In his three-minute film, "Sound of Skateboarding Redux," West Springfield High School senior Tyler Vitello, 18, tries to explain the other side of skateboarding.
In the film, Vitello shows a mix of tricks and close-ups of several skateboarders, while voice-over commentary on skateboarding is projected by the video's stars. Additionally, the student filmmaker created a soundtrack, mixing beats by recording skateboarding sounds made during skate sessions.
"I've had the idea for a while," said Vitello, who worked on the film during a three- to five-month development period. "I've always wanted to do something like this. This would be the last opportunity to do this, to have a teacher willing to work with me on something like this."
On Thursday, Vitello's work will be tested against 15 other short films, competing in the third annual Free4All Film and Animation Fest, a regional high school competition started at Fairfax Academy -- part of the Fairfax County Public Schools system.
Student filmmakers will be joined by 14 animators, also competing for the title of best-in-show in their category. Students have the chance to win Autodesk 3ds Max (formerly 3D Studio MAX) software, valued at about $700, and a $100 cash prize.
More importantly, the festival offers students the chance to show their work to an audience of professionals and student peers, said Fairfax Academy instructor Roxanne Kaylor, who heads the school's Professional Graphics Studio.
"There's really been no venue, no event for them to show their work. So, that was the initial conception, to jury [their work]," Kaylor said. "Kids want to know how they're doing. Some of them [submitted] for fun. But a lot of them are serious about it."
This year's festival is the first time students from Fairfax County -- who still dominate about 90 percent of the event's lineup -- will compete against peers from other Northern Virginia localities.
"This is something that I've been looking at entering for a while," Vitello said. "But I never felt I had anything worth entering ... I haven't really seen any of the other works, but I think I have a good shot."
During previous festivals, Kaylor said, students often were told by judges that their work lacked a storyline. This year's submissions, however, rose to the challenge, she said.
"The videos are a lot stronger this year. They have a storyline, not just randomly skateboarding," she said. "One is an interview of an upcoming rap star [and his struggles]."
Of Vitello's film, Kaylor said it was a strong piece. It will compete against fellow senior Jonathan Earley's "The Graying of America: Social Security's Future," which received an honorable mention in C-SPAN's 2010 StudentCam documentary film contest.
Judges this year include representatives from R/GA Media Group Inc. -- a computer-assisted film corporation based in New York -- Cox Communications, Interface Media Group, the Art Institute of Washington in Arlington and Boston University's Center for Digital Imaging Arts. Projects also will be judged the day of the festival by attendees.
Students were limited to about six minutes of film time, Kaylor said.
Next year, she said she hopes to expand the competition.
"Next year, we really want to make it a 24-hour thing, where we give them a theme and they have 24 hours to write a story and present it [through film or animation]," Kaylor said.
-What: Free4All Film and Animation Fest
-When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday
-Where: Fairfax High School, 3501 Rebel Run, Fairfax City.
-Cost: Admission is free
-Student Films: 16
-Student Animations: 14
-Learn more: www.fatefacts.net/fest/