The South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival, which runs from March 11-19, is being held in person for the first time in two years. During this iteration, the festival selected short films by five students from San Antonio-area campuses to screen as part of its Texas High School Shorts program. Here’s a look at these young directors who are making up the next generation of Alamo City filmmakers.
Saint Mary’s Hall senior William Herff thought he would be thrilled if one of his shorts was selected to screen at SXSW. Imagine his excitement when the festival accepted two.
His first, a thriller titled soles, is a home invasion story in which the characters are only seen with their legs down. Think Wes Craven The last house on the left but as Tom and Jerry cartoon.
“I wanted to do something experimental and test some of the limits of storytelling,” Herff said. “I wanted to see if I could create tension and create suspense without showing faces.”
in the comedy Soccer, Herff follows a young outcast tasked with spinning a hype reel for his high school gridiron team. Instead of a conventional highlight video, the student gets creative and takes an art-and-essay approach. It’s an idea that Herff and his friends joked about when they also recorded their school’s varsity high school football games so the team could analyze their plays.
“We always wondered what would happen if we did this really artistic, convoluted video for the team,” Herff said. “In Texas, football is a big experience in high school, but we were always on the outside looking inside, so we wanted to make a movie from that perspective.”
In filmmaker Bella Muñoz’ black comedy Waiting for divine intervention, a demon named Carmilla takes human form and travels from hell to New York, where she finds her way into the life of a young woman. Lacking the confidence to land a big promotion at her job, Mary makes a deal with the Entity to learn how to be more assertive.
Muñoz, a senior at Saint Mary’s Hall, was brainstorming ideas for a movie with a friend and thought the concept of a demonic diva might be fun. After presenting the story to their class, the group voted to work on Muñoz’s film and submit it to festivals. The class traveled to New York to make the film.
“It was very stressful, but we were all very happy with the film,” Muñoz said.
In the experimental stop-motion animated short Vegetablefilmmaker Angel Ruiz explores the psychological effects of drug relapse through the perspective of an oddly shaped clay creature shopping at the grocery store.
A senior at East Central High School, Ruiz describes herself as “creative or something.” Although not one to brag about herself, Ruiz’s audio-visual production teacher, David McGinnis, is more than willing to brag about his student’s work, which he describes as “totally single fact”.
“I was blown away by installing Angel with mixed media, stop-motion and post-production effects to create work that is truly thought-provoking and not just weird for the sake of it,” McGinnis said. “If I knew where his creativity came from, I would bottle it up because Angel is absolutely relentless.”
As a freshman at Marshall High School, Kyle Ward always enjoyed watching documentaries because they were “real and moving stories.” In his docs Faded away, the student took a trip to Pflugerville, Texas to learn how the community has been affected by rapid development, including Tesla’s new manufacturing plant set to open next month. His family owns land near the factory.
“[Gone] was a passion project,” Ward said. “It touched my heart because it was personal to my family. I wanted to explore nature versus industry. What happens when all that farmland is gone?”
Ward remembers how different his family’s farmland was when he was a child. He hopes his film will reach viewers who may soon accept payment for their land from corporate interests.
“It’s the same country I went to play as a kid,” Ward said. “Now there’s a Costco on it.”
Animated short by Warren High School senior Makayla Esparza In-person learning explores the feeling of isolation when a student returns to school after staying home for a year due to the pandemic. Can she calm her nerves after meeting a new friend?
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