I’m an outstanding uncle. From my recent-college-graduate niece (I’m so proud of you, Nyomi!) to the 2-year-old nephew just learning the basics — and the 10 in between — I’ve had decades of practice being a stand-in for this occasionally dirty dozen. I love working and developing friendships with youth and teens because young people are cool and because there is nothing like the fun I have when I’m around them. I’ve met some amazing kids in Santa Monica this past year and now that school is out and summer is here, using this space to recognize how incredible they are is the least I can do for them after all they’ve done for me.

I’ve never been one to miss a chance to see young people shine, so on Father’s Day, I spent the afternoon at the fourth Santa Monica Teen Film Festival. The City Hall-sponsored, City Hall-produced event shows the work of filmmakers between the ages of 12 and 18 and featured 21 films between 30 seconds and 30 minutes in length screened over two days. The young directors didn’t disappoint in either the quality or variety of their work — including moving documentaries, compelling live action films, and some new and innovative takes on animation and music video. Here are some of the festival’s stars and the advice they got from their dads:

Spencer Capiello: “The Rubik’s Cube Thing.”

A student at New Roads Middle School who got his start “in video class with Michelle,” Spencer says the best advice he got from his dad (who was listening intently while we talked) was “everything.”

Jordan Howard: “A Day in the Life.”

Jordan attends Environmental Charter High School in Lawndale and made this film as a part of an afterschool program. She says her dad is “now a reformed skeptic” when it comes to environmentalism. She won Sunday’s Audience Choice Award.

Zoe Malecki: “Frank & Geraldine Take On the Machine” & “Zap.”

A prolific filmmaker since she realized “people actually make these things,” this wasn’t her first film festival — though it will be her last SMTFF because she’ll be past the age limit. “Check the spelling” was her dad’s advice. She won second place Best Animation.

Evan Berger: “Squabble.”

Evan’s playful claymation Scrabble game between an angel and a devil won first place Best Animation and second place Best of the Festival. His dad “just clapped a lot for me.”

Jessica Deutchman: “Meet the Tindells.”

A previous winner at the California Student Media Festival, her dad told her that “every detail matters.” She won second place Best Documentary.

Mackenzie Evans: “Imagination.”

Second place Best Live Action winner, Mackenzie’s story about two boys playing with a stick turns into a four minute green-screen adventure partly thanks to her dad’s advice to “give people pleasing shots to look at.”

J. David Ruby: “The Pool.”

A story about a little girl, her new house, and a magic pool is ironic subject matter given his dad’s advice to “think practically.” David won first place Best Live Action.

Ayana Cheadle: “Yoshidori.”

Great camera work, anime-style drawing and Flash animation come together to win Ayana the Santa Monica Budding Filmmaker Award (given to the most promising young filmmaker residing in Santa Monica). What advice did she get from her Academy Award-nominated dad, Don Cheadle? “None,” she said. Sitting nearby and doing his best to stay out of it he wondered, “right under the bus, huh?” Like a good daughter, she said she was kidding and that he gave her lots of support and feedback.

The festival was made possible by the hard work of four people who deserve to be recognized: Justin Yoffe and Naomi Okuyama from the Miles Playhouse & Cultural Affairs, Carla Fantozzi of Human Services and the Virginia Avenue Park Teen Center, and Erica Cuyugan, the Young Adult librarian at the Main Santa Monica Public Library. Excellent job!

I also have to show some love to the graduating seniors in the Santa Monica delegation to the California Model Legislature & Court; a program in which a few thousand high school students from around the state practice being the legislators, judges, lawyers, lobbyists, and media who work in and around Sacramento (they’re also most likely to actually solve our budget problems). These young people are the cream of the crop, they’re super-smart, and the Santa Monica delegation is the best of the bunch.

You’re all rock stars and you know it! You’ve worked hard to get to where you are, but remember this is just the beginning. Please be smart and be safe this summer so you can go on to places like Berkeley, S.F. State, Michigan, and NYU — and make it happen.

I couldn’t be prouder of all of you if I was your … well, you know.

Kenny Mack is a multi-platform content provider living in Santa Monica who will be at the West Side Eclectic tonight discussing the response to last week’s column on Bill Maher’s op/ed. His past columns are archived at www.ifyoumissedit.com and he can be reached at kennymack@gmail.com.

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