Film Award Boosts Would-be Director’s Dreams

Students Submit Topical Videos in Annual Mosaic Event

Students relax and have fun at Wealthy Theatre while they wait for the opening presentation

Aaron Voogt considered it a long shot, but he was willing to take the gamble.

A year ago as he viewed contestants’ work at the Mosaic Film Experience, Aaron, then a junior at Kenowa Hills High School, wondered how his own skill at making movies would stack up among the participants.

With encouragement from his teacher, Aaron decided to enter this year’s competition with a piece he directed called “Crinkle.”

2016 Winning Videos

“It was crazy,” he said of throwing his hat in the creative film business. “My teacher asked if I was entering, I went over the criteria, and I got in.”

A long shot or not, Voogt won Mosaic’s Rick Wilson Award with what he hopes is an inspirational short film on understanding and protecting the environment. His was one of some 250 films submitted in the annual event that attracted about 600 students to Wealthy Theatre, with another 400 participating in ArtPrize. Among them were Grand Rapids Montessori High School students, who received an honorable mention for their film, “All Lives Matter — But Guess Who’s Targeted?”

Aaron used longtime friend Nolan Corrin as the sole actor in the film, which shows Nolan carelessly dropping a candy wrapper and innocently walking away before it blows against a fence. Voogt said his point includes the effect of litter and pollution on the environment. In the end, Nolan comes back and picks up the wrapper.

Aaron, who hopes to become a director, said he was content with the film’s message. In fact, the project gives him confidence to attempt tougher films, he said.

“For a long time I didn’t know if I could do anything with a film,” Aaron said. “It’s a competitive field, anything art-related. But now maybe I think I can do other things.”

Dancers who participated in ArtPrize 2016 perform for the students at Wealthy Theatre
Dancers who participated in ArtPrize 2016 perform for the students at Wealthy Theatre

A Growing Experience

That’s one of the goals of the Mosaic Film Experience, a film festival for commercial and jury selected works focusing on under-told stories, which was founded in Grand Rapids in 2012. Two years later the experience added a media literacy curriculum for students. Last year the format was expanded to a full day that included both large-group and workshop programming as well as a screening of student-produced, two-minute mobile videos. Some 1,000 films have been entered to date.

This year’s event saw a record number of mobile entries and students, at an event aimed at developing their creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration skills, said founder Skot Welch.

“We’ve been blown away by the quality of the films we’ve received, which is a credit to how serious the students approach their craft,” Welch said. “Mosaic is simply the platform that allows them to showcase their skills.”

Aaron’s film is one of several he’s produced. Last spring he created a three-minute, first-person horror film. He has also made a 20-minute parody of sitcoms called “4 Too Many” that included 20 actors, an experience that “taught me a lot,” he said.

Voogt intends to enter the Compass College of Cinematic Arts in Grand Rapids. Plan B would be attending Grand Valley State University.

“I’d really like to get into films, but my family is here and it would be hard to leave them,” he said. “I don’t really want to be famous or anything, but I do want a job that will support me.

“It’ll be tough, but the best advice I’ve gotten is to get my name out there and keep making stuff.”

A student tries on headgear during a workshop on virtual reality at the Mosaic Film Experience
A student tries on headgear during a workshop on virtual reality at the Mosaic Film Experience

Grand Rapids Montessori High School English teacher Stacia Gill taught a class that earned honorable mention with their film “All Lives Matter — But Guess Who’s Targeted?” She said five students worked on the film, which was patterned after the Black Lives Matter movement.

“It was something that’s been in the news and the kids are aware of the cases,” she said.

Gill said students learned to work on editing, content and at least one other valuable life lesson.

“They learned there are problems and how to solve them,” she said. “It’s like I’m just here monitoring them and not offering much advice because I want them to learn to create a video on their own. It was fun to see where they took it and how they created a piece they can be proud of.”

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