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Film Stories Festival presented by student-founded Flashbulb Entertainment rewards top high school and college filmmakers, as judged by a Hollywood writer and director.

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By DAVID BRO / SPECIAL TO THE REGISTER

SAN CLEMENTE -(CA)- High school and college filmmakers got their turn in the spotlight Monday evening as Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens in San Clemente hosted the third annual Film Stories Festival, featuring 10 student-made short films.

SEE PHOTOS HERE.

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Film Stories Festival director Zack Roman, 20, left, of San Clemente stands with Brian Ivie, 20, of San Clemente, president of event sponsor Flashbulb Entertainment, at Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens in San Clemente on Monday evening. The third annual Film Stories Festival featured 10 student-made short films with categories for high school and college.
DAVID BRO, FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

The festival, organized and sponsored by San Clemente-based production company Flashbulb Entertainment, is meant to help student filmmakers get started in an industry that can be financially challenging, according to Flashbulb founder and president Brian Ivie, 20, a graduate of San Clemente High School.

“Our goal this year is to promote student filmmakers by rewarding creative, lasting stories before aesthetics, where winners receive scholarship prizes to pursue their artistic passions,” Ivie said. “In the end, we hope to help fulfill the dreams of young people who might otherwise be forced to forfeit those dreams for financial reasons.”

Hollywood writer and director Stephen Suscojudged the entries, awarding the $500 high school scholarship award to 2011 Capistrano Valley High School graduate Kevin Clark for his 14-minute film “The Thief and the Liar,” which he wrote, produced and directed. The 2010 film is a 1930s-set avant-garde take on real-life bank robber Willie Sutton.

Clark used social media to fund the $1,000 cost of the project, which took six months of planning and two days to shoot, followed by two weeks of editing. The biggest challenge, Clark said, was maintaining the look and feel of the time, including slang, the set, props and borrowed newsreel footage.

Clark said he would do it differently now, in light of what he learned working on the film and other projects since.

“At first, I just told the actors what I wanted,” Clark said. “Now, I’ll listen and let them relate to the role on their own.”

The Best of Fest prize as well as first place in the college category went to UCLA master’s recipient Erick Oh for his eight-minute animated film “Heart.” His prizes totaled $1,500.

The festival was in conjunction with Casa Romantica’s “Salute to Hollywood” exhibit on the evolution of filmmaking, which includes photos, costumes and other memorabilia through Oct. 23 at 415 Avenida Granada.

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Ruaridh (Rory) Stewart (shown at left photographing a car at the recent LA Car show), 37, of Laguna Niguel, knows the business of what makes photos work.  He describes a photo of a Vietcong guerrilla captured by US troops photographed by Philip Jones Griffiths, a Welsh photojournalist from the 60’s and 70’s.

 

“Griffiths set the standard for what makes a news photo…how he shot events, no one had done before, his approach…everything…students of photography should begin with his books and photos, he started it all really…”

 

 

Griffiths published Vietnam INC, and the book had major influence on American perceptions of the war and became a classic of photojournalism with astounding and compelling images.  All qualities that Zuma Press, a full service photo agency based in Dana Point and where Stewart works as News Director, look for when they license photos for magazines like Time, Newsweek and National Geographic. 

 

 

This image conveys the tragedy that is war, there are multiple elements to his images that cause the viewer to really pause and look…”

 

Stewart, born in Perthshire, Scotland in 1971 is tall, lean and serious, but not without a certain kindness in his gaze.  He pauses between points and reflects, seemingly editing his words one last time, just before telling you what he thinks.  It’s his thoughts on photography and how he got started that you realize his greatest trait must be his innate compassion.

 

“I was always taking photos when I was young and while traveling in India over the summer in 1993, I was doing travel photos, I knew it was what I wanted to do, something just clicked …I traveled all over Asia and it was the people…taking pictures of the people….you just have to go for it and make it work and that’s what I did…”

 

Stewart’s work at Zuma Press as News Director is what you might think at first to be the standard faire of deadlines, fact checking and the eenie, meenie, miny, mo of where to send which photo to which publication.  Consider that Stewart deals with over 700 contract photographers from all over the world and in every possible situation at any one time and delivers to hundreds of magazines worldwide; there is no doubt that many of the photos you see in your favorite magazines, he sees first.

