2016-10-14 / Schools

Santa Su channels ‘Scooby-Doo’

Cartoon series provides inspiration for Filmstock fest
By Michael Aushenker

‘STREET’SMARTS—From left, Santa Susana High School film students Ryan Spencer, Sophia Best, Cody Frisk, Jack Wolfson, Ashley Arabian, Sarah Best and Karly Tenhof get a shot for a “Street Street” episode. 
Courtesy of Ashley Arabian ‘STREET’SMARTS—From left, Santa Susana High School film students Ryan Spencer, Sophia Best, Cody Frisk, Jack Wolfson, Ashley Arabian, Sarah Best and Karly Tenhof get a shot for a “Street Street” episode. Courtesy of Ashley Arabian The phrase “If it weren’t for you meddling kids . . . ” will take on new meaning when Santa Susana High School’s Career Technical Education film production class presents the fall edition of Filmstock.

The Oct. 28 student film festival will feature eight original, three- to five-minute shorts. This year’s theme is “The Mysteries of Scooby Doo.”

Entering its 15th session, the program is the brainchild of teacher Luke Golden, a Woodstock, N.Y., native. The Boston University film school alum teaches two periods of film studies: movie production and ROP (Regional Occupational Program) video production. The former, an intro class, teaches film theory and history and includes field trips to film studios.

“It’s creative problem-solving and incredible group work,” Golden said of the program. “Every year, the class votes on a theme.”

Past themes have included Alfred Hitchcock, Universal Monsters and “The Twilight Zone.” What’s different about this fall’s Filmstock is that students are working on a TV series, requiring them to write, shoot and direct eight episodes with zero budget— all equipment, props and costumes have been donated. The class edits the series on Adobe Premiere Pro.

Having his 32 students create a series (instead of individual films) reduces isolation, Golden said.

“There are more opportunities for team building and collaborating,” he said.

Inside 604 Productions

Written and filmed in four weeks, the students’ “Street Street” series, not unlike “Scooby Doo,” features a monster of the week.

First aired on CBS in 1969 as “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?” Hanna-Barbera’s animated mystery comedy featured a motley crew of unlikely ghostbusters: teenagers Fred, Daphne, Velma and Shaggy, and the titular talking Great Dane, Scooby-Doo.

Like a face full of cotton candy on Scooby-Doo’s tongue wagging puss, Golden’s students are eating up their assignment.

“I am extremely proud of the amount of work we’ve been able to accomplish in such a short time,” said Ashley Arabian, 17, president of 604 Productions, the semester’s production company.

As president, the Santa Su senior is in charge of organizing Filmstock. She also runs the writers’ room. Sarah Best and Daniel McGreevy run the camera department, while Crista McBride and Riot Cindric handle art direction, including working one of the characters: a lamp.

“They had to figure out how to puppeteer the lamp to make it look like it had emotions,” Ashley said.

Ryan Salanga acted as location scout, securing permission for shoots at such local venues as Dr. Conkey’s Candy & Coffee, Harley’s Simi Bowl and Corriganville Park. Scheduling master Dustin Flores coordinated shots and served as assistant director, while editors Jack Slotnick and Matt Goldberg represented post production.

It was Cody Frisk’s theme idea that the students chose unanimously, Ashley said. Cody, 17, found inspiration while bingeing on J.J. Abrams’ “Fringe.”

“I wondered if I could make my own group of people and it ended up being a very goofy batch, which lent itself to the Scooby-Doo aspect,” Cody said of their series. Antagonists include a ghost who has a cold, Jekyll-&-Hyde-spoofing Dr. Pepper and Mr. Pibb, and the Simi-appropriate Cougar Man.

That said, take the Scooby- Doo theme with a grain of salt (or a Scooby Snack) —the campy cartoon serves as tonal, not literal, inspiration, Golden said.

Spring awards ceremony

In May, the film program holds its spring showcase. Spring Filmstock tends to be a looser, more free-form affair, replete with an Academy Awards-like ceremony.

“My husband and I were blown away by the quality of films the advanced film kids created,” said Ashley’s mother, Jennifer Arabian, comparing one documentary style film on a homeless man to a “60 Minutes” segment.

Golden believes his classes teach pupils to keep up with fast  evolving Hollywood.

“The industry is changing so much with the internet and streaming. This teaches them to be as adaptable and versatile as possible,” Golden said of his courses.

The program also allows students to play to their strengths.

“Though my favorite part has to be directing, I am awful at writing scripts,” Cody said. “Every once in a while, I get a good idea or two.”

Content-wise, the teacher employs his “sensitive grandmother” golden rule: “Pretend that you have the most sensitive grandmother in Simi Valley attending your film and be in tune to that.”

For Ashley, the hands-on experience has inspired her not only to seek an entertainment career but to identify specifically what to pursue.

“I want to work in TV, not movies,” she said. “My brain is hard-wired for telling stories in long form.”

The coolest part: The high schoolers’ efforts count as college credit toward UC, Cal State and California community colleges.

As Shaggy would put it, “Like wow, man!”

Filmstock begins at 7 p.m., Fri., Oct. 28 at Santa Susana High School Performing Arts Auditorium, 3570 Cochran St., Simi Valley. The public is welcome. Tickets are $12 at the door and $10 online at santasusana.org.

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