Young writers ready for their big-screen moment at fifth Pens to Lens Gala

Young writers ready for their big-screen moment at fifth Pens to Lens Gala

CHAMPAIGN — A mad scientist creates a machine that can duplicate objects.

A boy is ostracized by his classmates after flowers grow from one of his eyes.

Disguised as humans, a female superhero and a female supervillain meet in an elevator, not realizing they are already acquainted.

These and other ideas from the imaginations of area K-12 students have been turned into short films by local filmmakers. They will be shown at 2 and 6 p.m. today during the fifth annual Pens to Lens Gala at the Virginia Theatre.

The event features a red carpet leading into the theater, starting an hour before each set of screenings, and photo opportunities for the budding filmmakers.

Altogether, 16 shorts will be shown, along with four shorts made by students. More than 200 scripts and 10 student-made movies were submitted this year.

"I'm really excited about all the movies that will be put up on the screen," said Thomas Nicol, who coordinated the filmmaking. "They sent in some really great scripts. It's a pretty strong year."

The afternoon screenings will be of films written by students in kindergarten through eighth grade, plus three student-made shorts. The evening block will feature shorts written by high school students, plus one made by a high school student.

Pens to Lens, a project of the Champaign Urbana Film Society and Champaign Movie Makers, has a rating system for the scripts, but not necessarily the highest-rated are selected for digital adaptation.

"A lot of highest-rated get made, but some have production difficulties and those get writing awards," Nicol said. "Some of the most fun movies come from scripts that didn't necessarily connect with everybody but connected with someone who saw something in the script and made something great from it."

Also, members of the C-U Design Organization get into the act. They made 50 or so movie posters for Pens to Lens that illustrate submitted scripts. They will be displayed at the Virginia Theatre during the event.

We chatted with three youngsters whose work will be center stage today.

Madeline De Coste

A 15-year-old Farmer City resident who has seen three of her earlier screenplays turned into Pens to Lens flicks, Madeline will see her fourth — "I Know You," directed by Becky Nicol and Nadine Gleason — at the evening screenings.

Madeline calls her short a comedy. In it, Malia Andrus portrays the supervillain and Laura Nicol the superheroine, who meet up in an elevator.

An aspiring filmmaker, Madeline earlier this summer attended a New York Film Academy weeklong camp for teens in Burbank, Calif.

With three other camp participants, she made a short, casting it with youngsters attending the Academy's acting camp. Her group's movie was about a "guy who is cheating on his girlfriend. The two girls meet up and get revenge on him."

Madeline, who's home-schooled, began writing scripts years ago; she "reads a huge amount," said her father, Don. Her favorite book is "The Great Gatsby"; she also likes Baz Luhrmann's film adapted from the novel.

Madeline appreciates Pens to Lens, saying it's like a professional awards show.

"I think it's fantastic," she said. "What I really like is they're emphasizing the writing more than anything. That's usually not emphasized. In movies, we know all the stars and directors but not the writers. So I like that aspect."

Elise Colgrove

The Urbana Middle School eighth-grader can't wait to what animator Dan Drake did with her script, "Flower Boy."

It is one of three animated movies this year in Pens to Lens.

"It is absolutely gorgeous," Thomas Nicol said.

Elise gave this synopsis: "It's about this kid, about middle-school age, who has flowers growing over one of his eyes. He gets teased about it. He has to quit sports and everything else. One day, he's drawing in the park and falls asleep. This girl finds the drawings and she later reveals to him she has flowers growing on her hand. They bond."

She was inspired to write "Flower Boy" after dreaming about flowers growing out of people. Elise acted in a Pens to Lens short last year. This is the first time she penned a screenplay for the event.

Elise, who wants to be a writer, actress or maybe teacher, also studied filmmaking, at the Parkland College for Kids two-week Make Your Own Movie camp. Wearing an orange-yellow wig, she portrayed the title character in her four-member group's short, "The Adventures of Cheese Man: Cape Catastrophe."

She calls Pens to Lens amazing.

"It gives young writers a huge opportunity to get their writing to be turned into a movie," she said. "You usually don't get that kind of opportunity when you're young."

