TST BOCES and Newfield students Nora Hernandez and Alex Blakely earned first place at the SkillsUSA competition located at the New York State Fairgrounds this April. SkillsUSA is a nationwide academic association that supports the further development of students whose focus is on careers in skilled trades. Hernandez and Blakely competed in the cinema production category where they were challenged to create an original film in less than 24 hours. The pair had to race against the clock competing alongside schools from across the state. The competition began at the students’ first meeting where they were told what their genre of film would be and were given a prompt. This year, the students were given the genre of romantic comedy and the prompt was, “COVID-19 social distancing regulations won’t allow us to…” and the students would need to fill in the blank. Blakely describes the filming process and how their story came about, “We got there on Wednesday for our contest meeting and we were told that our contest starts right now! So we had to begin our filming from 8p.m. at night until the morning to actually script, storyboard, and film everything. Then in the morning, we would need to edit the footage at the fairgrounds.”
The students were inspired by the movies “Her” (2013, written and directed by Spike Jonze) and “Lars and the Real Girl” (2007, directed by Craig Gillespie). Both of these films use inanimate objects for the protagonists to express their need for human connection and companionship. Hernandez explains further, “The film itself started as us deciding how to create a love story and only having one or two actors. However, we got onto the topic of inanimate objects and we were talking, then looked over at the recycling bin. So we decided to make our film about a woman checking into a hotel and essentially meeting the love of her life.”
Last year, SkillsUSA was hosted virtually due to COVID-19, making this the first year that Hernandez and Blakely have experienced the competition in person. They both felt it was interesting to get to witness the other students’ films and the different shots they used. When asked what it was like hearing their names announced for first place Blakely said, “We were very surprised. When they announced we won we started screaming. The entire group of SkillsUSA students for TST BOCES started screaming and cheering. Nora and I turned to each other yelling, ’Oh my gosh’ it was so exciting!”
When asked who they would like to thank for supporting them through SkillsUSA, both students immediately said their teacher Mr. Blegen. He was the one to encourage them to participate in the first place. Hernandez and Blakely have taken part in his Digital Media Technology class for the past two years at TST BOCES.
This program allows students to learn about graphic design, video production, game design and animation. The pair would also like to thank a few other supporters. “We would like to thank Mrs. Fish (TST BOCES School Counselor) for her support during our entire time at the competition. We would also like to thank Trisha Banner who was the actor in our film and Ava Reynolds, our classmate who was there for us as we got zero hours of sleep,” stated Blakely. “Overall, everyone at TST BOCES was supportive and cheered us on,” added Hernandez.
The duo is now preparing to head to the SkillsUSA National Competition in Atlanta, Georgia this June. This will be the first time in their school’s history to compete for a title at this level.