Warm welcome for 'Cool' film

Becket Schroeder's documentary about the Walla Walla Roastery and its owners was chosen for a national film festival.

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WALLA WALLA -- Becket Shroeder's dream of becoming a roller coaster engineer lasted only until his love of films took over.

During the summer between fifth and sixth grades, Schroeder, 14, realized his calling in life is to make movies.

"In 2009 I knew this is what I really wanted to do," he said.

Recruiting a friend to help, Schroeder spent the summer making small films, inspired in part by having watched "Terminator Salvation," the fourth installment in the series that stands out for its special effects. Shroeder and his friend recreated their own battle and fight scenes with the clever use of toy gun caps and a hammer in his back yard.

"We didn't know what we were doing," he admitted.

Schroeder then learned about the Young Filmmakers Club launched through The Lift after-school program at Lincoln High School. Although Schroeder is a student at Pioneer Middle School, he was able to participate because The Lift programs run outside school hours.

Brian Gurnett, a local filmmaker, taught the Young Filmmakers Club at Lincoln. Gurnett said that once Shroeder got the OK to participate in the class, he stood out as a dedicated student.

"He was there without fail," Gurnett said. "He was one of my best students."

When Gurnett assigned a documentary project to the students, Schroeder and some friends who joined the club with him decided to focus on the Walla Walla Roastery.

"There was a bunch of really big stuff they could have drawn from," Gurnett said. "They went with the coffee shop. I thought that was interesting."

The resulting film, "Cool Beans," provides an intimate look at the Walla Walla Roastery and its owners, brother and sister Thomas Reese and Mary Senter.

"Cool Beans" was produced by Shroeder and friends Justin Evans, Joey Camacho and Tyrel Gillespie.

Gurnett said that other than answering some questions for the teens, the Cool Beans film is entirely their project.

"They went out and shot the whole thing entirely without me, and they edited it," he said. "It definitely was their film."

Seeing the final project, Gurnett said he better understood the desire to focus on the Roastery and its owner for the film.

"It is so unique, and it is kind of underground," Gurnett said. "That's why it's a good story."

"Cool Beans" was accepted into the National Film Festival for Talented Youth, and screened in Seattle April 26-29. It was one of about 220 films selected for the festival, out of close to 800 submissions.

Gurnett and The Lift's program director Jeremy Gradhwohl traveled to Seattle with the young filmmakers and their families for the festival. The teens got to walk a red carpet, answer questions after the screening, and attend a party in their honor.

"It was absolutely phenomenal," Gurnett said about the festival. "They were just floating."

Shroeder is already busy with another film project. He's entering a contest through Expedia.com that is open just to past and present NFFTY participants.

"I think I have potential for it," he said.

He's also available to produce films through his production company, Wave Studios.

He already had one job through it, making an introduction video for Pioneer's recent talent show.

"Becket has dreamed of being a film maker and intends on pursuing that dream with film school," wrote his mom, Kimi Shroeder, in an email.

"Becket isn't in Explorers, he's just a normal kid that found his passion in life early and is creating his own destiny."

Confident of his career choice, Shroeder is only looking to grow and learn his craft with time.

"I hope to take it all the way, go big with it," he said.

Maria P. Gonzalez can be reached at mariagonzalez@wwub.com or 526-8317.

Where to watch

Check out "Cool Beans" and other student produced films at 4 p.m. this Saturday during the Student Produced Independent Films for Youth (SPIFFY) festival at Walla Walla High School. The festival was created by Dan Calzaretta, Explorers instructor at Pioneer Middle School.

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