2016-06-09 / Around Town

Young Filmmakers

By Olga Enger


Louis Murphy, Rodrigo Canales, Ava Reise and Ebtisam Alsharabi won in the “Eye Opening” category. Their project was on the economy. (Team member not in picture, Honezty Gonzalez.) (Photo by Jen Carter) Louis Murphy, Rodrigo Canales, Ava Reise and Ebtisam Alsharabi won in the “Eye Opening” category. Their project was on the economy. (Team member not in picture, Honezty Gonzalez.) (Photo by Jen Carter) The red carpet was rolled out for Newport’s youngest movie directors at the third annual Thompson Middle School Night at the Oscars on Monday, June 6.

“It’s a yearlong process,” said sixth-grade teacher Lisa Olaynack, who is one of four teachers on the documentary team project. All 160 sixth-grade students collaborate in teams to produce the documentaries.

Out of the 32 films produced, 10 were selected as award winners and presented to an audience of students, families and friends at the Jane Pickens Theater.

“About 75 to 85 percent of the students come to the event,” said Olaynack. “They come with their families, all dressed up. It’s a really nice atmosphere.”


Young filmmakers walk the red carpet into the theater. Katelyn Serth, Kathryn Margolis and Meghan Mureddy. (Photos by Jen Carter) Young filmmakers walk the red carpet into the theater. Katelyn Serth, Kathryn Margolis and Meghan Mureddy. (Photos by Jen Carter) Students worked in groups on a subject corresponding to this year’s theme of sustainability. They shot footage on smartphones and edited the clips on school computers.

“They pick a meaningful topic, one which will connect them with people in the community. They then conduct interviews and write a report of information,” Olaynack said.

Throughout the project, students learn soft skills such as how to speak with professionals and how to work as a team, said the sixth-grade teacher.

The winners are organized by categories such as “Best Futuristic Film” and “Best Representation of Newport.” Trophies are presented and then put on display at the school, accompanied with a picture of the winners.


Neil Lewia Neilson and Jevren Powell Neil Lewia Neilson and Jevren Powell Although this year marked the third Oscar event, Olaynack said the level of work that is put in annually remains the same. “It’s a lot of work – on the kids’ part, on the adults’ part. That hasn’t changed. I couldn’t do it alone. I need support from the community, parents and teachers.”

She pointed to one parent in particular who played an active role in this year’s project.

“Beth Cullen is an activist, but she’s also a parent. She was instrumental in connecting the kids to the professionals and taking the kids to the sites. She was a huge support,” said Olaynack.

“I love this event because it opens their eyes to their special hometown. It instills a sense of place,” said Cullen.

Olaynack hopes to incorporate the films that weren’t shown at the ceremony into next year’s curriculum.


Anisa Castro Quinones Anisa Castro Quinones “We want them to be proud of their work,” she said.

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