Paul Revere School Students’ ‘Street Performers’ Wins Awards

By Sue Pascoe

Most visitors walking along Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade have seen the guy painted silver and dressed entirely in silver. He remains motionless like a statue before finally moving in slow, deliberate gestures. The spectacle is so unusual that parents hand children dollar bills to give to the fellow, who has been performing there for 13 years—and thinks of himself as a mirror.

No one really knows anything about the man’s background, but everyone knows of him. That changed when Paul Revere Middle School eighth graders Tessa Smigla, Rose Morris, Becca Whitaker, Anna Cooper and Kira Prudente joined Pacifica sophomore Chloe Smigla to produce a short documentary, Street Performers on the 3rd Street Promenade.

The filmmakers who won two major awards included (left to right) Tessa and Chloe Smigla, Rose Morris and Anna Cooper. Not pictured: Becca Whitaker and Kira Prudente
The filmmakers who won two major awards included (left to right) Tessa and Chloe Smigla, Rose Morris and Anna Cooper. Not pictured: Becca Whitaker and Kira Prudente

Their 9-minute film was one of 38 out of 400 selected films to screen at the 11th Annual Santa Monica International Teen Film Festival in July. The selected films were shown at New Roads High School and the Santa Monica Library.

The awards show producers called this “an extraordinarily difficult year to judge because the quality of the films was outstanding.”

The Smigla sisters and their Revere friends were doubly excited when they learned they had won the 2016 Budding Film Maker Award and the 2016 Audience Choice Award.

“We go to the Promenade a lot and we have always wondered about the people who perform there,” Chloe Smigla said. “We thought it would be interesting to interview the performers and hear about their stories.”

Last summer, over four months, the filmmakers interviewed various street performers on the Promenade. Tessa Smigla added, “During the interviews we asked the performers questions like: ‘Where are you from? How long have you been performing on the Promenade?’ and ‘Why did you decide to perform there?’”

“I think the hardest part of making this film was the editing,” Morris said. “We had lots of raw footage and we then had to go through all of it and find the best videos. We asked a series of questions to each performer, and during editing, we grouped the answers to each question together. To do that, we had to sort through all of the videos to find everyone’s answer to each question.”

“We were very surprised to find that people perform there from all over the world,” Chloe said. “Some of them have been there for decades and they come from various backgrounds. There was a civil engineer getting his master’s degree who was a balloon artist and another balloon artist who went to Berkeley.”

Tessa added, “There was a musician from Dubai who is getting his master’s degree at UCLA, who played the saxophone. There was an 11-year-old guitar player performing in a band with his 5-year-old brother, who plays the drums. They have been performing on the Promenade for two years.”

The filmmakers also discovered a 73-year-old woman who lost her job as an executive assistant and has been dancing on the Promenade for the past seven years. And they spoke to a partially-sighted blues musician who writes his own songs.

“The majority of the people we interviewed seemed really happy to be performing on the Promenade,” Tessa said. The students were asked why they thought they won the audience award.

“I think this film resonated to the audience because most people in Santa Monica have had a personal experience with these street performers,” Morris said. “One audience member even told a story about how one performer took a bite out of her friend’s sandwich.”

“It gave background into street performers’ real lives,” Whitaker said, adding that the most difficult aspect of making the film was “the editing; there were so many different versions before we settled on the final cut.”

The film was accepted into the Marina Del Rey Film Festival and screened at the Cinemark 18 in Westchester on Aug. 13.

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