Reel Stories 2024: a screening of short films

Reel Stories is Spy Hop’s longest running film program! Students in this class spend three weeks writing, planning, and filming their own short films that speak to who they are and what they’re interested in. This class culminates in a community screening at the Salt Lake City Public Library. Check out this year’s films, read a bit about each filmmaker, and enjoy photos from the film screening. Grab a bucket of popcorn, and enjoy! Don’t forget to share your favorite films with a friend, and leave the filmmakers a nice comment or like on their work.

You can watch all of this year’s Reel Stories films on this YouTube playlist.

Orange by Kyra McGarry

Orange is an experimental nonfiction film using stylized shoots and snippets of phone calls to create a piece that encapsulates what it feels like to be an American teenager right now in the world; mental illness, religious oppression, and everyone’s favorite: problem-parents. Real stories from my friends and I; an homage to being human.

About Kyra McGarry (she/her)

I am an actress and striving to be one, I love self expression and fashion, I love my cat, I am 18 and getting there in life. I love getting lost in film and being a part of those worlds, i could be anyone or anything at any time, even on different planets or in different dimensions. Imagine how cool that is! Anyways stay cool, cool cats.

The Art of Change by Alice Aguilar-Rivera

During the Renaissance period, art was highly detailed and full of expression; to this day, the emotion behind it can be felt, despite the time that has passed. Over the years, art & architecture styles have changed, and they will continue to do so. As the modern/contemporary style has taken over society’s point of view of art, however, an issue of quality has arisen, causing us to ask, “What is art?” In this film, we sit with one artist and hear their opinion on the present state of art, then vs. now.

About Alice Aguilar-Rivera (she/they)

I am a 17-year-old senior with a passion for films and art. I am introverted and enjoy little things in life and observe those around me. Some of my favorite things to do in my free time are play video games, sketch/paint, hang out with my friends, and study new interesting things. I’m a very curious person in the world and use this to my advantage to get to know other people and other subjects a lot better. (Makes up for the introverted-ness)

Get Outta Town by Fernando Cardenas

In a world focused on the hustle and bustle of the city, we often feel disconnected from nature. My film explores the process of getting away from our car-centric, polluted city and going back to where we feel best, our roots.

About Fernando Cardenas (he/him)

Hi, My name is Fernando Cardenas. I am a sophomore at Olympus High School. I am very interested in photography, filmmaking and psychology.

Frame of Mind by Caryn Ohki

“Frame of Mind,” a  Spy Hop production by Cary Ohki (director), follows the stories of three multi-generation Asian-American women who grew up in Utah. All three interviewees open up about their toils with self-image and internalized racism growing up in a homogenous society. When Utah is your only home and your only people, how do you combat the weariness of trying to fit in and burying sentiments of otherness? How do you root yourself when the frame people view you through is a picture of not belonging? 

In addition to Asian-American women who struggled with their identities, the film concludes with the opinions of Asian-Americans who didn’t struggle with their identities. Questions of what in your life defines and shapes you, who you are, and what you are tied to are the ultimate mystery that this journey aims to present. 

What frames do you wear?

About Caryn Ohki (any pronouns)

Hi, I’m Caryn Ohki; you can call me Cary. I’m a freshman in college, immersing myself in the intriguing worlds of creative writing and English literature. My studies are complemented by a deep interest in social work. Outside of academia, I’m a storyteller in various forms, from novels and screenplays to visual art. I like to think of myself as a modern-day Davinci, blending different mediums to tell compelling stories. My inspiration? Life’s diverse experiences and the stories they hold.

Fragile Collectors by Zoey Zuck

Fragile Collectors is a spotlight piece on collector, Mark Weisenberg, a Salt Lake City collector of vintage games, action figures, and general toys. In this film, we get a glimpse of Mark’s world of collected objects, and how his love of toys, such as milky the marvelous milking cow, began.

About Zoey Zuck (any pronouns)

collector, theatre tech and semi professional weirdo.

Who am I by Thomas Pepper

As new 2024 high school graduates move onto the next, new part of adulthood, they grapple with knowing what they want to do with the rest of their lives. In Who am I, a hybrid-nonfiction film, director Thomas Pepper explores identity from youth into early adulthood. 

Who Am I tells the story of Thomas, in the role of a fictional film interviewer, hired onto a production team to ask other recent high school grads one big existential question: who are you? Through the process, Thomas – unable to answer the question for himself – starts exploring and understanding who he is and who he wants to be. As this interviewer originally came in only to learn about the technical world of film, Thomas learns throughout the filming process, who he truly is.

