The festival received more than 420 entries, and Ellis’ video “Eyes are Eyes” was named a finalist. The video was made as a Public Service Announcement (PSA) to celebrate diversity, and as a finalist Ellis will win a cash prize, plus recognition at an event at Celebration Cinema in Grand Rapids where her video will be shown alongside other finalists from high schools across the state. As a finalist Ellis could also win a scholarship in video production to Compass College of Cinematic Arts in Grand Rapids.
For the contest students had to create a short PSA, a 30-second commercial, that focuses on an area important to the lives of high school students. Ellis said she wanted to focus on the celebration of diversity because equality is such an important issue to her.
“Equality is very important to me, so I wanted to show the ways people can be both different and the same,” Ellis said. “The video uses eyes as a metaphor, and in my piece the viewer sees eyes of different shapes, sizes, and colors, but each one is as very much human as the next. That’s the point I’m trying to make.”
“To make the video I had friends volunteer to let me put my camera very close to their faces and eyes. It can be uncomfortable to be photographed so closely, and I’m very grateful to my friends for letting me take such close videos of their faces and eyes.”
When Ellis got the news her video had been named a finalist, the first person she called was her dad in Texas.
“I was so excited to call my dad,” she said. “He is the one who gave me my first camera when I was about seven, so he’s the one who started me on this journey. It was a very special feeling to call him and share the news.”
Ellis made the video as part of her independent study of filmmaking with GHS film and media teacher Corey Harbaugh. Harbaugh calls Ellis the most creative and visionary student he has ever seen working in video.
“Alyssa Ellis is a world-class talent when it comes to video production,” Harbaugh said. “But she’s so humble, and her work is so positive and affirming, that it doesn’t scream out for attention. Instead, she is quietly building skills and sending out a message of peace, equality, and gratitude, told through amazing and thoughtful image work and video sequencing. One can’t watch a video made by Alyssa Ellis and not be moved. She has developed a special talent.”
Winners of the Meijer Great Choices Film Festival will be announced at a special awards ceremony in Grand Rapids on June 6. As a finalist, Ellis will even be provided limousine transportation from the screening at the theater to a special reception at Compass College.
Ellis is also known for her digital photography which often mixes elements of whimsy edited into shots to create a scene of fantasy.
by Corey Harbaugh