Carmel Valley’s MiniCine Fest receives wide variety of entries

By Karen Billing

Staff Writer

Your mission, if you choose to accept it: Make a five-minute “spooky funny” film. You have 48 hours. And it has to be about insects. And include the line “What’s that smell?”

This filmmaking challenge was thrown down by Canyon Crest Academy’s Envision Cinema students to all of the San Dieguito High School District last weekend to raise money for their program.

The humorous, horror-lite results will be shown on the big screen at the MiniCine Fest to be held at Canyon Crest Academy on Saturday, Oct. 22, at 6 p.m.

The doors open at 5:30 p.m. and tickets are $5.

As the competition was open to the entire district, films screened on Saturday will represent CCA, Torrey Pines, Earl Warren Middle School and Carmel Valley Middle School. Sixteen teams, at a maximum of four kids per team, submitted shorts.

“I was impressed by the scope of kids we got, it was really surprising that we received as many entries as we did,” said CCA senior Hunter Peterson, who ran the competition with juniors Amanda Cowles and Zac Brown.

A winner will be selected by a student-panel of judges who did not have films in the competition. There will also be a prize given for the Audience Choice, by a ballot vote. Both winners will receive tickets to Del Mar Highlands’ Cinepolis.

The MiniCine planners were inspired by similar-timed contests run by the school’s art conservatory and the national BestFest America’s 48Hours of Madness Student Film Competition.

Giving contestants just 48 hours makes a film competition a lot more interesting, Peterson said.

Rules and guidelines for the competition were sent out to entrants on Friday, Oct. 14, so the young filmmakers had no lead time on generating ideas or preparing a script.

“The restrictions were loose enough that we received a lot of different movies,” said Zac. “They varied from documentary style to traditional style narratives to a play on a popular television show.”

The youngest entrants were a group of 13-year-olds from Earl Warren.

“I think that’s so awesome because they don’t have a film program and it’s wonderful we could give them this opportunity,” Amanda said.

Hunter’s entry was an interview with the Grim Reaper while Zac did a spin on a TV drama about a pumpkin that’s infested by insects.

Films were also required to be PG-13, no violence and no blood.

“We wanted to make the festival family friendly so everyone can watch and enjoy the films,” Hunter said.

The time crunch of just 48 hours to do all the work was challenging—especially for Hunter, who had to “double team” his camera equipment with his brother who also entered the competition.

Amanda’s team, who did a spoof of “Modern Family,” filmed at a Solana Beach home and were then up until 3 a.m. editing.

“The time limit is scary…When you only have 48 hours you don’t spend a single second doing anything else up until the deadline,”

Amanda said.

The students said they are grateful to have the kind of equipment and guest-teaching artists they have at CCA, but fundraising events, like MiniCine, are important to keep bringing those artists and to replace aging equipment. All students have access to use the school’s equipment.

“Most high schools don’t have what we do, it’s amazing,” said Hunter. “But at the same time we’re still trying to push to be better.”

“All public schools are struggling,” added Amanda. “We’re lucky to have private school opportunities at a public school.”

To learn more about CCA’s Envision program or MiniCine, visit