When the lights dim inside the Pharaohplex Theater on Saturday, all the hard work and creative energy put forth by students in the MAPS Media Institute will come alive on the big screen.
Starting at noon on March 27, the MAPS Student Movie Premier will showcase three student films for the public to enjoy. Admission is free, and there will be a raffle for movie tickets as well.
The MAPS program is based in Hamilton but open to students from all six Ravalli County school districts as well as adults. They have been screening their projects at the movie theater since 2004. As usual, it promises to be a fun and lively event with a dash of Hollywood flavor.
"We have an adult volunteer, who will be wearing a big fake wig, that will be doing interviews," said MAPS President Peter Rosten. "We don't have a red carpet, but we do have a big red sheet of paper. Our documentary class will be shooting a film like a behind-the-scenes Hollywood Extra. Although we take the work we do seriously, this has appeal to the kids."
The first film, "Duo", was written by Victor High School student Jenna Kubiak. It is a short eight-minute comedy drama about a young woman who is painfully shy. She sings in the bathroom, and a young man hears her. He tries to convince her to do a talent show, but his sincerity does not generate the response he had hoped.
"There is a surprise ending," Rosten said.
The second film, "Clover and Her Mob," is a 20-minute documentary produced by adult students in the program. It is about a local emu farm. A group of emus (ostrich-like birds) is called a mob.
"Emus are adorable," Rosten said. "And people will discover that there is such a widespread use for their products."
The third film, "Zero to Hero", was written by Jake Wood of Hamilton High School. Set in a school detention, it is the story of a young man and a teacher who don't really like each other. The young man eventually bests the teacher, hence the title.
"It is sort of an edgier movie," Rosten explained. "It is important to remember that we don't censor these kids. There may be some profanity in the original script, but that doesn't end up in the final presentation."
All the kids in the MAPS program act, edit, produce, direct, and they all write, according to Rosten. The three films this Saturday were ones that were selected to be produced.
The MAPS program started out as an accredited arts program at Corvallis High School, but last year they decided to expand so that they could invite kids from the entire county.
"We decided to turn it into an after-school program," Rosten said. "And over four years we had 200 kids enroll and only four drop out."
Rosten said that one of the reasons kids are so enthusiastic about the program is that it not only gives them a chance to get paid for their work, but it prepares them for good jobs in the future.
"Making films or designing Web sites or doing documentaries is fun, but we approach this like a business. We pay the kids. We bonus them based on the merit of their work. It gives us the opportunity to give them a reward, but it allows us to say you have to do well in your other classes. If you want your dessert, you have to eat your broccoli."
Students in MAPS will be filming a project this summer called "Downtown Ravalli County," in which kids will take video cameras to the streets and get input from tourists.
"It will be a way to help drive tourism, help our community enjoy each other," Rosten explained. "One of the great things about MAPS is kids from different high schools get to know each other and become friends."
The MAPS Media Arts program is a non-profit entity, partially funded by 21st Century Learning Centers and significant foundation support. They will be filming a commercial for Nancy Schweitzer this summer, among other things. The program will admit 100 more students in September.
For more information, call 821-3780. Visit online at www.mediarts.org.
The Pharaohplex Theater is located at 582 Old Corvallis Road, just northeast of Hamilton. Call 961-3456 for more information.
Reporter David Erickson can be reached at 363-3300 or email@example.com.