A pair of young Port Alberni filmmakers won “Best Picture” at a film festival earlier this month.
The awards night for the inaugural Vancouver Island Youth Film Festival took place at Timberline Secondary School in Campbell River on Jan. 10. At the end of the night, 15-year-old Richard Spencer and 16-year-old Miranda Chen—both students at Alberni District Secondary School—took home “Best Picture” out of 15 entries from all over the Island for their short film, Hope.
The festival was open to youth aged 15 to 30.
“I was amazed,” said Spencer, who said Hope was his first-ever scripted film. “I was stunned. I knew it was good, but I didn’t know it was that good.”
The film, which clocks in at five and a half minutes, follows an unnamed main character (played by Chen) who faces bullying from her peers. Filmed in various locations throughout Port Alberni, the picture deals with poverty, homelessness and bullying, but also shows the way that kindness spreads throughout a community.
“They nailed the camera work, the story, the editing,” said Oscar Wolfgang, one of the organizers for the Vancouver Island Youth Film Festival. “They did an incredible job. You can see that they put a lot of time into it. When you can see passion put into a project—it really shows.”
Wolfgang explained that this is the first year he and fellow organizer Ian Boyd have hosted this festival. Wolfgang and Boyd will be stepping away next year, but are hoping that more youth will come forward to help out so that it will continue annually. You can learn more about the festival on their Facebook page.
“It went really well,” Wolfgang said. “Because it was the first year, we had a lot of worries. We spent the whole year planning and thinking of every detail. But it ran very smoothly. And everyone loved it.”
The theme for this year’s festival was community.
“People can manipulate that to however they like,” said Wolfgang. “We kept it very vague so people can still make the film they want to, but we know it was made for our festival.”
A panel of judges made up of people from the film industry selected their favourite films, based on categories like cinematography and story, and the winners were selected based on which ones averaged the highest scores for each category. Hope rated the highest for each category, netting the film “Best Picture.”
The film was directed, produced and edited by Spencer. It was written by Spencer and Chen.
“We had 30 days to make the video, and we spent about 10 of those days coming up with what we wanted to do,” Spencer explained.
The two of them eventually settled on a “silent film” with a voiceover, narrated by Chen.
Spencer has had an interest in filmmaking from a very young age, starting when his parents bought him his own digital camera. In 2019, he started making videos under the name Alberni Films, uploading footage of the JJ Logging Show at McLean Mill Historic Park and the Thunder in the Valley Show and Shine.
Spencer says he is taking film courses at ADSS and is already thinking about attending post-secondary school for film.
The full winning video can be found on YouTube by searching for Alberni Films.