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Dublin High School Video Production Program Influences Two Students on Their Future Paths

May 22, 2017

DUBLIN, CA–The theater lights dimmed and the final 10 second countdown began. In this case, it marched to the beginning of the 3rd Annual Dublin High School Film Festival. Though in its own relative infancy, Video Production has become one of the most wildly successful academic programs launched at Dublin High in recent memory. The program is helmed by Michael D’Ambrosio.

Due to overwhelming demand, the Film Festival was hosted for the first time on consecutive evenings in the Center for Performing Arts & Education. Tickets for entry were made available online and sold out almost immediately. What attendees gained was the viewing of eight pieces that were panel screened and judged from a total of 72 submissions – the highest number ever for this event. The two hour occasion showcased a myriad of cinematic themes and styles.


On Thursday and Friday, the audiences enthusiastically recognized all of the film makers. The added treat on Friday was that over a dozen Dublin High School alumni of the Video Production program were seated in the theater “pit” located at the front of the venue. As this is not a competition, the true winners were the clients of Culinary Angels. This organization provides healthy/organic meals to those that may not be capable of doing this on their own. And, frequently the clients are managing a health malady – including cancer. So, the entire event encompassed the arts and benevolence. This was the perfect recipe to highlight student driven arts.

At the suggestion of Mr. D’Ambrosio, we elected to highlight two students – Joshua David and Nicholas Heinz. They are both DHS Seniors and have participated in the VP program for two years. They collaborated with two other students to successfully complete the Festival-closing production of “The Ancient Scroll of Tao.” What they have experienced has been similar to their other peers in that they have been productively challenged to “push the envelope” and to accept increasingly higher levels of responsibility for themselves and their classmates. In advance of the Film Festival, we sat down with Josh and Nick to solicit their thoughts on how they have personally grown due to the VB program. For both of you, this is your second year in the Video Production program. Can you specify skills/responsibilities that you’ve gained year-over-year?

DSC_2816Nicholas Heinz: “Through my two years of video production I have learned a lot and improved in my skills. This class has taught me the importance of a good work ethic and has allowed me the opportunity to improve in filmmaking by giving me lots of practice in making videos.”

Joshua David: “I gained a lot of knowledge about all aspects of video production including editing, camera work, and special effects. I also learned about how it is to be on an actual commercial shoot and the pressures that someone in the film industry would have to face.” This year, you had the somewhat rare opportunity to contribute to the production of “Every 15 Minutes” at Amador Valley High School in Pleasanton. As you had separate responsibilities, please highlight what stood out to you over those two days.

Heinz: “What stood out to me the most was the reaction of the Amador Valley students the day of the funeral. Seeing everybody getting emotional over work I helped create made me really appreciate what we had done. It made the whole process of making the film a million times more satisfying to know that it really had an impact on those who viewed it.”

David: “It was such an eye opening experience. We worked on it for three months, trying to complete all of the scenes to film and editing them. They weren’t normal scenes to film, however, because we were simulating the deaths of real students. It hit heavy for a lot of the parents involved in creating the project. Many of them got extremely emotional during the process and their real, raw reactions to actual events that could happen as a result of drunk driving was what made the program so powerful. We felt somewhat accomplished when the movie was being viewed by all of the students for the first time because by the end of the video, all we could hear was everybody’s sniffling and crying. We were happy that it made such a big impact on our audience.”

DSC_3059 Spend some time to describe your thought process in developing “The Ancient Scroll of Tao.” As this was a partnership project, describe how you were able to work successfully together – and yet maintain individual freedom.

David: “Nick focused on giving the best acting performance possible. After all of the filming was finished, we both spent several tireless nights editing. The animation of this movie was heavily inspired by the works of the legendary animator, Hayao Miyazaki. I animated the film in a process called “rotoscoping” where you have to trace over each individual frame of a video to make an animation. I would then hand off the uncolored frames for Nick to fill with color. By the end of the animation process which took almost 2 months to complete, I had drawn a total of 2,000 frames. The process of having to animate, making sure that each frame was as perfect as the last, taught me patience. I am so relieved that it is done.

“After Nick and I approved of the initial edit of the film, we submitted a “rough cut” of the film for the judges to see. At this point, the film still had half of the animation and special effects incomplete and no music. When we heard the news that we actually did make it into the Film Festival, we spent the next three weeks scrambling to get it done. I did all of the special effects of the movie, learning so much in the process of how to do them. Creating the special effects of this entire film was a huge learning process as I had to research about how to execute most of them correctly.

“Nick and I both contributed our best talents to the film. The film would not have worked without Nick’s writing and acting ability nor my talents in camera work and visual effects. I hope our work really shines through during the film festival.”

Heinz: “Mr. D’Ambrosio has been incredibly supportive and just generally an amazing teacher to have for two years. He is incredibly knowledgeable about the film industry and I don’t know if I would be studying film if it wasn’t for the Video Production class and the fact that Mr. D is teaching it.” Anything else that you would like to add?

Heinz: “I’d just like to add that it’s an incredible honor to have our work in the film festival. We worked very hard on our film and we’re very excited to see how those attending react to it. The Dublin high film festival is a wonderful event, and I hope it continues for many years to come.” would like to commend all of the students that participate in the Video Production program at DHS. The success of the Film Festival is a testament to their efforts and enthusiasm. Michael D’Ambrosio has served as a “guiding light” for this series and should also be acknowledged for this tremendous offering. We are also pleased to convey that Nick and Josh will continue to be classmates at San Francisco State University where there will further their studies in the science of filmmaking.

  1. Steve permalink
    May 22, 2017 10:53 am

    So happy for them. I wish they could have another screening for those of us who couldn’t make it. Maybe something during the summer?

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