Young Filmmakers Contest Announces Winners


Films to Premiere March 3 at Columbia College

The One Earth Young Filmmakers Contest experienced a surge in submissions from grades 3 through college age, reaching a total of 115 from local students as well as those as far away as Hawaii. From these entries, a jury of 20 environmental and film leaders selected 11 for top recognition.

Students were asked to create a three to eight minute film (or a minimum 45-second animation) about one of six sustainability topics: energy, food, transportation, waste, water, or open space and ecosystems. Entrants presented a problem with their topic and also a solution(s).

For the first time in the six-year history of the contest, there was a tie for the top prize, a $1,000 college scholarship (see below).

Winning films presented problems with waste, water and air pollution and followed up with solutions such as electric cars and planes, solar energy, Veganism, and, in a sci-fi twist, seeking a new Earth.

Contest Founding Member and Co-Lead Sue Crothers will hand out prizes at the premiere screenings at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at Columbia College Music Center, 1014 S. Michigan Ave. She will give awards to the winners at the elementary school ($75), middle school ($100), high school ($350) and college levels ($1,000 scholarship).

Each winner will also receive a matching gift to donate to the organization of their choice that supports the theme of their film. See their selections below along with student comments from their entries, explaining their motivations for entering the contest.

All are invited to this free event with reception following. Click the button below to reserve tickets. This event may sell out.


Elementary School Winners ($75 + $75 gift)
“Go Green, Go Clean”
Evan Richardson, Rachel Kralik, Carolina Rios, Capri Scatton
Longfellow Elementary School in Oak Park, Illinois

In their 45-second stop-motion Claymation, two young people clean up the litter at a park, hanging signs to remind people to recycle their refuse. The park’s trees are made out of twisted brown paper to give the illusion of crinkled bark, and tissue paper is used for grass and tree leaves. The main characters carry toothpicks as pick up tools to carefully place debris in the proper receptacles.

Scriptwriter Rachel Kralik explains, “We wanted people to think about how easy it is to recycle plastic bottles. This is something you can do every day; you don’t have to put a lot of effort into it.”

The team is still discussing where to donate their $75 gift. Says Capri, “We knew if we worked together it would turn out well.”


Middle School Winner ($100 + $100 gift)
“Plastic Not Fantastic”
Andrew Edwards
Roosevelt Middle School in River Forest, Illinois

“I recently read that Oak Park started an initiative for reducing plastic bag use. This inspired me to choose this topic for my film,” Andrew wrote in his contest entry.

In his almost 4-minute film, he cites statistics about plastic: it is 90% of ocean debris, it remains in the ocean for 400 to 1000 years before it breaks down, and we could circle the globe 4 times with the plastic we throw away in one year. Marine animals ingest this refuse and then we ingest fish, absorbing the toxins. Andrew encourages us to take action by using reusable bags and disposing of plastic bags properly in special recycling containers at the grocery store.

Andrew plans to donate his $100 gift to Plastic Oceans Foundation.


Middle School Honorable Mention
“Fresh Air”
Isaac Averbuch
Metropolitan Schoolhouse in Chicago, Illinois

Airplane emissions are a contributing factor to climate change that is often overlooked. In this 6-minute film, Isaac interviews two visionaries: Joseph Zlotnicki, a high-tech entrepreneur/physicist and Steffen Mueller, an energy economist, to discuss future alternative energy options for air travel. Zlotnicki is interested in electric airplanes, and Mueller is working on bio-fuel made from waste or plants to reduce CO2 emissions. Solar planes and hybrids are other options discussed for future air travel.


Middle School Honorable Mention
“The Stop Motion Animation Electric Car Movie”
Elijah Spencer from Clissold Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois
Isaiah Pinzino from Sutherland Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois
Lily O’Connor from Most Holy Redeemer School in Evergreen Park, Illinois

This 2-minute stop-motion film explains that cars emit greenhouse gas which contributes to global warming and air pollution. Electric cars can be the future solution to this problem. Norway, Sweden, and the UK have already made strides. If we want a cleaner environment, then switching to electric should be part of the solution, the filmmakers posit. They use Legos for the film’s set and characters, adding a AA battery to the back of their Lego car to create an electric vehicle. Background drawings and sound effects combine to make this delightful, short film.


High School Winner ($350 + $350 gift)
“Lead in Water”
Alexander Grattan
Keystone Oaks High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Alexander uses paper cut outs on a table to reinforce his message that Pittsburgh, Penn., should solve its problem with lead leaching from pipes into everyday drinking water. In Pittsburgh, 17,750 residential service connections contain lead. In fact, 5,300 U.S. water systems are in violation of lead rules, which already has contaminated the blood of 500,000 children. Other cities such as Madison, Wis., and Lansing, Mich., have taken aggressive actions to remove all water pipes containing lead. Alexander recommends learning from these cities and also offers detailed solutions to this problem, from charging each individual in Pittsburgh $233.84 to getting the US government to pitch in with this important problem. The lives of society’s most vulnerable are at risk, most importantly children and pregnant women.

“There are only so many problems that society can be laid-back about and lead showing up in drinking water isn’t one of them,” he writes.

Alexander plans to donate his $350 matching gift to Pittsburgh United’s Our Water Campaign.


