When the Skyline High School Film Club gets together, there’s plenty of “Lights, Camera,” and, oh yeah, “Action!”
The group, which has grown under sponsor Joe Samulak’s direction from four students in 2013 to approximately 30 today, stays busy year round with all things in the movie world. And, we’re not talking just watching movies – although they do a little of that, getting together to watch a movie at a club member’s house occasionally and munch on some pizza.
And we’re not just talking movie trivia – although they do a little of that, too, staging an annual fund-raising Trivia Night (it’s coming up, March 2; there’s a $100 prize, more information later in this story).
“We make movies, we’re always making movies, that’s what we do,” says Lily Tai, a senior and four-year member of the club. “It’s a lot of fun because we’re all interested in movies, and we get to make them. We collaborate. We work together.”
The club’s biggest and brightest event of the year is the Skyline Film Fest, which takes place annually in May. This year will be the fifth rendition of the Film Fest, and it has grown in scope exponentially since its inception in 2014. It is held in the auditorium, and hundreds of audience members and a panel of judges watch student-made movies and judge them.
This isn’t just for prestige and a trophy, although that’s part of the festivities. The movie deemed the best of the night will take home a $500 prize this year. There also is a $300 prize and a $100 prize for the best movies at the Skyline Film Festival.
“This is something the kids really work for,” said Samulak, who stressed that club members who enter movies into the contest work on them on their own time, and you don’t have to be a member of the Film Club to enter a film in the Festival. “They do the writing, acting, directing, everything.”
Last year, there were 60 movies entered, and they were “prescreened” down to 17 that were actually shown on Fest night. All of them were made by Skyline High School students.
The Festival has become quite an extraordinary event.
“(Club members) don’t go to class that day, the club spends the whole day setting up for the event,” said senior Dario Silerio, a two-year member of the Film Club. “We roll out a huge red carpet, there’s a photo booth where people can take pictures of themselves, there’s a big balloon arch, all the movies have posters hanging on the wall. It’s a great time.”
The community has supported the event, which continues to thrive. There are several corporate sponsors, and more than 300 people attended last year. The audience sees some excellent short films.
For instance, the winner of the 2016 Skyline Film Fest, a film called “Decaf,” directed by Sam Torres, was entered into the 2017 State of Michigan High School Film Festival, the oldest high school film festival in the nation. Of 361 films entered in the statewide festival, only 31 were given “best of show” top honors. “Decaf” was one of them.
“That shows you the kind of quality films these kids are making,” Samulak said. “It’s really gratifying to watch what they’re capable of doing.”
Samulak says the craft of movie making sometimes brings out the best in the club members.
“There might be a kid who really struggles in math or science, but that doesn’t mean he won’t he or she won’t be excellent at making movies,” said Samulak, a Skyline math teacher. “Some of these kids, you put a calculator in their hand, they fall asleep, but you put a video camera in their hand and they come alive.”
The Film Festival no doubt is the biggest date on the Film Club calendar, but March 2, from 7-9 p.m. is also pretty special. That’s trivia night, where you pay $10 at the door, pizza and pop included, and a massive trivia contest ensues. The event is a fund-raiser for the Film Fest.
“Last year, we had about 160 people show up,” Samulak said. “It was really a lot of fun. There was cheering and yelling. There were students competing, teachers, other people in the community. You’d really be surprised how intense people can get when there’s $100 on the line.”
The Film Club also has an online Oscar Challenge. There is a ballot where you can try to predict who will win the Oscar in various categories. The person who gets the most categories correct receives a $25 Quality16 gift card or a DVD/Blu-ray disc of their choice. Deadline for contest entry is March 1.
To enter the Oscar Challenge, visit http://www.skylinefilmfest.com/activities/oscars-challenge/
To see films made in past years by the Skyline Film Club, visithttp://www.skylinefilmfest.com/festival/past-films/