For the second time in three years, a group of East Lewis County students has taken home first prize at the student film competition at the Rainier Independent Film Festival, held annually in Ashford. 

“It’s really exciting to have the opportunity to do this, and to win, that’s really cool,” said Isabel Klein, a member of the Trillium Studios team that won the award. 

The group’s entry, “A Child’s Perspective,” was their third film in the three years the contest has run. They won the inaugural award and finished as the runner-up last year. 

“They were good when they started, but they’re getting significantly better,” said Warren Etheredge, a Seattle-based filmmaker who helped judge the competition. 

Fifteen teams of area high schoolers submitted short films based on the theme “a view from above,” the top 10 of which were screened at the festival Saturday. The Trillium team’s submission dealt with themes of childhood, loss, grief and friendship. 

“People oftentimes grow up too quickly,” Isabel said. “It’s important to see all perspectives and not just your own.”

The winning group is made up of students from Morton, Mineral and Mossyrock, all homeschoolers involved in productions at the Roxy Theatre in Morton. They range in age from 7 to 20. The production included Isabel and Scarlet Klein, Finn and Gus Greiter, Joshua Gerlach and Rosealyn Langham. 

Part of the idea for the plot came from a barn on the property of Rosealyn, the youngest member of the cast.

“She was in our film last year, and we really like working with her, so we wanted to make sure she could be part of it again,” Scarlet said. 

Rosealyn added that the chance to act is “really exciting.”

Joshua said he also enjoyed acting in the film.

“Getting into character wasn’t too challenging, but it was fun, the whole experience was really fun and interesting,” he said. “Their directing style is really fun to work with.”

While no one in attendance seemed too surprised to see them win the award, Scarlet said the group was antsy to hear the results. 

“We won the first year they had the contest, so every year we’re like, ‘What’s going happen this year? Is it going to be our year again?’” she said. 

For winning the competition, the group will receive a scholarship for $1,441.10 — a tribute to Mount Rainier’s elevation.

Etheredge said he did not expect the depth he witnessed in all of the student submissions. 

“I was surprised by how serious a lot of it was, how much dealt with grief and loss and family challenges,” he said. “That surprised me, and I thought it was very touching that people took that prompt and did something very earnest and heartfelt with it.”

He added that drawing submissions from the local area around Mount Rainier added a unique element to the contest. 

“I love the homegrown nature of this,” he said. “I love seeing just the visions of a community more than the country, because I think you get something special. I get a feel for the land as much as I do anything else.”

Onstage accepting the award, Isabel said the project, which was done over two weeks, had been a blast. 

“We had so much fun making this film,” she said. “I don’t think this film was ever going to be perfect, but that’s OK, because it’s art. Art isn’t supposed to be perfect.”

Asked by Etheredge if she was considering a career in filmmaking, she was ready with an answer — one that drew laughter from the audience.

“It’s a possibility,” she said. “I’m not that old, man, I have options.”

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