High School Honorable Mention
“Seventh Generation”
Desiree Nixon
Kickapoo High School in Springfield, Missouri

In her 8-minute film, Desiree talks about our common Native American heritage and the concept of preserving the land for the Seventh Generation. She then begins a quest to find out if Climate Change is real by visiting a coal burning power plant and interviewing a meteorologist, a student leader and a Congressman. Most of them equivocate, but Rep. Billy Long (R) agrees that using green energy is good for the environment. She then interviews the Director of Renewable Energy for the city of Springfield at a utility scale solar farm and concludes that we all should look ahead, to preserve the environment for future generations.

“I can preach about how we must save the seven generations ahead,” writes Desiree, “but it means nothing unless our current generation listens.”


High School Honorable Mention
“The Hidden Crisis”
Jullian Woodard
Pebblebrook High School in Mableton, Georgia

Jullian’s 7-minute film talks about the problem of waste water which has an overabundance of phosphorus and nitrogen, causing an increase in organic carbon. He interviews a physics teacher about possible solutions, one of which could be anammox bacteria. This substance takes up ammonium and releases nitrogen as gas. Julian and his friends invent a possible solution: the ESA (Environmentally Safe Anammox Tablet) with the hope that this will solve an important environmental problem. He writes, “To me, this innovative solution is a good way to take a first step into a new age of water treatment.”


College Winner Tie ($1,000 + $1,000 gift)
“Generation Compromise: Food vs. the Environment”
Emma Josephson
Portland State University in Portland, Oregon

Emma uses animation, interviews and statistics to show that animal agriculture is the most destructive industry on the planet in her 6-minute film. In one interview, activist Ali Tabrizi claims that animal agriculture has caused species extinction, oceanic dead zones, excessive methane production, and temperature rise, depleting and polluting our resources. Emma states that if we stop eating animal products, every day we can save 1,100 gallons of water, 30 square feet of forested land, 40 pounds of grain, and 20 pounds of CO2. As Tabrizi says, animal agriculture is truly the elephant in the room when discussing climate change.

Writes Emma, “I think the biggest reason why people don’t make a lot of changes in their lifestyle is because they don’t know how much of a positive impact it really has on so many things. I wanted to call attention to that in this documentary.”

Emma will donate her $1,000 matching gift to A Well-Fed World.


College Winner Tie ($1,000 + $1,000 gift)
“Stop the Plastics”
Miranda Lu
Cosumnes River College in Sacramento, California

This 4-minute film looks at plastic pollution and its impact on the animals that ingest it. The film touches emotions by showing how we have polluted the ground, water and air, with disregard for its effect on wildlife. Reduce, reuse, recycle, and refuse are the solutions to this crisis. Miranda implores us to save our friends, the animals, and our motherland.

She writes in her submission, “I was firstly inspired by Chris Jordan, a photographer. He had a project called, ‘Midway,’ where he snatched photos in Hawaii that show the cruel deaths of sea-birds from ingestion of plastics. With further research, I realized that sea birds were not the only victims. There are many more marine animal victims, including sea-turtles, whales, and other fishes. That’s when I started making my film by synthesizing the resources I’d found online to advocate to reduce the usage, even find a way to replace and reuse plastic bags and bottles.”

Miranda plans to donate her $1,000 matching gift to an ocean cleaning project at the University of California, Davis.


College Honorable Mention
“Trash Man”
Greer Fawcett from LosAngeles, California
Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York

Greer narrates this 4-minute film as she gathers trash from her college campus and builds a “Trash Man” sculpture. She is an art student who is frustrated by excessive refuse. Trash Man’s fingers are made from discarded straws and his finger nails are cigarette butts. His head is a plastic orange juice jug, and he wears a plastic bag for a shirt. Greer says the amount of waste we generate now has tripled since the 1960s. Ultimately, she displays her sculpture on campus. “Students were forced to see their own trash in a manifestation of the human form, and I think that sends a powerful message,” she writes.


College Honorable Mention
“The Chase”
Hunter Harding from Montgomery, Texas
The University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas

In this 6-minute sci-fi thriller, a young man watches TV and hears the news that the US has pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement. His TV blacks out, and he looks out the window to see a bright glowing object falling from the sky. He leaves his house, jumping on his bicycle to find where the object landed. It is a small, glowing pyramid, which he touches and then passes out. At this point, he is transported to micro and macro views of the planet, from outer space to beneath the ocean, seeing both beauty and destruction. He then wakes up and carries the pyramid to the local observatory to, evidently, search for a new Earth.

Says Hunter, “The Chase shows a young man the atrocities of humanity toward the environment, warning him that if mankind does not change its ways, the only option will eventually have to be abandoning the barren wasteland of Earth’s future in search of a new home.”

The One Earth Film Festival sponsors the annual Young Filmmakers Contest in order to engage youth in the effort to reverse climate change. This year’s festival goes from March 2 to 11 and will screen 30 films at 50 venues throughout Chicagoland.

Hunter’s film will premiere early, at the kickoff event for the entire festival, the Green Carpet Gala, the evening of Friday, March 2, at Fourth Presbyterian Church’s Gratz Center, 115 E. Delaware Place, in Chicago. Tickets are available here.

--Lisa Biehle Files

Greer Fawcett's    “Trash Man” sculpture will appear at various screenings throughout the festival, holding a tablet on which her film will screen continuously.

Greer Fawcett's “Trash Man” sculpture will appear at various screenings throughout the festival, holding a tablet on which her film will screen continuously.