About Thomas Pepper (he/him)

I’m 17 years old, and majoring in film at the University of Utah. I’m a filmmaker and especially a short film enthusiast. My favorite things to do are play video games, eat different types of food, and hang out with friends/family. I’m also a dog person 🙂

The Deities of Aphrodite by Phoenix Ballesteros

From the voices of two generations, filmmaker Phoenix Ballesteros explores the issue of sexualization among women despite the current efforts to eliminate such issues. Throughout the decades, women have struggled with societal pressures and the traditional norms to be modest and dress for men. However, in this new day and age, women have been encouraged to explore their physical self-expression and take ownership and authority of their own body. While this is a positive movement that is seeing progress, women are still being sexualized over their stylistic choices.

About Phoenix Ballesteros (she/her)

I’m a 17 year old student who focuses primarily around the arts such as film and music, but also a dedicated writer. I want to pursue a career in one of those fields and create stories that are impactful to me or ones I wish I lived. My favorite things in the world are my two basses whom I treat as my favorite child among my other instruments. Despite music being my main focus, film has always been prominent in my life and it’s my way of expressing my imagination.

The Reality of Having Cerebral Palsy by Drake Becker

Drake Becker has lived with cerebral palsy his whole life and is now ready to share his story with you. After years of seeing a lack of understanding and empathy from the public, he believes there just isn’t enough awareness or knowledge for the ADA (American Disability Act). In order for change, people need to see what it’s really like. Through interviews with Drake, his family, and his occupational therapist, we get to see the technical and emotional aspects of cerebral palsy. 

About Drake Becker (he/him)

Hi! I’m Drake! I am a 16 year old high school student at East High. I have cerebral palsy and I’m a disability advocate on social media @ddogcity (this is my selfish plug to follow me). I enjoy hanging out with my family, dancing, playing with my doggie, and making films!

REEL Stories film screening on June 27, 2024

On June 27th, 2024, nearly one hundred people packed into the Salt Lake City Public Library’s auditorium to experience eight brand new short films, made by Utah teens. Whether the film brought smiles, laughter, or tears, each was met with a huge round of applause. A big thanks to everyone who was able to come and enjoy these films, and to our sponsors and donors who make programs like these possible.

A special thanks to:

Executive Producers: Stephen G. & Susan E. Denkers Foundation, Willard L. Eccles Foundation, Jessica Barkley, Chris Le, and Rebecca Robinson
Associate Producers: Oscar Party Salt Lake City, Tracy Altman, Shannon Drage, Heather Kahlert, Annie Quan & Skye Emerson
Line Producers: Becca Day, Chelsea Malouf, Kasandra VerBrugghen & Andreas Schmidt, and Nathan & Jinna Thomas
Contributors: Micah Henderson, Dallen Allred, Tammie Bostick, Brent Bowen, Abby Doll, Jody Jones, Carolyn Leone, Kristina Maljovec, Mariah & Derek Mellus, Jim Milligan, Darin Patterson, Virginia Pearce, Laura Sellers, Annabel Sheinberg, Dan Sorensen, Daela Taeoalii-Higgs & Joshua Tipton, Nastaran Alimadadi, Tessa Arneson & Timothy Watcke, Christy Chatelain & Joe Sanchez, Maria DeMarco, Cassandra Empey, Molly Lynn, Angie Matinkhah, Hunter Metcalf, Crystal Tracy, Rick Wray, Yasaman Alimadadi, Olga Cano, Skye Cummins, Monika de St Germain, Rae Dial, Abby Dizon-Maughan, Tonya Hastings, Eric Hostetler, Steve Miller, Candace Neal, Erika Cohn, Anna Cook, Nicole Custen, Sadee Hansen, Ashley Iordanov, Jen Knight, Annie McCutchan, Laubel Moreno, Shelby Rockelein, George Stromquist, Jen Ungvichian, and Trayce Webb

And, a huge shoutout to our 25th Anniversary sponsor, the Willard L. Eccles Foundation, as well as our other year-round supporters: ZAP, National Endowment for the Arts, Jarvis & Constance Doctorow Family Foundation, Marriner S. Eccles Foundation, George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, Stephen G. & Susan E. Denkers Foundation, Salt Lake City Arts Council, Salt Lake City Arts Culture and Events, and the Utah Division of Arts and Museums.

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