A team of aspiring film makers, including eight current Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy (CHCA) students and alumni, triumphed in the 2019 Teen Challenge, earning overall Best Film honors and three additional awards.
Judges named 2019 alums Gabe Schmidt and Trevor Cebulskie as Best Director and Best Editor, respectively, while the entire team earned the Audience Choice prize for its film titled Deep Return. Awards were given out Sunday, August 11, 2019, during the event's premiere screenings at CHCA's Lindner Theater.
The team consisted of sophomore Jackson Rebhun, junior Jonah Bolander, alumni Jack Bolander '18, Cebulskie, Carter Jackson '17, Matthew Pacheco '19, Schmidt, and Malcolm Vanderwoude '19. Also assisting the team was Lakota West sophomore Maggie Drake. Schmidt co-wrote the film with Vanderwoude, who also served as producer. Jack Bolander was the cinematographer.
Schmidt had previously won the event's Best Film and Best Director honors two years earlier with a stop-motion animated film he created, with the original score and voice acting from Jackson.
"Going onstage again felt good," shared Schmidt. "But it felt even better to go up there with my team."
In 2018, a 13-member CHCA team headed by Schmidt, Vanderwoude, and Cebulskie, made a film called A Simple Moment, which finished second overall and won the Audience Choice award.
In this year's competition, held the weekend before the screenings, each team drew a genre and a movie title, and had just 72 hours to make a short film (3-6 minutes) that fit both requirements. CHCA's team drew the category of Buddy Comedy. Given the title Deep Return, the group constructed a story about the misadventures of two criminals.
"Gabe and I had never written a comedy," Vanderwoude shared with the audience during the awards. "It's hard to write something that's funny to everyone. We knew the script was funny to us, but we didn't know what would be funny to all of you."
The landslide of votes from both the audience and judges proved they hit the mark.
There were also production hurdles to overcome. The team filmed until 6 a.m. for two consecutive nights, ensuring lighting challenges and sleep deprivation.
"Malcolm told us beforehand, 'One rule: no night shoots,' and then our entire movie was a night shoot," Jack Bolander shared with the audience, laughing.
Bolander, Cebulskie, Jackson, Pacheco, Schmidt, and Vanderwoude all gained valuable skills from CHCA's Audio/Visual Production class, taught by Adam Cool, whom they invited to join in their post-awards photos.
This is the fifth year of the TFC, which is put on by The Underground Academy of Cinematic Arts. Rules require that each film's director, producer, cinematographer, and editor be teens. Twenty-one teams competed this year; 18 finished on time and had their films screened at the premiere.
Eight CHCA students and alumni win big at film challenge
A record number of students are recognized for their service
Years of acting, student production, and orchestra leads to recognition for these talented students