Thomas Jefferson High School's video submission featuring local nonprofit Snack Pak 4 Kids.
A still frame from Thomas Jefferson High School's short film entry about local nonprofit Snack Pak 4 Kids. It won best picture in the Bexar County High School Film Festival. Credit: Courtesy / TRL Productions

A short film made by students at Thomas Jefferson High School took top honors at the second annual Bexar County High School Film Festival, winning the award for best picture among a competitive field of 30 area high schools.

Eleven total awards were given out Monday night at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, which hosted the 90-minute program for the first time. Hundreds of students, their friends and families, and faculty and staff from participating high schools attended, with loud cheers accompanying the announcement of each award.

The film festival is the culmination of a yearly collaboration between 30 high school teams with 30 local nonprofits. The high school students selected the area nonprofit they wanted to feature, then worked with the nonprofit to produce a three-minute video highlighting the organization’s community work.

Jefferson’s video focused on Snack Pak 4 Kids, a San Antonio nonprofit that provides weekend food supplements to chronically hungry kids. The 10-member Jefferson team will receive official recognition from the Bexar County Commissioner’s Court, and “Whataburger for a year” for each team member from the San Antonio-based fast food franchise.

Tanya Santamaria, a 19-year-old senior, said that winning food from Whataburger was “pretty awesome.” She said winning the overall award was particularly special, because “I definitely want to be a movie director. … It’s what I’m all about.”

The team worked well together on filming and interviewing, Santamaria said. Then, “we edited together on one computer. It was a little bit hectic. We did have some stressful days, but we came together and we worked together at the end.”

Jefferson also took the award for best overall production, which recognizes multiple elements of filmmaking, including sound, cinematography, and editing.

Reagan High School was also a double winner, taking awards for best storytelling and most entertaining for their video on the Holocaust Memorial Museum of San Antonio. The video featured Holocaust survivor Rose Williams speaking about her own horrific experiences.

Juana Rubalcava, education director of the Holocaust Memorial Museum, said she enjoyed working with the students from Reagan. “They really understood that we’re teaching this history because we don’t want it to repeat itself. We want to make the future better,” she said.

“The whole objective was to introduce these nonprofits to the community,” said Randy Lankford, executive director of TRL productions, a video-production nonprofit that organizes the festival. “These stories happen every day,” he said. “We’re just exposing them, and giving kids the opportunity to tell these stories.”

Following is the list of award winners and their partner nonprofits. The Rivard Report will feature each video in the coming weeks:

One more award remains to be given out, Lankford said: a People’s Choice Award, tallied through online voting open to the public on the film festival’s website. Voting is open now through May 7.

The outstanding community storytelling award, sponsored by the Rivard Report, is new this year.

Judson team member David Sandoval said fellow 17-year-old senior Destinie Strickland, who made the lobby poster for their video, helped by critiquing the project as they worked.

Judson Early College Academy won the inaugural award for Outstanding Community Storytelling, sponsored by the Rivard Report, for their short video on the Youth Orchestra of San Antonio (YOSA). Credit: Courtesy / TRL Productions

“She caught one spot where the video and audio didn’t sync up” at a crucial point in the video, Sandoval said, and that the aspiring graphic designer has “the best eye.”

Sandoval said the momentum from the experience would carry him forward to the University of North Texas, where he plans to study filmmaking.

Working together produced more than a video, said YOSA Music Director Troy Peters. A few friendships among the students pre-dated the project, he said, “but more friendships emerged from the crew spending time with the orchestra.”

Though the festival is named for its Bexar County home base, competing high schools are located in Atascosa, Bexar, Comal, Kendall, and Wilson counties. Participation in the festival grew from 21 high schools in 2017, its inaugural year, to 30 schools this year.

“We had 30 tonight, there’s 3,000 more” Lankford said of area nonprofits working every day in the community. “Next year we’ll tell some more” stories about local nonprofits to anticipate for the planned third annual festival in 2019.

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Nicholas Frank

Senior Reporter Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with...