Freshman with The Film School at SFUAD Wins Best Documentary at All-American High School Film Festival

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Judge Morgan Spurlock chose Michael Clark for his film Losing Luke.

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Michael Clark (left), a freshman film student at Santa Fe University of Art and Design, won "Best Documentary" at the All-American High School Film Festival. He is pictured with the festival founder,

I was very moved by this incredibly personal and raw story. It’s always thrilling to watch someone find their voice, especially when they can shake the belief system of those around them.

Michael Clark, a freshman with The Film School at Santa Fe University of Art and Design (SFUAD), was recently awarded “Best Documentary” at the inaugural All-American High School Film Festival in New York City, where he also received nominations for Best Director and Best Overall Picture. Clark’s short film Losing Luke is about a transgender girl named Katie (previously known as “Luke”) and her experiences in an Oklahoma high school.

Clark’s film was the only full-length student film to screen during the festival’s opening night. Tom Oliva, the festival’s executive director, said organizers wanted to give the 1,500 attendees a taste of the quality of films that would be screened that weekend.

“Losing Luke just blew us away, and showcased some of the real substance of our festival,” said Oliva. “It really fired up the crowd and made them excited. Michael is a bright young man who I know evolved quite a lot personally while making that film.”

Clark, who worked on the film as an upperclassman in high school, said Katie’s story struck a chord with him.

“In the middle of the Bible Belt, many are raised to look down on transgender people,” he said. “With this film, I wanted to help stomp out this ignorance in the community by sharing her story and humanizing her.”

Among thousands of submissions, the top films from each category were sent to a panel of celebrity judges that included Edward Burns, Dylan McDermott, Morgan Spurlock, Diablo Cody, Danny Rose, Kristen Stewart, Carlton Cuse, Henry Winkler and festival founder Andrew Jenks.

“I was very moved by this incredibly personal and raw story,” said Morgan Spurlock, the judge for the Documentary category, who is best known for making movies such as Super Size Me and Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden. “It’s always thrilling to watch someone find their voice, especially when they can shake the belief system of those around them.”
Oliva added that the film received an emotional response unmatched by other submissions.

“You’re watching this film, and asking yourself, ‘Who is this beautiful young girl?’” said Oliva. “Five minutes later you understand she wasn’t always a female and she went through this powerful transformation. The film provided a sense of shock value that was matched, even exceeded by, the ultimate message it delivered around how love isn’t easy or normal for anyone. You need to be who you want to be. It’s this amazing process that [Michael] takes the viewer through.”

As part of his award, Clark received a $1,000 scholarship, as well as editing and scriptwriting software and Fandango movie gift cards. He was also among a select group of award recipients invited to the private, members-only Soho House New York, where his film was one of several shown in the 44-seat state-of-the-art screening room. Students watched and discussed their films with festival organizers.

“It feels good to put a lot of work into something and be recognized,” said Clark. “While I managed almost all of the components of the production myself, the executive producer of this film was my teacher Clifton Raphael from the Jenks Public Schools Film Program in Oklahoma. He provided me with the equipment I needed and served as a mentor throughout the process. If it wasn’t for this program, or for him, I wouldn’t have even made the film. He really inspired me.”

Clark is a YoungArts Foundation alumnus, recipient of the Tulsa International Mayfest Art Award and silver medal recipient of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Losing Luke was also screened at the deadCENTER Film Festival in Oklahoma City.

Clark will launch a Kickstarter campaign in the coming weeks and will use the funds to enhance the film’s music, editing and animation and to cover future festival and distribution costs. His first fictional narrative film, featuring two time-traveling teenagers, will be finished this December.

“New York is great, but after being there for this festival, I’m really glad I came to Santa Fe to study,” said Clark. “New York to me doesn’t feel like the place where I can really become part of the community. One guy said to me, ‘You’ll never see the same person here twice.’ I like the personal side of Santa Fe, and it’s an environment I’m already starting to fall in love with.”

About The Film School at SFUAD:

The Film School at Santa Fe University of Art and Design offers a relevant, hands-on BFA curriculum that emphasizes production skills, business savvy, and storytelling across multiple film and video platforms. Films such as True Grit and Cowboys & Aliens and TV dramas such as Longmire have been shot at the university’s Garson Studios, where students have the opportunity to intern on professional productions on two motion picture soundstages—at 14,000 and 7,500 square feet. The Film School also has its own 2,200-square-foot soundstage and green screen, as well as a professional set from The Sunset Limited. The Screen, a popular destination within the Garson Communications Center, shows some of the greatest works of world cinema daily for students and the public.

About Santa Fe University of Art and Design:

Santa Fe University of Art and Design is an accredited institution located in Santa Fe, New Mexico, one of the world’s leading centers for art and design. The university offers degrees in arts management, contemporary music, creative writing, digital arts, graphic design, film, performing arts, photography and studio art. Faculty members are practicing artists who teach students in small groups, following a unique interdisciplinary curriculum that combines hands-on experience with core theory and prepares graduates to become well-rounded, creative, problem-solving professionals. As a Laureate International Universities Center of Excellence in Art, Architecture and Design, the university boasts an international student body and opportunities to study abroad, encouraging students to develop a global perspective on the arts. Santa Fe University of Art and Design is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association, http://www.ncahlc.org.

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