AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESanta Anita opens winter meet Saturday with loaded card “This one was very hard because they looked at over 200 children and could operate on only 35, so they had to turn a lot away,” he said. “I want to get more awareness of this project and want to help get more surgeries done.” Blum is one of more than 1,000 teenagers who have participated in the festival, which was established in 1999. This year’s show is in June, and organizers are asking for entries from teenagers all over Ventura County and nearby parts of Los Angeles. Many of the teenagers who have entered the festival say they are interested in going on to film school or professional work in the film industry. Taylor Cross, 17, a Thousand Oaks teenager with high-functioning autism, started in 2005 with five interviews and a 10-minute documentary about living with autism, which he entered in the teen festival. Now 17, he has put together 65 interviews to produce a 90-minute documentary about autism scheduled for release in March. THOUSAND OAKS – Aaron Blum first turned his video camera on to the world at age 12 when he filmed a documentary about a local fire station. From there, he captured the exploits of a mountain bike-riding neighbor. His topics soon turned more serious, including a documentary chronicling racism experienced by African-Americans and Holocaust survivors. He entered his work over and over in a local contest called the Conejo Teen Video Festival, and last year won first prize in the documentary category with a video about a popular rock band made up of local teens. Now 16, he recently returned from Honduras with footage from his latest project involving local doctors who provide surgery to children with clubfeet. “This is an amazing film that we hope one day would merit recognition in other competitions, including Cannes and the Academy Awards,” said his mother, Keri Bowers. Ethan Kuperberg, 17, a junior at Agoura High School, won three awards in last year’s festival, including best video for his musical “Anthony in the Key of B,” about a Harvard-bound student who gets a B in math, shattering his dreams. Justin Choh, an Agoura High classmate of Kuperberg, won the best actor award for his work in Kuperberg’s video, and Kuperberg also won for most original video and best technical achievement. “Anthony” also won awards at the Ojai and Santa Barbara film festivals and was screened at the Berkeley Film Festival. “I love to make people laugh and try to think of how I can do that,” Kuperberg said. “This (Conejo) festival has been a great outlet for me to expose my films locally.” Linda Parks, chairwoman of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, has been an award presenter at the festival, which she called “incredibly impressive.” “I’m the mother of two teenage boys who love watching these films,” she said. “It’s our own festival, and the quality keeps getting better. You see things you have never seen before. I think … ‘Anthony in the Key of B’ was one of the best all-time films I’ve ever seen.” The chairman and co-producer of the festival is J.J. Linsalata, an assistant director for “Charmed” and “Beverly Hills 90210” and a member of the Thousand Oaks Arts Commission. The Conejo festival “is one of the best things high school kids get to do in this area,” he said. “You can teach them all you want about editing, but until they do it and find out what’s wrong with it, that’s when they learn.” Kellen Moore, 17, a junior at Moorpark High School, is entering again this year after winning awards the last two years for his work. Last year, he won for best screen play for “Stranded,” a fantasy about a teenager who gets stuck with a broken down car in the middle of nowhere and can’t remember how he got there. It was shot in the Tapo Canyon area of Simi Valley, which looked remote enough until cars came by, repeatedly ruining the image Moore was trying to record. “I was freaking out, saying, ‘Where are all these cars coming from,”‘ he said. “My big goal was just creating this fantasy environment, a new environment that was unrecognizable to the audience.” He agreed with Linsalata that the video makers have to accept criticism and keep learning from their mistakes. “If you always think you are doing the best you can and never get criticism,” he said, “you never learn.” Eric Leach, (805) 583-7602 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!