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Sandy Journal

Blessed Sacrament students explore filmmaking through film festival

Jun 15, 2018 10:16AM ● By Julie Slama

Blessed Sacrament eighth-grader Charles Topoleski won three Oscars at his school’s first film festival. (Photo courtesy of Kelly Quiel)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Shortly before school was out for the summer, Charles Topoleski walked out of Blessed Sacrament clutching a couple gold statuettes. The student won Best Actor, Best Editor and Best Picture in the music video category at Blessed Sacrament’s first film festival. 

“Our graduating eighth-grader, Charles Topoleski was the major winner, winning three awards,” teacher Kelly Quiel said. “He spent hours making an epic dance montage.” 

Quiel, who had her students make the films, said the students’ stories were so great it gave them a chance to show their creativity. 

“They’re incredible. They worked on them for three or four months as well as the time they spent on them at home. They got to learn and create the elements of film through their stories,” she said. 

As part of the film exploratory class assignment, sixth-graders created animated films; seventh-graders, documentaries; and eighth-graders, music videos.

Many of the topics tied into what the students were learning in class. For example, seventh-grade documentaries could tie into ancient deities or constellation stories. 

“They created and knew their stories so well, it made sense for them to illustrate them through film. The documentaries also allowed students to learn interviewing techniques and knowing where to frame the person in the shot,” Quiel said. 

Through the process, students learned how to storyboard and edit their films. Several sixth-graders, who practiced their animation skills on iPads, filmed their characters [AC1] over and over so the shots were taken bit by bit, allowing movement to be fluid. They also were encouraged to use descriptive language. 

Quiel said eighth-graders learned about the media as part of their social studies core and studied how the Nazis used propaganda to further their message.

“We studied historic events, like the Titanic, and saw what and how it was recorded as a historic event. We learned how some manipulations in film can make it appear as if people are talking to each other even if they aren’t,” she said, adding that film exploratory as well as music and Spanish are required classes that complement the core curriculum at the school.

About 42 completed projects were narrowed to 15, which were shown at the film festival. The films — four animations, six documentaries and five music videos — were voted on by the audience for best picture in each category. Students voted for best actor, best actress and best editor. Best actor, actress and editor winners received miniature Oscars and popcorn containers of sweets while each best picture winner received a $10 movie gift card. 

The Best Actress winners were Arabella Martin and Caitlyn Bath. The Best Animation award went to Isabella Pickers with her film “Aster the Pig,” and Best Documentary winner was Lily Edwards with “No-Kill Shelters.” 

The films are available on and shared on Blessed Sacrament's Facebook page.