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College freshman gets hands-on experience making movies
Corey O'Quinn holds a microphone during filming July 9 on the beach in Florida. The film will go up for a vote Thursday on Fresh Films' Web site.
Slurpee superhero films: Learn more about the film contest, vote on your favorite and see behind-the-scenes footage.

The teenagers gathered on the Florida beach, wind whipping their hair and their boom microphones.

There was a hint of rain in the air, and the pressure was on — this was the only day they had to film scenes for their movie, "How I Met My Mermaid," and they were running out of time.

"It was fine for Thursday morning, but we broke for lunch and they had to clear the beach because of lightning," said Corey O'Quinn, a freshman at Georgia Southern from Flowery Branch. "They called everyone to go home ... But right when we got that call, it had stopped raining and we waded through about 6 inches of standing water on the ground.

"While we were shooting, it started raining again. It was one of those things you'll never forget."

O'Quinn was one of a handful of teens chosen to spend a week in Orlando, Fla., to film a superhero-themed movie as part of an annual contest sponsored by Fresh Films. It is open to ages 14 to 19 and is a contest for both screenwriting hopefuls — there is a separate script contest earlier in the year - and students who want to get into directing and film producing.

O'Quinn joined nine others for the making of the film, which was completed in July in less than a week. On Thursday, the film goes head-to-head for online votes against other teen-produced films on Fresh Films' Web site.

A broadcasting major at Georgia Southern, O'Quinn also spent time in the broadcasting program at Flowery Branch High School and said the experience helped him learn different aspects of the film production process. He also completed an internship with CNN last summer and submitted reports from the presidential inauguration earlier this year.

But not all the kids in the program had specific experience, and that's part of the purpose, said Alana Bardauskis, publicist for Fresh Films.

"We produce a program that gives teens an outlet over the summer, because that's usually when they're available," she said. "Our producers go through the applications by hand. They look for various ages. ... We use film as a channel, and it's important to us that we don't just appeal to teens who want to be the next Steven Spielberg. As long as they have the creativity, we teach them the skills on location."

That was one fun aspect of the production, O'Quinn said, because everyone found their own specialty and worked on that during the filming.

"The program is marketed as no experience necessary, so it was very cool how we could work as a team," he said. "Everybody brought their own strengths. Most of them were from the Orlando area; one of the kids was from as far as Washington state."

Bardauskis said if the Orlando crew, which O'Quinn was a part of, comes out of the online competition victorious in the first round of online voting, they go on to compete for the Viewer's Choice award.

Winners of that receive a copy of the professional editing software Final Cut Pro, Flip digital camcorders and the ability to see their film premiere at a film festival, such as the AFI Dallas International Film Festival.

The first round of voting runs Thursday through Sept. 2. The final round runs Sept. 3-9.

O'Quinn also credited his former teacher, Lori Koser, with helping him gain experience working on a team.

"You can't do something like that with just one person. It requires teamwork and (having) the leaders, (having) the people who know what they're doing," he said. "Some people were running the equipment and some people were running the shots. Everyone's strengths came together to produce a very cohesive film."