D.J. Wang

An 8-year-old who's home-schooled and lives in Champaign, D.J. this afternoon will see his own movie, "The Power of Coffee," and the one he wrote, "The Double Machine," directed by Andrew Gleason and Chris Lukeman,

Gary Ambler stars as Dr. Genius in "The Double Machine," about a refrigerator-size box with a funnel on the side. Put something in the funnel, and the machine duplicates it.

The plot takes a twist when Dr. Genius accidentally doubles himself.

A piano prodigy who has performed four times at Carnegie Hall, D.J. said he's always wanted a "double machine," mainly to duplicate trees so that more trees can be saved from being turned into lumber.

D.J. made "The Power of Coffee" using Legos. The idea for the movie, which uses mainly stop-motion animation, was his. But his father, Bryan, helped, giving his son a "crash course" on various movie-making software.

D.J. also narrates the short, which features a spinning portal, dragons and coffee.

This is the first time D.J. has submitted to Pens to Lens. He said he feels proud to have two of his works selected.

"I can't wait to see my own movies and I want to see the other people's movies," he said. "I wonder what they're thinking about, what theirs are about."

If you go

What: The Champaign Urbana Film Society, Champaign Movie Makers and Champaign Urbana Design Organization present the fifth annual Pens to Lens Screening & Awards Gala, featuring 16 short films written by area K-12 students and four student-made shorts.

When: 2 p.m. today for shorts by students in kindergarten through eighth grades; 6 p.m. for shorts by high school students. The red-carpet event will begin an hour before each block of screenings.

Where: Virginia Theatre, 203 W. Park Ave., C.

Tickets: $12 for a pass to both blocks of screenings. Tickets to each block are $8 for adults and free for people 18 and younger.

The lineup

The schedule of events for Pens to Lens, to be held today at the Virginia Theatre:

2 P.M.

— "Flower Boy," written by Elise Colgrove, directed by Dan Drake
— "Stuffed," by Emily Ritter, directed by Drew Brown and Wendy Ball
— "Super Amazing Man vs. Dr. Evil," by Ella Kirwan, directed by Anne Lukeman
— "The Double Machine," by D.J. Wang, directed by Andrew Gleason and Chris Lukeman
— "The Luchador," by Luca Villaseñor, directed by Andrew Stengele
— "The Perfect Friends," by Rosalie Anderson, directed by Emily Polk
— "The Puppy Trials," by Claire Hartman, directed by Thomas and Becky Nicol
— "The Werebanana," by Henry DeVivo, directed by Michael Bach
— "The Power of Coffee," written and directed by D.J. Wang
— "Adventures of Filmmaking," written and directed by Max Libman
— "A Space Trip," written and directed by Rowan Fisher

6 P.M.

— "Colibri," by Robert Mercer, directed by Jon Lecouris
— "Daniel," by Scott A. Best, directed by John Isberg
— "Gnarled Alliance: A Tale of Brothers," by Bridget Spillman, directed by Thomas Polk
— "Hu-Man," by Parker Evans, directed by Robin Berthier
— "I Know You," by Madeline De Coste, directed by Becky Nicol and Nadine Gleason
— "Standing Rock 19,000, Mascots 0," by Gabriela Ines DeLisle Diaz, directed by Rachel Berry
— "The 9th Annual Community Opposite Day," by Aidan Henry, directed by Charlie Kessler
— "Writer's Block," by Katarina Blakeslee, directed by Andrew Gleason and Thomas Nicol
— "Red Letter Psychics: The Ghost Mask," written and directed by Parker Evans


— Ariana Mizan, "The Socknappers"
— Ethan Scheiding, "The Nightmare Savior"
— Gabrielle Dammkoehler, "Win"
— Glorian Roberts, "Gathering the Linens"
— Hannah, Max and Sophia Libman, "When I Grow Up?'
— Isabella Hays, "Every Wish Counts"
— Luca Zepeda, "The Panda Bandit"
— Natasha Plummer, "Bus 26"
— Quinn Fisher, "The Good Guys"
— Sage Lundquist, "Wish You Were Here: Poems of a Dead Girl"