Newly formed group, SAFA, allows students to see their work on the big screen
Before Christmas break last year, Renae Brewer Cox, a seventh grade teacher at Burns Middle School, collaborated with local filmmakers, Abby Long and Margaret Broach, to form the Student and Filmmaker Alliance (SAFA) in order to inspire her students to write.
Ms. Brewer Cox's original idea was to enter the best essays written by her students into a random drawing every year, and local filmmakers would create a short film based on their selected essay within 48 hours.
"Although 48-hour film scrambles are exciting," Broach said, "we wanted the filmmakers to really focus on the essays and create a really good short film. We thought three weeks would provide enough time for them to do just that."
After discussing the competition with the language arts department at Burns Middle, Brewer Cox and her peers decided to use the mock narrative writing test for the Alabama Direct Assessment of Writing (ADAW) as a platform for the competition. Before starting the test, each student was given the same inspirational prompt: "It was the strangest thing I had ever seen, with tubes and wires..."
"The department was so excited about it, that they wanted all of seventh and eighth grade to be a part of the competition," Brewer Cox said. "We knew this would be a challenge, so we decided that each seventh and eighth grade language arts teacher would have to pick five of the best essays from their class."
This provided 20 of the best essays, written by seventh and eighth graders from Burns Middle School, for the random drawing that occurred on Feb. 18, 2010, at Satori Coffee House in Mobile. Three weeks later, March 15, 2010, six local filmmakers turned in their finished projects.
"We were really impressed with the films that were turned in," Long said. "I can't wait for the kids to see what the filmmakers have done."
The 20 students whose essays were entered into the competition were notified by their teachers and interviewed by Brewer Cox and Long for the screening at Burns Middle School. Unaware of which six essays were selected by the filmmakers, the students were asked if they would continue writing if their essay was not selected.
"I'm not going to stop writing. I'm writing now," said eighth grade finalist Aaron Reed. "Film or no film, it's fun to write and you should let your imagination go all out."
Claude Franklin, a finalist who has written since he was eight years old, agreed with Reed. However, both said it would be great to see their essays turned into films.
The six films were screened first at an assembly for the students and filmmakers at Burns Middle School on April 9, 2010. Students who attended the assembly voted for their favorite film and their favorite essay, which Broach read before each film.
There was a public screening on May 1, 2010, at the Crescent Theater at 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. The winners of the competition will be announced shortly after the 11 a.m. screening. Admission proceeds went to the Student and Filmmaker Alliance.
In addition to the public viewing the films, Brewer Cox hopes that students and teachers from different schools will come out as well. "We just formed this group this year and hope to keep this competition going," she said. "We want other schools to get involved in SAFA as well."For more information, visit the Student and Filmmaker Alliance Facebook page. To contact SAFA directly, e-mail Abby Long at firstname.lastname@example.org
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