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Third-graders fly high in film festival competitions
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Spencer Perry, left, and Will Morris, right, both third-graders at Mount Vernon Exploratory School, pilot a drone in Oakwood on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. Spencer and Will made a film with several of their drones and have been accepted to multiple film festivals around the world. The drone in this photo was not used to make their film. - photo by David Barnes

Drones are the way of the future, so Will Morris and Spencer Perry are getting a head start on the action.

“My father gave me a drone when I was little,” Spencer said. “I was like six going on seven, and I got my first flying drone.”

Hall County Regional Educational Technology Fair

When: 8:30 a.m. Jan. 23 for high schools; 8:30 a.m.  Jan. 24 for elementary and middle schools

Where: North Hall Community and Technology Center, 4175 Nopone Road, Gainesville

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They are both in the third grade at Mount Vernon Exploratory School and will be competing in the Hall County Regional Educational Technology Fair on Jan. 24. They won’t be newcomers to the competition, though.

Last year, they competed in the tech fair with a drone movie they created, but just on the elementary school level. They won first place but couldn’t go to the regional competition because they were in the second grade, a year too early to qualify.

So instead, their parents set their sights on something bigger for their children: film festivals.

“We were afraid that we would submit it and no one would pick it up and they would be disappointed,” said Tara Perry, Spencer’s mother. “So we didn’t tell them until it got picked up.”

To their surprise, the film was selected for multiple festivals.

“I was really excited,” Will said. “I was really happy that we could actually win.”

And that’s exactly what they did. The Berlin Flash Film Festival in Germany gave the film an Outstanding Achievement award in October. It will also be part of the Young Filmmakers Festival in New York and the blue2blue Drone Film Festival in Australia.

The film they submitted is just over three minutes long and begins in the parking lot at Mount Vernon. As the drone takes off, it starts to fly past the flagpole and above trees to circle the school. It was filmed on a sunny day with just a few clouds in the sky, so there’s a picturesque silhouette of the mountains in the distance.

The video cuts to inside the school as a drone with wheels roams around the gym, through the hallways, into the library and finally on lunchroom tables.

It’s a simple video, but it showcases just how smart the third-graders are because the skill isn’t simple. Will and Spencer had to create a flight path for the drone and use iMovie to actually create the film.

That’s what Spencer’s mother said the festivals are looking for.

“I think that the film festivals have picked up on it,” she said. “Because they only used drones and they were so young when they did it. That’s what makes it the most unusual.”

It wasn’t all fun and games, though. Both Will and Spencer said it was hard work getting everything together and making sure it all worked properly. And when they were finished filming, the job was only half done.

“The hardest part was just downloading and putting all the music in and deleting footage that we didn’t want,” Will said. 

The work paid off, though, as Will and Spencer now get to see their film go off to film festivals across the world.

And they aren’t just stopping with drones. In this year’s tech fair, Will will be competing in the game design category with an app he created from scratch. Spencer will be competing in the robotics category with a robot he programmed to complete a number of tasks.

“These are like toys,” Spencer said. “But they’re really cool toys.”

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