Penn-Trafford senior named finalist at international short-film competition
When Ryan Mickey of Penn Township was in middle school, he remembers getting together with his cousins during the holidays.
“We had our little iPods, and we’d make these little two-minute videos,” Mickey said.
The 18-year-old’s early interest in multimedia is paying off: Mickey’s three-minute short film, “Mirror Image,” was named a top-three finalist in the “Young Filmmakers” category at the My Rode Reel Film Competition, the largest short-film competition in the world.
“This was my first project where I had a script, had a vision for what I wanted and was able to direct things,” Mickey said.
“Mirror Image” tells the story of a teen who is being bullied, with a last-minute swerve that deepens the plot’s context and changes who the viewer thinks is telling the story.
Mickey said the concept was one of the most difficult parts of the project.
“I had a bunch of big ideas, but I wanted to focus on something I know about,” he said. “I wanted to show two sides of a story. There’s a reason why kids do things, even if it might not be visible from the outside.”
Mickey honed his directing and production skills in Penn-Trafford High School’s multimedia classes
“The classes here at Penn-Trafford are phenomenal,” he said. “From day one, you’re learning, hands-on, all the aspects of production. Collaborating with other students, you learn the necessities for how to carry out a great project.”
Video production teacher Steve Vinton said the most important thing he tries to impart to multimedia studies students is a solid foundation.
“You want them to have the fundamentals of using a camera and of production,” Vinton said. “From there, you start to layer on the specifics for things like film or television.”
Mickey has put that foundation to good use.
“He’s too humble to say it, but he’s been nominated for eight National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences student awards and won four times,” Vinton said. “He also won a PIAA public-service announcement contest with an opioid-addiction PSA that ended up being broadcast at all of the PIAA state championship games in all sports.”
Vinton said today’s students have a background in film and TV aesthetics even if they don’t realize it.
“I tell them: they’ve been professional consumers of high-grade TV and film production their entire lives,” he said.
That experience helped Mickey with one of the biggest challenges: a fight scene in which a bully is beating up a fellow student.
“It’s only 30 seconds, but it took two hours to film, just getting all these different angles and doing more takes,” he said. “Both (of the actors, Penn-Trafford alum Jonathan Heinbaugh and senior Nick Konopka) are active in drama, so they had experience with this type of thing.”
And while he did not come out on top in his category, Mickey is far from discouraged.
“I love being behind the camera, telling stories and putting things like this together,” he said.
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .