“Storytelling can be more of a challenge for some individuals with autism and ADHD,” says Angela Pollock, director of development at OASIS NC and SEA Academy, “as it is sometimes more difficult for them to view their ideas from another’s perspective.”
Outstanding Academic Social Instructional Services (OASIS) NC provides educational and social support services for children, young adults and families with special needs, including a year-round private school at SEA Academy. SEA students practice overcoming communication challenges and develop storytelling skills in their classes. As part of their curriculum, SEA kids get to hone their skills outside of the classroom as filmmakers. They will showcase their works in the OASIS Film Festival on November 16 at Stone Theatre at the Pointe.
“We began [OASIS Film Festival] last year because we wanted to find a way to incorporate student goals with something fun and engaging,” Pollock explains. “This project not only helps with the technology skills, but they work on their storytelling, social, speech, research and decision-making skills.”
The second annual OASIS Film Festival will feature eight 2- to 5-minute short films, ranging from documentary to comedy. All films are based on environmental issues or topics inspired by SEA Academy’s Protect the Planet initiative, which launched earlier in the year. Other than the required theme, students had freedom to decide on all creative aspects of the filmmaking process, by exploring their own interests from start to finish, with support given as needed.
“There were still times when a teacher would point out areas the audience may not have the background or insight the students had on a topic,” Pollock notes. “Overall they did wonderful with this and we could not be more proud. I think the beautiful thing about these films is it allows people to be brought into their world, on the way their brain works.”
While not much has changed with the festival in its second year, the most notable difference is student excitement and preparedness. Equipped with iPhones and iPads, students and their “teacher assistants” worked together to edit films. In the end, however, the young filmmakers made all final decisions, from each film’s outline and script, to casting, props and set design.
“Knowing what to expect during the filmmaking process from last year has given many of the students confidence and motivation to make decisions and become leaders when they otherwise would have avoided such things,” Pollock details. “We wanted to create a process that made the students feel empowered, while providing them with support to be successful and proud of their final product, [and] being able to say it is truly theirs.”
It took a few tries to get it right, but 12-year-old Jackson Albritton’s “The Adventure Boi’s” takes viewers on an exploration of the rainforest. “I want to teach people about [how the rainforest is dying],” he says.
Sophomore Regan Marlowe, age 16, entered the film festival for the first time this year with “The 3 R’s: The Edu-tainment Edition.” “It’s about helping the planet and cleaning up the earth,” the young filmmaker notes. “It is important because we don’t want animals to be sick.”
Other films cover ways individuals can reduce their negative impact on the environment, as well as how human activities and decisions impact animals and habitats around us. Another short doc explores the environmental impact of the Industrial Revolution,, while ocean pollution is addressed as a video game in “James the Orca Whale Saves the Ocean.”
“One of our films is called ‘Save the World Game Show’ created by students Rowan [Raddigan] and Hayden [Tinkle],” Pollock continues. “Both students have a lot of initiative and creative ideas, as well as a passion for performing. They decided to create a game show entirely about dos and don’ts of reduce, reuse, recycle.”
While Mia Lou Tomaselli, age 13, still needs a title, her love of growing plants inspired her work about sustainable gardening. Tomaselli’s piece is illustrated and she quickly learned that drawing is a lot harder when it’s not for leisure. This is her second year participating in the filmmaking process, which has helped her be creative with character development—even when characters aren’t like her.
“It helped me to remember how to put myself into my character’s shoes,” she clarifies. “Last year I learned that you just have to really get into your character. . . . You gotta think like your character. I am very excited to be sharing my art with everyone.”
OASIS Film Festival is free and open to the public, with concessions open at the Pointe Theatre as well. While there is no official fundraising aspect, if attendees want to contribute to OASIS NC or SEA Academy, they can visit oasisnc.org. Folks can see last’s year’s films at vimeo.com/oasisnc.