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Fallbrook High hosts a night to celebrate award-winning films

Among those awards, Fallbrook earns two Grand Jury Prizes at the Orlando International Film Festival

FALLBROOK – Sometimes film awards aren't made known by opening sealed envelopes. Sometimes film awards are made known by opening emails.

That process is exactly how all the filmmakers at Fallbrook High School discovered that they had won Grand Jury Prizes at the 2024 Orlando International Film Festival.

The Orlando International Film Festival, sponsored by the Orange County Government Arts and Culture Affairs Office and held at the University of Central Florida's prestigious Nicholson School of Communication and Media, features new works from filmmakers in a wide range of styles.

Fallbrook High School had six films selected for the Orlando festival. A selected film means it rose above the hundreds and hundreds of other film entrants to be included as part of the festival. To be selected is an honor unto itself. Beyond that, though, two films received Grand Jury Prizes for extraordinary work.

These films include "Jazz and Life," a dramatic short co-directed by Fallbrook students Madison Lavin and Sam Deputy about a composer leaning into his art as his life comes to an end, and "Turning En Pointe," a dramatic short directed by Fallbrook student Ramona Haywood about a bilingual student dancer who feels her life getting pulled in multiple directions as she struggles to figure out the best way forward.

"Turning En Pointe" has been selected for 12 festivals this year, an extraordinary number for any filmmaker, let alone a high school junior. In addition to the Grand Jury Prize in Orlando, Haywood's film also won Best Film Choreography at the 2023 Jorjezian Film Festival in Santa Monica and was runner up for Best Short Film at the 2023 A&E International Film Festival in New Jersey and the 2024 Alternative International Film Festival in Toronto.

Fallbrook's film teacher George Herring said, "We had nine films this year get selected into 40 festivals. When you are competing at this level, you need to remember that you are competing with private schools, technical magnet schools, college students, and adult filmmakers. I cannot overstate how amazing it is that our filmmakers are distinguished among this group. These honors prove Fallbrook is a school for filmmakers. Period."

"Jazz and Life" and "Turning En Pointe" will both be featured at the 2024 Rodarte Emerging Filmmakers Showcase at the Bob Burton Theater, located on the Fallbrook High School Campus, at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 29. Admission is free.

In addition to those films, Fallbrook locals can come by and see films like "The Life of Raul Perez," directed by Fallbrook student Gunnar Payne which details the story of Fallbrook student Malakhi Perez's grandfather. "The Life of Raul Perez" was selected for seven festivals this year. It won Best Short Film at the 2023 Imagination Lunchbox Children's Film Festival in Baltimore as well as Best Documentary at the 2023 Jorjezian Film Festival in Santa Monica.

Viewers will also enjoy films like "How to Teach a Pet Rock Tricks," a comedy directed by Fallbrook student Coleman Carlson, who is the only beginning level filmmaker in the showcase. His film was selected for two festivals this year, including the 2024 Uniquely Youth Film Festival in New York City.

Haywood also got into the Uniquely Youth Film Festival, taking home a Grand Jury Prize for Best Cinematography for her film, "How Do Students Feel While At School." That film will also be featured at the showcase.

The Rodarte Emerging Filmmakers Showcase is named after Fallbrook graduate Adam Rodarte. Over the years, Fallbrook has had a film program that has come and gone. When Rodarte was in school, it was gone.

In 2018, Rodarte petitioned the school to relaunch a Film/Media program. Two years after that, Rodarte won the Grand Jury Prize for Narrative Filmmaking at the Montclair Film Festival in New York City. Rodarte finished his Associate's degree in Filmmaking at Palomar this year and is currently working in the industry.

Herring said, "Adam means so much to me and our school owes him a lot. He is a catalyst for so much good. He's literally changed the course of people's lives."

Submitted by Fallbrook Union High School.


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