Teens learn college-level film skills

Mountain Vista class helps students hone career goals

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Will Mustin knew in early childhood he wanted to be in the movie business. The Highlands Ranch resident is now a freshman at University of Colorado at Boulder, majoring in filmmaking, and he credits his Mountain Vista High School film class for helping him put his dream into motion.

“Wanting to be a director came out of taking that class,” Mustin said. “It really confirmed I love film and that’s absolutely what I want to do in the future.”

It also just may have given him the leg up he’ll need.

“Even now I talk to people who are in the film program here who say, ‘I didn’t have a film class in my high school,’” Mustin said. “It’s a competitive field, and I feel like I do sort of have that upper hand because of it.”

MVHS Theater Director Jeremy Goldson launched the hands-on filmmaking class, DCTV Academy, a few years ago. At the suggestion of a former student enrolled in the University of California film school, he modeled it after their college-level film production class.

“As far as I know, there aren’t very many other people who are teaching film production from this sort of creativity as opposed to technology standpoint,” Goldson said. “There definitely are some students taking it for fun, but we end up sending two to four students a year directly into film school.”

Ryan Taylor plans to be among them. The senior hopes to attend the Colorado Film School in Denver and become a director. Like Mustin, he started his exploration into film making at a young age, and quickly was hooked.

When he discovered MVHS offered a filmmaking class, “It was like a dream come true,” he said.

As a final project, Taylor is directing a movie that classmate Alex Damle wrote. The dramatic comedy is based on an initially suicidal teenage boy who meets a girl moments before his intended final act.

“It’s more in the style of John Hughes, ‘The Breakfast Club’ as opposed to slapstick comedy,” Damle said. “There are definitely some darker themes running through the film.”

In these last weeks of school, the students are focused on shooting final scenes. Goldson leaves the seniors — some in their third year of his class — largely on their own. He plays a more direct role with new students.

“The first semester is figuring out how to translate your idea from your brain into a finished film,” he said.

Students must make three short films from the idea stage to finished product. Because the films are dialogue-free, “They really look at film as a visual medium, and how they can communicate their story without voiceover or text,” Goldson said. “It’s definitely a challenge. It drives them nuts. But they make really great films. At the end of the semester, everybody has made three movies and everybody’s tried all the different jobs.”

That kind of experience is vital for those wanting to work in the field.

“It’s incredibly competitive and hard to get into, especially into the mainstream Hollywood film industry,” Goldson said.

Mustin knows it won’t be easy, but is confident he’ll succeed.

“It might be just stupid confidence, but I think that’s the way you have to be,” he said. “Be confident in what you’re doing and hope people see it the same way you do.”