Teen Movie Making Madness: “NINJA!”


Short Video created by Michael Martinez et al.

“…and we’ll call it… ‘Ninjas’! Yup! Sounds pretty good, right?!”

Those were the words I remember Michael saying to me as he described his next video project for Media Arts at his middle school, CAST (Creative Arts Academy of St. Lucie) back in October 2018. From my understanding, at the start of the school year groups of students were assigned jobs for filming short videos that aided in the learning and understanding of film production. Michael and his friends were assigned theirs and determined to make the very best video that they could together.

In his posse, they were assigned as such; director/screenwriter – Michael, director of photography – Alaq, editor – Moiad, and actors – Marlon, Oscar and Shaniel.

Michael’s screenplay focused on two young ninjas that were friends until one night one of them murdered the other’s mother accidently with a blowdart. Originally, the murder was intentional and committed out of jealousy for lack of a loving parent of his own, but after a few discussions about the depth of the issues presented in the original idea, and the lack of time to sufficiently film with 8th graders or their lack of ability to portray the emotions necessary for such a story – he changed it to something more easily communicated – an accidental blowdart death.

The boys had most of the school year to get their video scripted, filmed and edited, but other weekly projects, homework, tests, and general life-stuff got in the way until… the last three weeks of the video being due, they realized they needed help to complete the project.

Enter Nolli.

Once Michael got me engaged – this project was as good as done. I held him to the heat of procrastination, relentlessly keeping him on task of completing his script, identifying his camera shots, and gathering up his “Ghouls” on weeknights and weekends to complete as much as possible with time left to edit. Even as I type – we are editing. His final project is due April 22, which is also the same day of his screening; the start of Arts Weeks.


From CAST’s Facebook

I really learned a lot during my experience helping the boys complete their project. I learned about working with 8th Graders, which I aspire to do someday, and I learned just how little information they retain depending on their level of interest or motivation – which I already assumed (common sense). I also learned about new ways to motivate them, the best of which is a small win that leads to another, but none of that matters if they don’t respect and value the person from which the motivational/supportive words are being supplied.

As for my part in making the short, I did not touch the keyboard or film any of the video. I demonstrated techniques, critiqued their progress, and watched over their development of each piece as they moved through the project to help them understand how the pieces fit together to achieve their desired end result. I helped them select shots, music and wordsmith their slides to help the audience understand what they were viewing in lieu of missed shots that the boys were unable to film before deadline.

I’m looking forward to seeing their hard work showcased Monday, April 22 and anyone that follows me in the local area, I invite you to come out and support your community arts programs by visiting CAST during Arts Week and making purchases that ultimately support all they do.

*Update: The video screening was amazing; though the school really needs a new projector. All the CAST film groups created interesting works, some of which the audience would love to see continued in the next year. I’m so proud of my nephew and his friends and am super happy I could be a part of this experience with them.


The full cast and crew of “NINJA”, April 2019

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: