ELKO -- Young filmmakers stepped into the spotlight Thursday during the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. 

The Western Folklife Center premieres its Deep West videos during the Gathering. This year was the 14th annual showing of the films. At Thursday's event in the Elko Convention Center, five films made by Owyhee Combined School students were debuted.  

"At the folklife center, we don't care what the stories are about," said WFC Media Producer Taki Telonidis. "We just want them to be about the people and the place."

Deep West videos are short films about five minutes long, and the goal is to create a snapshot of the lives of people who live in "tucked-away" corners of the West, according to Telonidis.

The films are about people "who have something to say and show us and teach us about their lives," Telonidis said.

Usually, the Western Folklife Center asks for film submissions. However, this year Telonidis wanted to work on a project through a rural school, and approached Owyhee Combined School with the idea.

"This was a little different (from other Deep West films) because we wanted to see what kind of an impact it might have in kind of a school context," Telonidis said.

Teacher David Baker, who runs the after school program in Owyhee, started with a group of five junior high students. The Western Folklife Center provided film equipment and training.

"I'm really proud of theses guys. These films will help with a different perspective of how we live today," Baker said. 

Over the course of three months, the students made films about the Duck Valley Indian Reservation. They began working at about 3 p.m. each day and often filmed late into the night, according to Colene Paradise, who assisted them with the projects.

"It took a lot of work," she said. "These kids were very dedicated."

Talliah Hanchor, 13, made a film called "Life Styles in Duck Valley," which profiled some of the people who call Owyhee home and what they do, including saddle-making, ranching and branding, cradleboard making and growing vegetables in "hoop houses," or greenhouses.

"We wanted, when we finished the film, that everyone would know about Duck Valley," she said. 

Telonidis admitted during the showing on Thursday that he thought Hanchor's film idea was too broad at first. There were a lot of things to film and shoot, and he thought it would be better to focus on one thing specifically.

"You know what, you were right and I was wrong," he told her.

Gage Johnson, 12, focused on sports for his film, "Braves Pride." Owyhee Combined School is home of the Braves, the school mascot.

"It's like our team name and how our school was back then and how it is now," Johnson said about the theme of his film.

Johnson interviewed the basketball coach, and talked about the return of the school's football team. The year before, there weren't enough boys to field a team. 

"I'm proud to be here, and I hope you enjoy my video," Johnson said as he introduced the film.

Devin Baker, 12, interviewed Lester Shaw Jr., who had served in the Vietnam War, for his film, "Owyhee Veterans." Devin Baker dedicated the video to his great-uncle, who was killed in the Korean War.

"I put a lot of hard work and time into this so I hope you like it," Devin Baker said.

Shaw was injured in the war, and said in the film that he suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and other ailments as a result of serving in the military. 

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"After we got the interview, I know what he's gone through and what happened to him," Devin Baker said about Shaw. 

Twelve-year-old Izzy Pasqual retold a cowboy legend in her film, "Me, Horse and a Frozen River." In the legend, a cowboy known as Roy Jim relates a story about trying to cross a frozen river on horseback. 

Pasqual said she was interested in telling myths, which was the inspiration for her film. 

Destiny Max, 14, likes to run and the activity inspired her to create a film titled "Running Owyhee." She interviewed former Elko County School District superintendent Antoinette Cavanaugh, an avid runner.

In fact, running runs in Cavanaugh's genes. Her great-grandfather was well-known runner Race Harney, who apparently outran a man on horseback in his heyday.

"I felt nervous, excited and kind of inspired," Max said when asked how she felt presenting her video in public. 

Pasqual said she wasn't nervous because she's a good public speaker. Devin Baker was nervous, as well as Hanchor and Johnson, but Hanchor and Johnson added they felt confident once they began speaking.

All of the students helped each other make their films, serving as the crew in the videos they didn't direct themselves. Pasqual and Max said their favorite part about the filming was finding beautiful locations, while Devin Baker and Johnson liked editing.

The students' Deep West videos probably won't be their last. They have already begun work on their next film, a murder mystery. 

Other films shown as a part of the Deep West video premieres were "Ranchos Montana" about farming in Ecuador; "Down the Road" about a road trip through California and Oregon to compete in bull-riding; and "Tribute to George Gund III," a Lee rancher and longtime supporter of the Western Folklife Center who died in 2013. 


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