Friday, May 25, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 12

Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on May 1st, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 8 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 14, Issue 8

A celebration of stories

The ERHS Film Festival inspires local high school students to tell their own tales on film


Every generation of great filmmakers had something in common: They had a story to tell. From silent-era icon Charlie Chaplin to modern directors like Scorsese or Tarantino, film has always been driven by stories. That’s the point Righetti High School film teacher Robert Garcia drives home to his students.

“We shoot with the film techniques,” Garcia said. “We use one-camera shoots, so we write film scripts, we tell film stories.”

Students submitting films to the Ernest Righetti High School Film Festival have used many pre- and post-production techniques learned in class to help tell their stories.

Garcia’s program is more than just an audiovisual class; it teaches filmmaking to high school kids, preparing them for the professional film world. His students learn every aspect of filmmaking, including the often-tedious preproduction aspect, which includes scriptwriting, storyboards, shot sheets, slate, and location scouting.

“I’ve been really lucky; I have had students come through here and actually learn things,” Garcia said. “And I really push the idea of collaboration and cooperation; I just really like the idea that you’ve got to work together.”

Garcia’s students are currently buzzing with anticipation in preparation for the 15th annual Ernest Righetti High School Film Festival, an entirely student-run endeavor.

“The rules are, you can use whoever you want as an actor,” Garcia said, “but the crew has to be either from the class or you yourself.”

Ariel Duran, a 17-year-old ERHS junior who has submitted two films to the festival, provides an example of both: She worked on one film all by herself, and another where she used fellow students as crew.

“The last one I did I had an audio editor and a cinematographer,” Duran said. “It’s fun; sometimes you can butt heads but you’ve got to get through it if you really want to be in this business.”

Teacher Robert Garcia emphasizes storytelling to his students, who use visual effects to convey a certain feeling or thought in their films.

The film program at Righetti is special in that it gets kids expressing themselves artistically while also working together.

“I think what makes it successful … is that the kids take ownership of it,” Garcia said, “and if you take ownership over something then you have that pride and you want to show it.

“The idea of the film festival is you make films to be seen,” Garcia said. “And every year everyone in the program looks forward to that; it becomes what they are working toward.”

The first event took place at Allan Hancock College on one night and attracted more than 400 people. It has since expanded to two days and is now screened at
the high school. Students organize every aspect of the event, a rule Garcia is strict about.

“It’s a lot of work and a lot of stress,” he said, “but it’s totally student-run. I have parents call offering to help, and I say no, because it’s the kids.”

His students are allowed to organize for the festival during out-of-class time only. The film club meets during lunch and much of the preparation is done on the kids’ own time.

“During class it’s all working on your film fest film and everything with the film festival is done after class,” said Kaitlyn Furst, president of the Film Club at Righetti. “It’s a totally volunteer effort, and it’s a great group of kids.”

Many of Garcia’s students study with him for several years, submitting their films each subsequent year. This year, one student will actually be screening a sequel to the film he presented the year before.

Don’t miss the fest
The 15th annual Ernest Righetti High School Film Festival will offer two nights of screenings, raffles, and awards on May 10 and 11 from 7 to 10 p.m. each night at Ernest Righetti High School, Foster Road, Orcutt. More info: 937-2051, Ext. 2503, or

“Our awards run from Best of Show and Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Screenplay, and [Best] Directing,” Garcia said. “What a lot of these students want to do is write it, direct it, edit it, and even act in it, because they tend to get pretty possessive over their projects.”

The two-night event will feature screenings of competition and non-competition films, as well as raffles, food, and drink, and, of course, the awards. The proceeds from the event go toward scholarships for film program students who are graduating.

“[The scholarships] go to students who are going to go on into film or something similar to film, media type things,” Garcia said. “But someone who has been in the class with me for three years but they want to be a nurse, I let them apply anyway. There is a committee here on campus that awards the scholarships.

“And the things they learn here, even if you don’t go into film, I hope it helps them,” he added.

The festival is a little bittersweet because it’s also a goodbye to senior students before they go out into the world, but it also serves as a valuable recruiting tool for the class.

“I’ve had a couple of students who were going to school somewhere else and then they go to the film festival, and they transfer here,” Garcia said. “There was one kid who was going to go to school in Santa Barbara and he decided he’d rather come here because he saw the film festival.”

 Arts Editor Joe Payne still polishes his 2007 ERHS Film Festival Best Editor award. Contact him at

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