NEW PORT RICHEY — A group of students at Mitchell High School formed a video game club last year, and within months had created an award-winning short film and begun work on a high-tech video game.
And that's just the beginning for the Mustang Film and Game Creation Club.
"They're learning about making things and getting them to work," said Leith Taylor, the school's career and technical education teacher of digital media/multimedia production. "They're learning how the real world works."
It was his students, Taylor said, who specifically requested a club in which they could produce their own films and video games. Instrumental in this effort was student Christian Hernandez, a YouTube artist and filmmaker who plans in the future to become a director.
"I've always had an interest in drawing, and at first I thought I would draw for the movies," said Hernandez, 17. "But as I learned more about the movie-making process, I thought, 'People actually do this for a living?' I wanted to make movies."
Hernandez organized and spearheaded the club's participation in the Pasco County Sheriff's Office Making Good Decisions contest, a competition that challenged students to plan, script, produce and act in a short video that addresses the importance of healthy choices and responsible living.
The fledgling club finished first in the competition, following up with various video challenges that have raised and sharpened their skill level. Responding to cues and concepts supplied by club organizers, they script, perform and produce short films with the aid of the Apple Final Cut Pro and Adobe programs.
"With all of this stuff at our disposal, we're developing a better work ethic and growing as producers," said club vice president Gavin Growe, a 17-year-old senior. "It's all about getting stuff done on time, and high quality."
Other members of the club specialize in video game design, using Adobe Photoshop and the Unreal Engine, a cutting-edge design platform.
Currently, students are designing the programming and graphics portions of a game that centers on a challenge — one that encourages players to perform tasks that will allow them to escape from trap-laden rooms.
"I try to play video games every day, and have since I was little," said Tiffany Johnson, 17. "Through this club, I'm learning more about graphics, drawing and models. I love the idea that, through creating my own games, people will enjoy something I made."
"I love having the ability to create something, to make designs," agreed Lindsey Chapman, 16. "And since I joined the club, I'm getting the experience of working in a team. It's getting easier for me to talk in group settings."
Mitchell substitute teacher Nicole Trapp, a club adviser and game designer, agrees that teamwork is the key to success in the Mustang Film and Game Creation Club.
"These students come together through teamwork to put together a work, piece by piece, to create the whole design," Trapp said. "This is the skill that they will take with them, whatever they do."