AVP Films Find Success at Prestigious Competitions

Kati+Gibson%27s+film+%22Chill%22+features+the+many+awards+it+won.

Kati Gibson's film "Chill" features the many awards it won.

Diane Lin

In the span of seven weeks, senior Kai Hashimoto went from the thrill of having a film accepted by the prestigious South by Southwest arts festival to the agony of learning the event had been canceled because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But what might have been a crushing disappointment for an aspiring filmmaker has turned out well for Hashimoto.

His film, a short feature called “Ultimatum,” has been honored with a Short Film Grand Jury Award from South by Southwest and has been accepted into a festival certified by the global Internet Movie Database (IMdB). On top of that, Hashimoto has been paid screening rights by South by Southwest and has seen his film picked up by Amazon Prime for limited airing.

“[South by Southwest] is really tough to get in,” said Hashimoto. “so I was really flattered about it.”

Hashimoto’s good fortune is the latest success story in Greenhill’s Advanced Video Production program, the creation of Middle and Upper school filmmaking and Digital Art teacher, Corbin Doyle.

For many Greenhill film students, getting accepted into South by Southwest is the ultimate dream. Four Greenhill students had films accepted this year. Although the festival was canceled, the pursuit of their craft goes on for the creators of the four films.

Greenhill’s AVP students have been submitting films to South by Southwest for almost as long as the program has existed, Doyle said.

Hashimoto’s two and a half minute creation was largely filmed in a two-week summer program, the Manhattan Film Institute (MFI), on Long Island, New York. ] It was a grueling experience, Hashimoto said.

“This was an intense program,” said Hashimoto. “The stress was so bad, but I recommend it anyway. Re-shooting for ‘Ultimatum’ was like the worst two days of my life.”

Hashimoto was one of the few film directors in the Manhattan program that designed his own set.

“One of the things I did, which I think no other director did, was set design,” Hashimoto said.  “I went to an old vintage store, and I bought $60 worth of stuff.”

Hashimoto’s efforts paid off.

South by Southwest judges honored “Ultimatum” with a Special Jury Recognition in the Texas High School Shorts category. The film has also been also accepted into an IMdB certified festival.

“Fish Fish Bish”

Hashimoto’s final high school film is the culmination of the skills he learned in the AVP program. But the Greenhill AVP program encompasses a broader range of films and filmmakers.

On the other end of the spectrum is “Fish Fish Bish,”a creation by sophomores Katherine Li and Christine Yan that also earned South by Southwest acceptance.

The contrast between “Ultimatum” and “Fish Fish Bish” begins with their titles, but it also encompasses the time commitment that went into the creation process and the ambitions of their filmmakers.   These differences highlight the wide variety of high-quality work Greenhill’s AVP program inspires.

The name “Fish Fish Bish” evokes humor and whimsy, but the effort that went into making the film is another story. The animation is a traditional peg-bar animation created entirely from scratch. This form of animation is made with the use of a peg-bar, which is a piece of plastic or metal used to hold the animator’s drawings in place. Made by using 485 hand-drawn illustrations, Li and Yan spent well over half a year making their film.

“It took nine months, on and off,” Said Li. “Animation takes forever.”

The choice to do an animation came from Li and Yan’s shared interesting in drawing. The idea behind the film was a boy trying various concepts to save his pet fish.

“Once we found the direction we wanted to take with our animation, we started by drawing every single frame by hand,” Yan said.  “After we finished drawing everything, we took pictures of all of the drawings and made sounds to pair up with them by using random objects we found.”

“Fish Fish Bish” was accepted into the Wimberley Film Festival (Wimberly, Texas), OKCU-High School Film Festival (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma), Doko Film Fest (South Carolina), BAM! Festival (Brazosport College, Texas), Newport Beach Film Festival (California), Flame Firstcut 2020 (India), where the film was Awarded Best Editing and Best Sound Design, and FIFES Comedy Film Festival (Croatia).

A marriage of art and technology

Films like “Ultimatum” capture both the technical wisdom and experience AVP has to offer, while “Fish Fish Bish” highlights the hard work and dedication – 485 hand drawn sheets of paper – that AVP values.

The values and traditions of this high-achieving class, like that of submitting films every year to South by Southwest, can all be traced back to the dreamer and artist who started it all.

“Twenty-two years ago, I joined Greenhill,” Doyle said. “I was there to find a way to marry art and technology. They didn’t tell me anything. What I pitched back then was filmmaking.”

Although AVP has grown into a class of students today whose films annually are accepted into prestigious international festivals like South by Southwest, the beginning was slow and humble, Doyle said.

“It was me and a dozen seventh graders,” said Doyle. “No classroom, no materials… and then some of those kids continued on into high school, and we’d just meet before and after school making films.”

AVP quickly grew, and with that growth came success.

“I had one kid, who wanted to apply to film school, so we just looked up film school stuff in the library,” said Doyle. “And out of NYU, UCLA, and USC, we said, let’s try USC – and at the time, USC only took 40 people, twenty boys and twenty girls – and she got one of those spots.”

Today, AVP is a class of close to sixty students, with a history of 51 films accepted into South by Southwest. A high bar has been set.

 

“Go team”

In the latest South by Southwest scramble, Greenhill’s AVP program also had two other films accepted: “Chill” by junior Kati Gibson and “Niyayesh” by senior Elli Dassopoulos.

Gibson’s film took a little over a month and a half to make and includes scenes that are hard for the average high school student to shoot, like airplane wheels seemingly touching down.

“The plane never came off the ground throughout the whole filming process,” Gibson said.  “It was attached to a small moving cart and the only scene we ‘moved’ it in, the cart just pulled the plane a few inches”

Gibson’s film was accepted into Uptown Women’s Film Festival of New York, BAM! Festival, Central Film Festival and the YoungFilmmakers Festival, as well as South by Southwest.

“When I got the notification, I actually thought it was fake,” Gibson said. “But when I read closer, I was in shock.”

“Niyayesh” took less than a day to film and about a week to edit, according to Dassopoulos.

Although filmmaking is a notoriously expensive art, Dassopoulos’s film budget was incredibly small.

“The total amount of money was literally $3 to buy the pomegranate,” Dassopoulos said. “The camera was a Panasonic flip camera.”

For Doyle, the AVP dream has come full circle. His program is flourishing, and a growing list of his students are pursuing their filmmaking dreams.  Many, like Hashimoto, carry with them Doyle’s vision and passion.

Late this summer, Hashimoto will carry his Greenhill AVP experience to the University of Southern California. There, he will pursue his ambition of becoming a world-renowned filmmaker.

“There’s a phrase AVP-ers use,” said Hashimoto, recalling the beloved Doyle motto that has become a part of every student’s vernacular.  “Go team.”