The inaugural School No. 4 Film Festival on April 4 allowed fifth-graders to show off their movie-making skills, as well the lessons they have learned about technology and teamwork. 

By Gary Miller

It was like 18 movie premieres and the Oscars all rolled into one.

The inaugural School No. 4 Film Festival gave talented fifth-graders the chance to be stars of the silver screen as well as movie directors, while learning lessons about storytelling, technology and teamwork.

The students worked for weeks on creating their projects under the guidance of technology teacher Mitch Gorbunoff, then came together for the film festival on April 4, where family, friends and special guests got to see the fruits of their labor.

>> WATCH THE SCHOOL NO. 4 STUDENT FILMS

>> SEE MORE PHOTOS FROM SCHOOL NO. 4 FILM FESTIVAL

“The project was designed to teach kids about utilizing technology to tell stories and to be collaborative,” Gorbunoff said. “Putting fifth-graders into the realistic scenario of working with people they didn’t expect to work with allowed them to develop a sense of teamwork and compromise, which are essential life and leadership skills.”

teacher on stage in front of School No. 4 Film Festival sign

School No. 4 technology teacher Mitch Gorbunoff introducing winners at the school's inaugural film festival.

The young filmmakers worked in small groups to write the storyboard and script for their short film, using classroom technology to brainstorm and develop the idea. They then used district-provided Apple iPads to film the movie they planned, using parts of the school as their settings and green-screen technology for special effects. Finally, they used iMovie to edit their video clips together into a movie.

The technology curriculum was expanded at all of Linden’s elementary schools at the start of this school year, and Superintendent Danny A. Robertozzi said the film festival illustrates why it was worth the effort.

“This idea from Mr. Gorbunoff has allowed the students to show their parents and the community in a very creative way all the skills they are learning week after week in technology class,” Robertozzi said. “He and his students are to be commended for their hard work and dedication to this tremendous project.”

On the big night of the festival, 18 movies were screened in three classrooms, then everyone gathered in the auditorium for an awards ceremony.

“A lot of grit and determination went into this,” Gorbunoff told the assembled crowd at the festival. “A lot of recesses and free time were sacrificed. But like my parents, who are in the audience, used to say, you can’t be afraid of hard work. And if there’s one thing that we can be sure of, it’s that the fifth-graders here at School No. 4 are not afraid of hard work.”

two students holding certificates posing onstage with principal

School No. 4 Principal Anthony Cataline with Amaily Leandry and Alicea Narvaez, the winners of the Mr. Cataline Achievement Award for their film "Endangered Animals."

School No. 4 Principal Anthony Cataline praised Gorbunoff and the students when he was introduced to hand out the Mr. Cataline Achievement Award, the night’s top prize.

“This has truly been an amazing event,” he said. “Mr. Gorbunoff has done a marvelous job.”

This project fit into the larger curriculum by being the capstone of the students’ multimedia unit. Students learned how to use all of these tools before they started filming, including extensive teaching in the software and its use.

“It was harder than I thought it would be,” Gorbunoff said, “but in the end, these students surprised me with their enthusiasm, commitment and creativity.

“I’m so proud of them, and am so glad to work in a school district that values the use of technology and its potential for enhancing student creativity.”