 

It wasn’t too long ago that Stewart was looking through the lens and seeing it all first hand.  In 2000 he was selected as Photographer of the Year by the Hong Kong Press for a photo that depicts children praying at an assembly after their Principal has just shared that the Chinese takeover in Hong Kong would no longer allow English to be taught.  Stewart had the opportunity to work for several newspapers and magazines in Asia and traveled extensively on assignments that included sports, politics and earthquakes. 

 

 

“In 1999 I was assigned to cover the aftermath of the earthquake in Taiwan where over 2000 people died…the devastation was impressive….to see people in those conditions was humbling…”

 

Stewart had the unique nuts and bolts experience of literally working through the change from film to digital.  Assigned to cover the fall of  President Suharto of Indonesia in the spring of 1998, he was given a digital camera to take with him along with his equipment for film; that first digital camera cost more than $10,000 dollars and had less than 2 megapixels; soccer moms would scoff at anything less than 6 megapixels today.

 

“We would shoot maybe 5 rolls a day of the rioting and protests and then return to the hotel room to process the film in the bathroom and use the hotel hair dryer to dry the negatives….eventually I ran out of chemical and so I started using the digital camera…the image quality was terrible but it was that immediate result and even more I appreciated the speed”

 

Stewart explains that after returning to the hotel and developing the film it still took hours to edit the photos down to two or three that would get sent out to the paper.  He details the methodic orgy of using the bathroom as a darkroom, developing in the bathtub, drying the negatives on the shower rod with the hair dryer, scanning the negatives into the computer, getting a dependable international phone line, usually splicing the lines himself and then spending 3 hours to download 3 images.  The confusion, chaos and imminent collapse of President Suharto’s regime made for excellent and emotionally charged photos but wasn’t the safest spot to be.

 

“ I was shooting from behind a crowd, towards the government troops…I was getting the rioters throwing rocks when the soldiers began to shoot into the crowd…it all broke loose at that point…there was a wave of people…everyone was scattering, except for me…at one point I looked out over the top of my camera….in front of me just 10 feet away was a soldier…he was franticly trying to pull out his pistol from its holster but he had forgotten the little leather strap that held it in…he kept trying to get it out and then he was working on the strap…it just wouldn’t come…I just stood there watching until a hand from behind pulled me out…an Indonesian photographer I think…I don’t know what would have happened…”

 

Stewart is in the office now mostly and likes it better that way because now he can pick the assignments he wants to do and at the end of the day he goes home to Laguna Niguel, his wife, Sylvia and his little girl, Ailee, 18 months.

 

Stewart has had an ongoing assignment at US military installations photographing, the  Army as they train and prepare for duty in Iraq.  It keeps him close to home, it’s safer and it’s an easier commute but it’s not the only thing that’s easy.

 

 

 

 “When we first got the digital stuff…the image quality was not that good and the batteries were huge and we had to carry extra batteries where ever we went…now the cameras are just phenomenal…the point and shoot cameras that we have today take better pictures than what I had in Indonesia…”

 

Stewart feels that with the quality of digital cameras today, there is no reason why a reasonably skilled photographer couldn’t take a shot where you would be unable to tell if it were color film or not; digital only keeps getting better every day.

 

“There are some great digital cameras out there right now but, you know, I still have all my film cameras…”

 

Stewart knows what he’s doing; he’ll make it work out.

 

Ruaridh Stewart:

http://www.ruaridhstewart.com/

 

Philip Jones Griffiths:

 

http://www.magnumphotos.com/Archive/C.aspx?VP=XSpecific_MAG.PhotographerDetail_VPage&l1=0&pid=2K7O3R149GCO&nm=Philip%20Jones%20Griffiths

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/20/arts/design/20griffiths.html?scp=3&sq=philip%20jone%20griffiths&st=cse

 

http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2008/03/19/arts/20080320_GRIFFITHS_SLIDESHOW_index.html?scp=4&sq=philip%20jone%20griffiths&st=cse

 

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,905816,00.html

 Zuma Reportage:

http://www.zreportage.com/

  

 

 

 

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