WATERVILLE — An air of seriousness cloaked the Maine Student Film & Video Festival on Saturday as students chose darker and more edgy themes for their films compared to past years.

About 100 people gathered at the Waterville Opera House Saturday afternoon for the 36th annual competition, where Maine students were recognized for their technical and artistic talent.

James “Huey” Coleman, Portland filmmaker and the festival’s founder, said he was surprised by the number of students who independently chose to explore serious topics such as homelessness, the stages of grief, death of a family member and depression.

“I think it shows that students take the world more seriously than we think they do,” he said.

A pair of Winslow seniors were awarded as finalists in the high school division for their documentary “Homeless Teens in Maine: Finding Solutions,” which searches for solutions for teenage homelessness.

Coleman praised Kyle Gravel and Myles Welsh for the broad range of people they interviewed in the film, including Gov. Paul LePage, Waterville area school administrators and teenagers.

The two made their film while taking a mass communication class at Mid-Maine Technical Center.

While accepting their award for being a finalist in the senior division, they said they decided to focus their class project on homeless teens because they have friends who are homeless. They said they are hoping to promote awareness about the issue and the project was a learning experience.

“I didn’t think it was that big of an issue,” Welsh said.

A Readfield teen made the audience jump and gasp with his film “Terror,” during which a masked man killed the other characters one by one during the night.

Drew Davis, 14, of Readfield, won awards for “Terror” and his work on “Got Milk?”

Davis said he filmed “Terror” at his uncle’s beach house, using his family as the cast. Coleman said Davis has a “good filmmaker’s eye” and praised him for his use of close-ups and shots with images of the masked man ominously lurking in the background in reflections in mirrors and windows.

David Rice, of Hampden Academy, was selected the grand prize winner for his film “My Roommate Joe” and awarded a $2,500 scholarship to the Young Filmmakers Program.

Gemma Scott, one of the judges in the student film competition, said it’s valuable for students to learn how to communicate visually with skills such as video production.

“Media production isn’t just a fringe skill. It’s become an elemental and valuable skill to have,” she said.
Several students said they plan to continue pursuing film after school.

Ariq Hannan, 19, of Scarborough, and August Halm-Perazone, 18, of Portland, who received awards as finalists for their work on “Jill and Jack,” said they both hope to study video production in college in the fall.

Hannan said he plans to attend Rochester Institute of Technology, and Halm-Perazone plans to attend the University of British Columbia.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252
kschroeder@mainetoday.com