A 13-year-old Richmond student has started his dream of becoming a Hollywood director, by winning his category at the BC Student Film Festival.
Grade 7 Tomekichi Homma student Justin Blais won the Best Elementary School Film section at the festival, hosted last Saturday at the VanCity Theatre in Vancouver.
His 10-minute short film, Detective George, follows the adventures of a young boy who overcomes self-doubts and the doubts of others to become a crime detective, solving a strange string of house robberies in his neighborhood.
“I wanted to make the best film an elementary school student has ever submitted to the festival,” said Justin, adding that he couldn’t have made the film without the help of his friends, who played key characters in the film.
One of them, Ethan Enns, a Grade 6 student at Lord Byng elementary, played the lead role of George, while the role of the thief was played by Mikayla Walrond, a Grade 7 student at Tomekichi Homma.
“The acting of my friends kept getting better the more we kept filming,” said Justin, who plays the character Benny, who doubts George’s ability to solve crimes.
The support he received from his neighbors and the community was incredible, said Justin, who writes scripts and makes films in his spare time, and saves the money he makes from dog-walking and chores to buy filming supplies and gear.
“Everyone agreed to help make the film, no questions asked,” he said.
For a key scene where the movie ends, Justin wanted to film in a toy store, so he crossed his fingers and approached Splash Toy Shop on Moncton Street to see if he could film there.
“The people at Splash were amazing,” added Justin. “Not only did the owner, Beth, let me film in the store, she arranged for a staff person to play the role of the store clerk in the film.”
And when adult actors were needed for some of the roles, Ethan’s grandmother, Phyllis Enns, didn’t hesitate in agreeing to play a feisty elderly character, while another neighbour, Dave Berenbaum, stepped up to play a stern policeman.
The film can be viewed on the website vimeo.com by searching for “Detective George.”