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From Hot Wheels to hot reels

Cameron Lew, winner of annual student filmmaking contest, has his sights on a career behind the camera.

April 03, 2013|By Alnas Zia
  • Cameron Lew is the winner of the recent Surf City Student Film Festival.
Cameron Lew is the winner of the recent Surf City Student… (SCOTT SMELTZER )

Cameron Lew is truly one of the cool kids of the social media age.

The 17-year-old Huntington Beach High School junior has been shooting and editing videos for his YouTube channel since eighth grade. However, Cameron's filming career started as early as 8 years old. Armed with an old DV tape camera that he used to "steal" from his dad, he would film his Lego figures and Hot Wheels and just make "silly stuff" with his friends.

On his 13th birthday, he got a camera and saved up enough money to buy a computer of his own. Today, he is winning film festivals and has expanded his genre beyond building blocks and toy cars.

Cameron's short film "Swung" won the grand prize at the 2013 Surf City Student Film Festival on March 18 and also swept the Best Editing and Best Acting/Directing categories. The film festival is hosted annually by the Academy for the Performing Arts, a program of the Huntington Beach Union High School District, and is open to all district students. Cameron has been a part of APA since he was a freshman.

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Last year, he teamed up with a friend and made a film that won a grand prize at the festival. His second consecutive win this year was, surprisingly, an entirely different experience; his film brought the audience to its feet.

"When the winner was announced, I got a standing ovation by my friends. And eventually the whole crowd stood up and applauded," he said with a hint of humility. "I was like, 'Wow, this is amazing...I can't believe it.' I thought it was really astounding."

The film is a love story of two teenagers who grew up together and shared a passion for photography. Their love is destroyed by a horrific act of texting while driving, leaving one to reminisce about their time spent together through the memories captured on film.

"He's won the festival two years running for one simple reason," APA media advisor Michael Simmons explained. "There are multiple criteria that the judges base their numbers on, like story, cinematography, acting, etc. Most young filmmakers put much of their energy into one area, like writing, camera work or effects, but the ones who pay attention to all those areas together score the highest and win. That's what Cameron does. It's no secret. I remind all my students all the time."

John Borack, general manager of the Public Cable Television Authority and a music journalist, was one of the 12 judges at the festival this year. Borack described Cameron's film as "stylized" and "professional."

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