Photo by Ellen Fox.

Sophomore film majors Ian Hackworth and Alex Martinez chat on the set of The Garden Show, the upstart AV talk show that aims to showcase McCallum’s student artists.

Artistically Speaking: Alex Martinez

Sophomore president of the AV Club believes in the power of cinematic arts, now more than ever

Two years ago, Alex Martinez was a visual arts major at Lamar Middle School looking for a way to make his drawings come to life.
“What I really wanted was for my drawings to move, for the most part,” Martinez said. “It wouldn’t tell a full story from a still frame, so AV was the route to go for me whenever I came to McCallum because I can tell a full story with moving pictures opposed to just one picture.”
Martinez applied to McCallum for both visual arts and cinematic arts. He was accepted into both but ultimately opted for film. After coming to McCallum, he says, he was able to foster his creativity and joined AV Club his freshman year. By the start of his sophomore year, he was president of the New York Times-featured club.
“The president last year was a senior, and she graduated … and Mr. Rogers saw me step up my game with our show [a previous project similar to Netflix’s Stranger Things], like I took charge. I was like, ‘OK, we need to do a project, or AV Club is going to be shut down’ because we really weren’t doing anything. … By the end of the year, when she graduated, Mr. Rogers said, ‘You’re basically running the show, would you want to be president?’”

[Film is] like taking a picture, but if that picture can move and talk and have so much more emotion, that’s basically what film is.

— Alex Martinez

According to Martinez, AV Club requires a lot of long hours and hard work, but ultimately the shared sense of accomplishment makes the time well spent.
“Whenever we’re all working, and we’re all working together to make one project, and we’re all happy with it, those are the best memories,” he said. “Or like, there was this one time when the project was due the next day, so we stayed after school until like 10 p.m. editing because we had just finished filming, and we had to color correct and splice it together, so we stayed after school, and we were like, ‘We’re gonna just get this done.’ We brought in a bunch of junk food; we stayed really late and [sophomore] Erik [Jensen] ended up finishing it after some of us had already left. That was one of my favorite memories.”

While things have been going well for Martinez and the AV Club, an ominous future may await the AV program due to changes in the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which funds CTE programs nationwide. Ken Rogers, the AV teacher, explained that according to a directive proposed by Secretary of Education Betsy Devos and instituted by President Trump, beginning in January, CTE funds will be provided only to certain CTE programs (STEM math and science programs for example) considered to be high-paying and permanent careers. A host of currently funded CTE programs (agriculture, AV, cosmetology and food services among them) will not be funded unless the local school district can convince federal CTE officials that those industries locally meet the federal criteria for funding.
“Basically, the Trump administration decided to cut funding to programs deemed to not lead to high-paying jobs, which is stupid because the film industry pays really high,” sophomore Jay Mathias said.
Rogers had an idea to start a Patreon, a site that allows programs and causes in need of money get donations securely, so that the Mac AV strand can survive the likely budget cut. This fundraising site has given the Mac AV Club an advantage compared to other AV clubs across the country that are also likely to lose their federal CTE funding. But in order to get donations, the AV club has been tasked with making more entertaining, high-quality projects.
“A lot of the best seniors are graduating, so we need to step up our game to make better films, which is basically what I said to AV Club,” Martinez said. “I was like, ‘OK, so this budget issue: don’t worry about making money. Worry about making films because those films will bring in the money because when people see great films, they will donate money.”
AV Club is currently in full swing with a new project under way. They are beginning to work on The Garden Show, created by sophomore Jay Mathias and hosted by sophomore Ian Hackworth. The goal of the show is to showcase fine arts students at McCallum. They say they hope that this project will convince possible donors to support the AV Club through the Patreon in case the district is unable to forestall anticipated funding cuts come January.

You know how they say a picture is a thousand words? Imagine that times how many frames a second. It’s like millions of words being told at once

— Alex Martinez

The Garden Show is not the only thing that Martinez is currently working on, though. Inspired by the abstract work of directors Federico Fellini and David Lynch, Martinez is currently working on his own abstract project.
“I feel like when most people watch [abstract movies], they are like, ‘What the hell is going on?’” Marinez said. “But you have to think about them, and I think that’s the best part. When you actually have to dissect them and look into each shot to understand it, I think that’s the best type of film. … You have to look at each shot and think, ‘What is this character doing now? Why is he doing that?’ It’s all told through visuals as opposed to dialogue, which is a huge handicap for films. It’s almost like a cheat, like if you explain the plot through dialogue, then what is the difference from a radio show, you know?”
Making these kinds of films is a process, Martinez said.
“First you need story,” he said. “Or, if you’re doing something more abstract, then you don’t need a story at all, but for the most part you’re probably going to want a story, and that’s just the same as writing a book. You have to think of the story, but then you also have to think about it in a visual aspect, so once you think of that story you build off of there and start thinking about each shot and each scene and how it’ll look, and then you start building the world around it. You start building up each scene, like the playout or how the characters are placed and shot. It’s definitely a more difficult process than like, just writing a book. But it’s also definitely a lot of fun; you get to control every aspect of the shot.”
After high school, there are a couple of options for a student interested in film. Martinez is adamant that he will continue with it after high school in some fashion.
“That’s also kind of a double-edged sword, because either I go into college for film, or I get a job as a cameraman on some crew or something,” he said. “Either way I’m happy because I’d be working with film, but if I were to lean one way, I’d probably choose to get the job first because with college, with film, you’re not really working on films: you’re more studying them for like four years while you could be building experience.”
Either way, he describes the medium of film as integral to his creativity.
“[Film is] like taking a picture, but if that picture can move and talk and have so much more emotion, that’s basically what film is,” he said. “I think that’s a lot more interesting because with one shot of a film, you can tell an entire story. It’s like, you know how they say a picture is a thousand words? Imagine that times how many frames a second. It’s like millions of words being told at once.”

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