Oaks Christian School continues to set the bar and innovate in the arts as one of the few schools nationwide to produce a full-length feature film completely directed, produced, and filmed by high school students.
"Missperception" had its long-awaited debut on May 18. The premiere was originally scheduled to screen at Regency Theatres last spring but was delayed over a year due to COVID-19. After searching months for venues, even outdoor ones with safety protocols, the film found its home in front of a live audience at Calvary Community Church.
"We waited so long for this moment, over a year. We worked hard through COVID to make this happen. To finally see it up on a screen with a live audience was pretty crazy. Seeing people laugh at the jokes and interested and engaged, to our production team that was absolute gold," said producer Alexis Golin, senior.
The story stars seniors Camille Figueroa, Kennedy Benz, Dane Swenson, and junior Abby Riggle. It takes place at the elite Ocean Crest High School where the top students vie for selection to the prestigious Next Level Academy where they will become academic superstars. Or do they? Amid nefarious happenings and relational tensions, two intrepid protagonists aim to find out.
The genesis for the story and production began in film teacher Andrew Christopher's Advanced Film class in 2019. Then juniors Camden Park-Coburn and Romain Lagree pitched the story outline, but the entire class built it into a screenplay. There were 12 student writers. Christopher selected senior Connor Kershaw as the director and Golins as the producer. Editors were then-junior Camden Reithmayr and senior David Meriage. They worked in 60-minute class sections with actors and crew to film, an unheard-of time crunch when filming. When COVID hit and in person learning stopped, they literally passed around a hard drive from student's house to house so each member could do their editing part.
But Kershaw and Meriage graduated, and most of the cast entered their senior year and still the film sat on the shelf.
During the delay, Christopher entered the film in several competitions. By the May 18 screening date, Missperception had already garnered 10 awards and accolades, including: Los Angeles Film Awards Winner, Seattle Film Festival Winner, and San Diego International Kids Film Festival Winner. *
So, to see their award-winning film finally screen was beyond thrilling for the students.
"This moment is the biggest satisfaction of the process: getting to share it with everyone. We were all really heartbroken when the virus broke out and we weren't able to share it with anybody. Even waiting a year to have everyone come and see it is a tremendous accomplishment for all of us," said Kershaw, now at Loyola Marymount majoring in finance and minoring in film and television.
While many schools do create student videos, documentaries, and short stories, it is rare for students to self-produce a full-length feature film. But those are exactly the kinds of projects that the Advanced Film class, as part of the OCS Institute of Arts and Innovation (IAI), was created to do. The IAI was established two years ago with the goal of creating ethical artists who would impact the world with their craft.
More than 50 percent of the cast and crew were IAI students, working with industry professionals like producer/actor Ryan O'Quinn ((Beverly Hills 90210, Alias, JAG, ER, Melrose Place, Starship Troopers, That Thing You Do) and producer/actor Joey Scott (Kickin' It, Gamer's Guide to Pretty Much Everything and Growing Pains).
"To have an opportunity like this in high school is basically unheard of. It is incredible that high school students pulled off a full-length feature film. Not only that, but they were some of the most professional people I have ever worked with," said O'Quinn, IAI board member, president of Damascus Road Productions.
Scott quipped, "When I first heard about this project I thought, 'Sure, high school students. What can go wrong?' But these guys just blew me away!"
Golin will major in film at Chapman University in the fall and having worked on an actual feature film gives her an advantage going in.
"This was a huge learning opportunity for me! To be organized and communicate as a producer is such a crucial part of film. You have to be able to be on top of things and know what's going to happen, you have to think ahead and see the big picture of the entire project," she shared.
Cast and crew enjoy a special moment and a light-hearted moment at the premiere.