East Grand Rapids High School’s Xiangyu Chen approaches filmmaking with a seamless blend of art and science. His talents were rewarded with a first-place prize in the 2020 Mosaic Mobile film competition for his short film “Possibility of Success.” The grand prize includes $1,000 cash, mentoring sessions with Adobe professionals with the possibility of his work being screened at the 2021 Adobe Max conference and 100 percent tuition coverage to attend an Interlochen Center for the Arts’ three-week summer Film & New Media program.
“I was really excited. I didn’t think I was going to win this year. There were a lot of other films that I really liked in the finals,” Xiangyu said. “Winning the competition still means a lot to me, not just because of the prizes, but also I’m able to spread my message further and communicate to more people, and I hope that will inspire people.”
Winners of the 2020 Mosaic Mobile film competition were announced at the 2020 Mosaic Event, which, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was broadcast virtually on November 4 from Celebration Cinema in Grand Rapids. The event was headlined by creative and digital media professionals whose work includes Hollywood blockbusters like “Black Panther” and “Guardians of the Galaxy 2,” Electronic Arts’ The Sims videogame franchise, sporting events like the NBA Playoffs and Olympics and television shows like “This Is Us.” Fifth Third Bank was the event’s powered by sponsor.
Mosaic Mobile is the Mosaic Film Experience’s annual filmmaking contest in which high school students shoot and edit a short film entirely on their mobile devices. Films tell a story in only 2-3 minutes. Each year, Mosaic Mobile requires films to feature a theme, prop, and saying. The criteria are intentionally left open-ended to encourage student’s interpretation and creativity.
This year, “possibilities” is the theme, “keys” is the prop, and the saying, “I am…” must be spoken or featured in the film. 2020 films explored themes like students’ fears for the future concerning the COVID-19 pandemic, civil rights, and the pursuit of their dreams.
“By creating short films on phones and tablets, Mosaic Mobile is leveling the content creation playing field and challenging the conventions of storytelling,” said Skot Welch, founder of the Mosaic Film Experience. “Throughout the creative process, students are flexing their critical thinking, creativity and collaboration muscles, which are skills that are critical in whatever career they pursue.”
“Possibility of Success” explores Xiangyu’s reflections on his love for both film and math. He’s been making small films since 7th grade, but his parents always encouraged him to pursue his math talents, considering it the safer career option.
“In terms of math and engineering, that especially helps me putting my shots all together, planning it out,” Xiangyu said. “Engineering-wise, I construct something piece-by-piece. That’s the STEM process and it’s also the editing process in film. I put shots piece-by-piece together and I figure out how to use smaller pieces to build toward that bigger vision.”
The film also explores Xiangyu’s uncertainty about the future. As a high school senior, he’s about to head into a future shaped by the chaos 2020 has brought. But as he said in his film, there’s any number of possibilities for success.
“In many ways, filmmaking is like my voice. I kind of speak through filmmaking,” he said. “I’m still going to be majoring in STEM-fields, probably engineering, but I see myself possibly minoring in film. Most certainly, I’ll be doing it as a hobby. It’s become part of my life.”
A total of 64 films were submitted in this year’s competition. All films were judged by a panel of area film directors, media literacy professionals, and other industry professionals. The top 10 films from the competition can now be watched on the Mosaic Film Experience YouTube page.
“Mosaic Mobile empowers students to tell own their own narratives and expand the media landscape by adding their voice,” said Mallory Patterson, Mosaic’s education lead. “Every year you get a pulse for where students are at in life. This year, I think because of the climate, I think students really dug deep.”
In 2019, Xiangyu’s submission “A Second Story” explored his experiences overcoming stereotypes as an immigrant from China. The film won him the popular vote, earning the Mosaic Mobile Rick Wilson Award and a $500 prize.
2020 Mosaic Mobile Winners:
- Rick Wilson Award (based on public vote), $500: Brezlynn Rose, Careerline Tech Center – “2020”
Third Place, $250: Fiona Ehrlich, East Grand Rapids High School – “Possibili-keys (haha get it)”
- Second Place, $500: Madison Scott, Careerline Tech Center – “Project 5”
- First Place, $1,000: Xiangyu Chen, East Grand Rapids High School – Possibility of Success”
Interlochen Center for the Arts is generously providing the top three Mosaic Mobile winners with tuition coverage to a three-week summer Film & New Media programs at Interlochen Arts Camp and/or merit scholarships to attend Interlochen Arts Academy as a Film & New Media major starting in the fall 2021 semester.
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