|Danny Connor (left) and Andrew Lee (right) edit a film.
Coto de Caza Sophomores Danny Conner and Andrew Lee have made a three educational films for the Capo Unified School District that are more than just a hit.
In fact, later this month, Assemblyman Jeff Miller of the 71st District will be meeting with them at Tesoro High School to give them a special honor for their contributions to the district.
The films were created to help teach kids practical ways to deal with problems they may face every day like drugs and bullying. The series is based around a superhero character that has, “the power to teleport into movies, TV shows, and computers,” as the film narrator says. The superhero works with today’s kids and celebrity role models to help teach kids how to handle serious issues they may encounter, like how to say no to drugs and alcohol.
“We’re glad to see that the videos have gone over so well, and we’re really excited that the videos have spread through the district so quickly,” says Conner 15. And they did it all on their own.
“We paid all the costs of making the films, though we do it very low budget. It takes three to four months to make a film. I may even spend up to 10 hours a day on the weekends doing the final editing,” Conner says.
Copies of the movies may be obtained by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. However, they ask that the films be used for educational purposes only. The films are also available on DVD at all 36 of the district's elementary campuses.
“The main character focuses on specific ways to handle situations, as opposed to the generic knowledge that, say, you should stand up to a bully. We feel that this approach really help kids understand how to react when faced with these situations,” Conner says.
“When we were in elementary school, many of the lessons we got from the schools were entertaining, but didn’t really teach us what to do in tough situations. Our movies actually give strategies taught by a typical teenager who can relate to what the kids are all facing. These movies are important to view because they teach elementary school kids who are still very young how to keep from making bad choices as they get older,” says Lee. 16.
The films were originally produced as educational videos for Conner and Lee's former elementary school, Wagon Wheel Elementary in Trabuco Canyon. The first one was released for Red Ribbon Week in fall 2008.
The friends agree that their films have been self fulfilling and rewarding “to see how our efforts have really affected and helped young kids. After each movie we try to ask kids what they learned from the film.”
For the most part, the answers have been exactly what they could hope for.
“While they were entertained by the movie, they did learn something that they can walk away with,” Lee says.
“The best part for me is getting to see the finished product, after we work for so long on these films. Looking at the final film and learning that it has gone over so well has really made the whole strenuous process worth the effort,” says Conner.
“For me, it is seeing that I have acted as a character that is a positive role model for kids. Hopefully, I have been able to change kids’ behaviors in a good way,” says Lee.
Goals for the future are to shoot a 10 minute + length, serious short film for Conner and rent some nice equipment, and to make a top quality, professional looking film that he could submit to film contests (and hopefully win!). He is hoping to attend a film school after he graduates from high school.
Andrew says he would like to do a little more travel and is also looking forward to attending college.