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SMHS Students’ Project Qualifies For Prestigious HS Film Festival

A film created, produced and shot by four San Marino High School students has been accepted for entry into the largest high school film festival in the world.

A story about “a desperate and stranded driver in the desert who leaves behind his dead companion in order to follow a mysterious traveler into the unknown,” ‘The Ditch’ will compete in the category of Short Narrative at the prestigious All-American High School Film Festival, which takes place Oct. 7-9 in New York City.

“It’s a short, silent thriller,” said Andreas Kooi, a 2016 graduate of San Marino High School, who served as director while also overseeing all camera operations for the five-minute film. “It’s a retro-80s silent film,” said Andreas, who explained that the musical score is inspired by John Carpen ter’s ‘Lost Themes,’ an album that was released in 2015 by the famed film director.

Andreas was joined by fellow 2016 grads Jacob Ohlmeyer and Kevin Tie as well as Trevor Gautereaux, who has another year left at SMHS.

The quartet completed the shoot in one day, April 16, in and around Lancaster. It was submitted to the All-American High School Film Festival on June 23 and accepted just a few days ago. ‘The Ditch’ also screened on July 29 at the Tustin Film Festival. The students collaborated on the project in a media class at SMHS taught by Robbin Rae and used school equipment to complete their entry.

The film uses two outside actors, Rob Banks and Daniel Student, whom Andreas met through a platform called LA Casting when he auditioned them for a previous film project. As is the case with many creative efforts, the finished project bears little or no resemblance to the original idea.

“Kevin, Daniel and I came up with the story on the drive over to the location,” Andreas said. “We were actually supposed to film something entirely different, but because it fell apart, we decided to come up with an entirely new project. That led to the last-minute idea for ‘The Ditch.’ It was a big collaborative effort.”

Kevin also handled camera operations, Jacob served as actor and production assistant and Trevor handled the role of editor. An introductory video can be found on YouTube.

The soundtrack was produced by Catalin Chirila.

“We overlaid some of the John Carpenter soundtracks onto a testing edit and sent it over to Catalin,” said Andreas. “We took about two months going back and forth with editing and the soundtrack because we knew the soundtrack would have to do half of the talking for us because the film is silent.”

So what does it feel like when such a seat-of-your-pants project reaches the pinnacle of film festivals?

“Pretty crazy,” Andreas said, in his typical understated tone.


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