Click photo to enlarge
A scene from "Esther's Journal," a screenplay by Compass School Junior Lila Shaw. Compass School in Westminster will host its 12th Annual Compass Student Film Festival on Thursday, April 14, at 7 p.m.

WESTMINSTER >> A dozen 11th and 12th graders at the Compass School have spent the past six weeks studying films, writing screenplays, and producing their own short films. This week, they are putting final touches on their films in preparation for the 12th Annual Compass Student Film Festival on Thursday, April 14, at 7 p.m., a culminating event for their filmmaking class.

This interdisciplinary course is a popular course at the school, led by humanities teacher Julia Taylor and science/technology teacher, Eric Rhomberg. Taylor and Rhomberg enjoy team teaching the course because the students become so invested in their project, working well beyond school hours to edit, perfect, and complete their films.

"This is one of the most complex, creative and organizationally challenging projects these students have ever taken on," said Rhomberg.

From writing the script, recruiting actors, arranging shooting locations, and organizing materials, to editing and sound work, filmmaking requires students to develop strong skills of problem solving and leadership.

"It has been really challenging to do this project in the context of all my other independent projects and school work," said Compass junior Nina Singleton-Spencer. "But filmmaking is really a lot of fun. In addition to learning about organizing and producing something complicated, it's a great way to introduce people to the world of art who might not be inclined to do things like painting or music. And for the artistically inclined, film is such a powerful medium of expression to add to their experience."


The course allows for close analysis of films as well as lots of hands-on practice with the camera. On the first day of Rhomberg's class, students are required to make a one minute film that tells a story. They then make two to three minute silent films over the course of a few days. In the meantime, in Taylor's humanities class, they discuss qualities of a good story, watch film clips for both analysis and inspiration, and learn screenplay formatting. Eventually, all students write and "pitch" their screenplays, and the students as a team choose what films they want to produce in the final weeks of class.

The students' films are wide ranging and deal with themes such as love, loss, connection — and the romance of pizza. One short film depicts a young girl who tries to deal with painful life experiences by revising these events in her journal, and another follows a family's ritual of setting the table for dinner, but under the surface, the father is still processing the loss of his wife. Not all the films are dramas, as students also wrote and produced light, comedic silent films.

The film festival takes place on Thursday April 14th at 7pm at Compass School on Route 5 just south of Bellows Falls, and is open to the public, with a $3 suggested donation. The Compass School is an independent school for students in grades 7 to 12. For more information, go to the school website: