May 13 2012
CORPUS CHRISTI —A deranged killer in a bunny mask stalked several teens on a playground near King High School, pummeling unsuspecting victims with raw eggs.
As he crept closer to the youths, everyone freezes — the director yelled “cut.”
It’s part of a new King High School film festival that will air nearly a dozen students films Friday in the school’s cafeteria. the event serves as a fundraiser for its National English Honor Society to send students next spring to a national conference in Portland, Ore.
English teacher Matt Leal and wife Deborah, also a drama teacher at King High School, teamed with Steen DeWalt, a local television news producer, to launch the film festival after the trio’s annual participation in the Corpus Christi 7-day Film Festival.
Leal was surprised by how many students jumped at the chance to join.
“We’ve got some amazing, creative children in Corpus Christi,” Leal said. “This could open doors for many students to a career in film.”
Sophomore Jon Gomez is one of eight team leaders. He and other students drew random genres out of a box before writing. Gomez drew a parody.
His group named their film “Easter,” a riff on the popular “Halloween” horror series, which follows the escapades of a masked killer. Gomez said he’s always wanted to make movies but never started until now.
“I heard about it and just thought ‘I can do this,’” he said.
Gomez has learned firsthand the trials of writing a script, assembling a cast and lining up locations and film shoots.
“It’s been a lot of work,” he said inside Leal’s bustling classroom.
Last week, Gomez and crew set up at the Meadowbrook Elementary playground. Actors Ricky Martinez, 16, and Eric Ibanez, 16, carried a light conversation about Easter baskets with actress Jennieva Treviño, 16, as the bunny-masked killer lurked nearby on a swing set.
Their friends passed in an SUV and honked their horn during the shoot, forcing the cast to start the scene over.
“It’s something we have to deal with all the time when we’re filming,” Martinez said shrugging.
Sophomore John Garza, who plays killer “Billy Bunny” said he maintains character by channeling Michael Myers from the “Halloween” series.
“I try to be eerie,” he said.
Garza stalked his victims in a dark-colored janitor’s suit complete with a glittery, $2 bunny mask bought from a party supply store.
“It gave me a rash the first day,” he added.
Leal hopes to expand the festival next year to feature more genres including Westerns and musicals, as well as inviting other school districts to participate.
“This project is making them think outside the box and stretch their creative legs a little,” Leal said.
The Friday screening will feature a new camcorder as top prize for best director, with additional awards being given for best actors, script, film and more.
Leal hopes the judges will show students there’s a burgeoning film community here in Corpus Christi.
“We want to help these students continue the creative conversation,” he said. “This could be a brand new way of teaching.”