Film fest features local hot docs : Film students turn their classwork into subjects of varied documentaries

From left, Jody Nelson, Allen Park and Diane Stevens were among the filmmakers whose documentaries were shown at the Marjorie Luke Theatre on Sunday.

January 28, 2008 7:33 AM

Affordable equipment and the increasing number of filmmaking classes throughout Santa Barbara mean that more and more residents are directing and producing movies than ever before.
The Santa Barbara International Film Festival has been aware of this for many years now and includes a regular series of “Santa Barbara Filmmakers” within the fest, with shorts, experimental and documentary works receiving their own showings.
This year’s Student Documentary section revealed how flexible the definition of both “student” and “documentary” can be.
Although Diane Stevens has been out of Brooks Institute for many years, her film “Don Riders” comes not just from her directing and producing hand, but also from the collective of high-school filmmakers and musicians whom she assembled for the project.
Ostensibly, the documentary focuses on Santa Barbara High School’s low-rider bicycle club, where Latino youth build fabulously kitted-out (fully equipped) bicycles from scratch. Membership is contingent on keeping a 2.0 average or higher.
At 35 minutes, the doc stretches to show how the club has kept its members out of gangs, but also shows how the members utilized the free music studio at the Twelve35 Teen Center to create the film’s soundtrack. The film itself is proof how art — whether film or building bikes — can make a difference.
Ms. Stevens got inspired after visiting the club’s 2007 banquet. She pitched the idea of a film to the high school, suggesting that media students be the ones to shoot the footage. Two cliques that had never interacted now had to work together.
“The shoot was organized chaos,” Ms. Stevens says. “The (film) students were scared as hell . . . when we went into the low riders’ neighborhoods. But they’ve made major connections since and now a lot are friends.”

Jody Nelson is a former physical education teacher who is currently a returning student at SBCC’s SOMA classes.
She’s earned her degree but continually takes classes, she says, to keep up with new technology.
As a result of several courses she took from instructor Curtis Bieber, she has produced and directed three shorts. “Iron Boy,” which the SBIFF selected to show, focuses on a 9-year-old triathlete named Brynn Sargent. Ms. Nelson’s film keeps it short and sweet, creating a portrait of this Sacramento native who speaks with the confidence and clarity of a man twice his age.
“I made the video for Curtis’ class and turned it in on time,” she says, “but Curtis pushed me to work on it more and send it out there.”
Ms. Nelson’s SBIFF showing demonstrates to her that her career shift is starting to pay off.
Allen Park’s “Scene and Heard: A Musical History of Isla Vista” came out of similar circumstances.
This history of Isla Vista and its music scene started off as a project in Dana Driscoll’s documentary class at UCSB, but when Mr. Park and his producing partner, Brett Service, hit a rich seam of subject matter, the two continued with the film as an independent study.
“We think it’s a very important historical document,” says Mr. Service of the film, which features a wide selection of archival footage on UCSB student life and of the evolution of its “student ghetto,” where bands can spring out of nowhere and play to thousands of students on Del Playa and Anisquoyo Park a day later. Mr. Park includes interviews with Jack Johnson, Henry Sarria and Paul Marshall (of Strawberry Alarm Clock fame), as well as other musicians. As a short (25 minute) overview of a misunderstood part of larger Santa Barbara, the film “speaks for itself,” according to Mr. Park.

The hour-long program of docs screens again on Tuesday, Jan. 29 at Center Stage Theater, 9:30 p.m. Those wanting tickets to the event can call 963-0761.

©2008 Santa Barbara News-Press

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