Clovis East students take first in statewide film contest

Left to right: Program director Stan Collins, radio show host CeCe Valencia, Clovis East student filmmakers Caitlin Luster, Meghan White and reality TV star Eric Bigger at the sixth annual Directing Change Program & Film Contest awards ceremony in Los Angeles, May 21, 2018. Courtesy of Goss & Hermeyer Photography

Clovis East High School students have taken a first-place award for a film focusing on mental health and suicide prevention.

Led by advisor Derrick “The Star” Davis, students Caitlin Luster, Meghan White and June Vang won the award for their film “Time To Speak Up.”

The students received the award on May 21 at the sixth annual Directing Change Program & Film Contest ceremony, held at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles. Honors were handed out to youth filmmakers from across California for their short films to raise awareness about mental health and suicide prevention.

Stan Collins, program manager for Directing Change, said the contest featured over 700 films from around the state on the topic of mental health.

The contestants created 60-minute films, with the contest featuring two rounds of judging.

“There was a regional round where the youth from Fresno were competing with other youth from the Central Valley,” Collins said. “From there, we award first, second, third-place regionally. Then the top first-place regional film moves on to the statewide judging.”

Collins said the project is funded through the California Mental Health Services Act by county behavioral health agencies.

The program launches at the beginning of the school year every year and the submission deadline is March 1.

“We partner with schools and organizations,” Collins said. “This year we opened it up to middle schools as well.”

The two submission categories for this year included a contest for ages 7-12 and a contest for ages 15-24.

“Youth are drawn to the program because they have personal experience in mental health, losing loved ones or friends,” Collins said. “About 15-20 percent of youth consider suicide in a given year and about 1/10 make a suicide attempt.”

Collins said the youth realize there’s a lot of people who are having a hard time.

“They really see this program as a chance to share their voice on the topic,” he said. “It’s one thing to have a PSA created with a bunch of money for youth and it’s another thing to have a film created by youth for youth.”

When the program launched six years ago, it was supposed to be a one-year program.

“We hoped to get maybe 100 films and we ended up getting over 400 films,” Collins said. “We realized that there was an interest in youth in film with youth having so much access to filmmaking on their phone or computer.”