high school students honored in environmental film contest

This spring, Southern California high school students created 97 films for the third annual GreenShorts environmental film contest.

Fifteen of those films were selected as finalists. On May 24, more than 150 students, family members, teachers and fans convened at James Bridges Theater at UCLA to see them screened and hear the winners announced.

Janice Min, an advisory board member for UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, kicked off the ceremony by congratulating the students for reaching their target audiences effectively.

“I learned so much watching these videos — the message was heard loud and clear,” said Min, who is also content executive at Quibi, a mobile platform specializing in quick-hitting videos.

First-, second- and third-place films were chosen by a panel of expert judges including creative professionals from Netflix, Vulcan Productions and Skyscrape Foundation.

The films put the students’ creativity on display and represented a broad range of styles, from abstract to documentary. “The Hidden Contribution,” a prop-filled silent film by Brisa Carrera of Elizabeth Learning Center in Cudahy, took first place in the Watertopia category with a playful story about sibling drought-shaming. Also breaking with the long tradition of gloomy, fearful environmental storytelling was “Sincerely, The Facts” — a superhero action-comedy by Logan Fermin and Adrian Osuna of Environmental Charter High School.

One first-place film took the audience to a darker place. “Stop Hoping” portrayed a warped, dystopian future where even running outdoors could mean death. Leilani Rodriguez, the film’s creator, chose that style intentionally to get the attention of self-interested viewers.

“People need to physically see what’s going to happen — what could possibly happen — or they’re not going to care,” Leilani said.

The ceremony was emceed by Dave Farina, a science communicator with nearly half a million YouTube subscribers. Winners took home cash prizes of $750, $500 or $250 depending on how they placed. The film contest is one part of GreenSparks, a science and communications program that aims to create educational opportunities for young people around environmental issues — and give them a chance to show their creative flair.

(First-place films listed below. All winning films can be found here. TOP IMAGE: Leilani Rodriguez talks about her winning entry.)

Category: Climate Heroes
Winners: Logan Fermin, Adrian Osuna
School: Environmental Charter High School


Category: Watertopia
Winner:  Brisa Carrera
School: Elizabeth Learning Center


Category: No Justice, No Green
Winner: Leilani Rodriguez
School: Environmental Charter High School


Category: You Are What You Eat
Winner: Olga Umana
School: TEACH Charter High School


Category: Wild CA
Winner: Harlow Schuman
School: Providence High School