equipment from the Koerner Camera Systems, who’s a great partner in this. They got to, from the beginning to the end, work on creating a short film. And then the pandemic hit. We couldn’t host the workshop last year but it did provide an opportunity, as we thought about it for this year, of leveraging the opportunity and letting us reach more kids, kindergarten through 12th graders, throughout the community in this virtual environment. So we could help possibly remove some of the barriers that kid’s face to having opportunities like this -- cost, transportation -- and launch this monster movie contest. What better time than the Halloween season, right? Giving kids this platform and opportunity to create, to grab their equipment -- even cell phones and ipads work these days, right -- and to create something and let their voice be heard. It’s just been an amazing opportunity and fun to see the submissions come in.
Miller: Oscar from what I understand, the two of you wrote, filmed and edited your short film in just over two weeks. What was it like to do all of that in such a short time period?
Goranson: Well, at times it really did feel rushed. We were staying up late, we were working hard. But I’ve really got to give it to Ima: she wrote the entire script by herself. It’s very impressive. And then over just one weekend we filmed and edited the entire movie -- like five hour, seven hour days -- but we got it done.
Miller: I mentioned at the beginning that the two of you are some of the finalists in the High School category for the monster movie competition. But, I actually am happy to be able to make an announcement right now, which is that you’re not just finalists, but you are the winners of this High School category. Your film “Shadow” won your competition! Ima, how are you feeling?
Kennerly: This is just so exciting. We went into this whole project just thinking it would be a great idea, a fun project for the both of us. And it was our first time hearing about it. They really did a good job of expanding it to everyone in Portland. It was such a fun opportunity for us.
Miller: There is a little bit of mystery at the end of the movie in terms of what happens. It goes black at a scary time and it doesn’t seem like a happy ending but we don’t exactly know what’s happened, Ima, to your character. What were you going for at the end of the film?
Kennerly: Yeah, so the idea was that, at the end, she was just kind of overcome by the stress she was feeling. She had therapy but overall just she couldn’t help but feeling like she was being consumed. So that’s kind of like the scary creepy part of the movie, is that she tried but she still ended up being taken over.
Miller: Oscar, are you interested in making more movies now? This was a quick two weeks but do you have more coming?
Goranson: Me and Ima have both felt really excited about this whole process. We’ve already been looking for more film festivals to create. This has really inspired us to work on more movies together and we actually learned a lot from this short process.
Miller: Ima, what did you learn?
Kennerly: Well, it gave me an opportunity to use some of the knowledge that I already had in film and just apply it. So with shot types, editing, screenwriting, it was just a really important thing for practice.
Miller: And Oscar, what about you? What’s one of the lessons you took from this?
Goranson: I learned a lot about just the process of filmmaking and I made a lot of practice on film editing.
Miller: Well, Oscar and Ima, congratulations again. And Rebecca Brown, thanks for being with us. Thanks to all three of you.
Goranson: Thank you.
Kennerly: Thank you.
Brown: Thank you. Congratulations, Ima and Oscar.
Miller: Ima Kennerly and Oscar Goranson are sophomores at Catlin Gabel High School in Portland. Their entry “Shadow” won the High School Films category for this year’s monster movie contest, which is a part of the Portland Film Festival. Rebecca Brown is a senior director of community impact for Comcast, which sponsored the festival.
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