A student-created animated tale of a person caught in their water-wasting ways and a video highlighting the reality of abundance versus scarcity delivered prize-winning messages about water conservation and security.
Bottle, a short video produced by students Arbe Chumala, Victoria Hansen, Sophie Stevens, and Caroline Zhang as part of their Grade 8 class at Dr. John G. Egnatoff School, was the grand prize winner in the Grade 5-8 category of the 2021 Let's Talk About Water Youth Film Awards presented in June.
A second video from the same class — Water: Parallel Realities created by Abhinav Menon, Bennett McCumber, and Kate Deptuch — was recognized with second place in the same category.
Teacher Heather Reid said the students, who have since moved on to high school, produced their competition entries as part of a classroom unit on water that connected science, social studies, and language arts outcomes.
"It allowed each group of students to focus on a specific area of interest and to think about how to clearly communicate messages in two minutes," Reid said. "The students were engaged and focused; they knew that the audience was much larger than just our class and they found that motivating."
Every student in the class participated in the project and three films created by Egnatoff students were included on the competition shortlist from which the winning films were chosen.
Reid said the opportunity to integrate learning opportunities and create a message that spoke to a wider community resonated for her students.
"They had to find ways of communicating meaning through a two-minute visual medium – this required narrowing their focus to key ideas and aiming for clarity and impact," she said. "Every film was a collaborative effort, and it was great to see them apply the skills they practiced during Telemedia."
Arbe Chumala, one of the co-creators of the grand-prize winning Bottle, said the group wanted to deliver a message that would help people comprehend the consequences of their actions and motivate leaders to effectively achieve the change needed in the world.
"From there, we came up with our idea of an ignorant person who, at first, faces little consequence for their actions Chumala said. "To target our audience, we highlighted the impacts such wasteful behaviour can have on themselves, even in the near future."
Members of the group had little animation experience. They maximized their animation time with work during school hours and late nights at home in order to have the project ready to edit, add end cards and music credits, and ensure the film was complete at the end of two weeks.
"It was a challenge, especially as we were motivated by the message of our film, water conservation," Chumala said. "For us, this meant constantly working on this film, but also doing our parts to help alleviate our water crisis. The time crunch, strong motivation, and ambitiousness of our group really pushed us to our limits, making this process incredibly vigorous and engaging."
The grand prize included a $2,500 classroom award which, along a $1,000 prize for the second-place film, was used to purchase an iMac computer for video editing and other equipment to support student film making.
For Water: Parallel Realities, co-creator Abhinav Menon said the first challenge was finding a topic to cover in such a broad issue as the water crisis. After that, the group set out to create an effective and approachable way to present its findings.
"We recognized that often messages get 'lost in transit' due to ineffective presentation and we wanted to minimize that. Next, we filmed the scenes and here the most notable consideration we had was to show not tell. Post-production was mostly about implementing our vision in a suitable way by editing, adding other elements, and making it visually appealing."
The process was not as straightforward as group members initially thought, but they were able to overcome challenges such as inexperience with filming, technology, and restrictions due to COVID-19 by experimenting and re-executing.
"One tip that I realized after doing this project is to make sure to put your focus on planning and producing," Menon said. "Often people place unequal emphasis on the filming and therefore, face challenges when needing to finalize and execute what they have."
The shortlist for the Let's Talk About Water youth prize included student-produced films from countries including the United States and Philippines. Saskatoon Public Schools was well represented on the shortlist with nine productions making the cut:
- "Bottle" directed by Arbe Chumala, Victoria Hansen, Sophie Stevens, and Caroline Zhang from Dr. John G. Egnatoff School;
- "Day Zero" directed by Connor Merson-Davies from Chief Whitecap School;
- "Drip" directed by Louis-Pascal DeVink and Samuel Wardell from City Park School;
- "Protect Water, Protect Environment" directed by Shreya Adapa from Online Learning Centre Elementary;
- "The Evolution of Pollution" directed by Ava, Roxy, and Lyla from École Alvin Buckwold School;
- "The World Needs Water" directed by Graeme Bishop from École Alvin Buckwold School;
- "Use, Not Waste" directed by Owen Dobrowolsky and Joti Gokaraju from Dr. John G. Egnatoff School;
- "Water Crisis in the Middle East" directed by Parham Golshenas from Chief Whitecap School;
- "Water: Parallel Realities" directed by Abhinav Menon, Bennett McCumber, and Kate Deptuch. from Dr. John G. Egnatoff School.