Watch out for the ones with glowing eyes, their laser guns and never go pee alone.
In "Final Hours," a short film by San Ramon Valley High seniors Cody and Casey Chavarria, five civilian squad members learn this lesson the hard way. Forced to fight for their lives after Earth was invaded by an unknown, heavily armed species, the group trudges through an abandoned land hoping to find a place to rest between battles.
"It's pretty much a 12 minute story introducing them, it's them fighting and trying to survive. It's them against everything else," said Cody, who directed the short film over three days.
The Chavarria twins, 18, have been filming short movies since age 7 and decided to enter the 14th annual Screenagers Bay Area High School Film and Video Festival at the behest of their video production teacher. Held at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley on Feb. 11, the festival is curated by Berkeley High students.
"I think, visually, ours will be the most impressive. Either way it turns out I'll feel good about what we made, I think people will enjoy it at the festival," Cody said.
Cody and Casey began writing the script for "Final Hours" in the beginning of summer and began filming in the fourth week of the school year, after Cody's lung surgery cooled production. They then solicited 12 of their friends to act, provide costumes and find props for the futuristic action film.
"You're kind of limited when you have no budget at all. You can't buy locations, costumes are expensive, as are props," Cody noted. "Probably the hardest part getting all my friends to give four to five hours of their day to film this thing, eight to 10 people at a time."
Casey, who was in charge of editing, spent between 10 and 15 hours editing the film on Final Cut Pro and using Adobe After Effects to add special effects for a combined four months of production. The resulting crisp shots feature explosions, neon laser "bullets" and eerie glowing eyes on each alien.
"Adobe After Effects is nothing other students had used before, which is why the students were more impressed than usual," Cody said of his film's screening during video production class. "Mr. Cochran even said hat it was the most visually appealing video he had seen in all his years of teaching. There were things like explosions which weren't necessarily there before."
While San Ramon Valley High's video production class does have a few copies of Adobe, instructor Chad Cochran said he is hoping to receive funding from the Regional Occupational Program to bring the rest of his students to same advanced level.
"I think the biggest factor that made the movie stand out was their incredible use of effects. You could tell they spent a large amount of time planning. They spent countless hours to make sure their effects fantastic, it's above and beyond anything else in the classroom right now," Cochran said.
The Chavarrias have already been accepted to several universities as film production majors. The two would like to attend a smaller school and have their collective eye on Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Cody and Casey plan to take on another big project over the summer, but will spend the rest of the year filming football games and making videos for SRVHS' drama department.
The Screenagers festival will begin at 3 p.m. at 2575 Bancroft Way in Berkeley. Cody will discuss the film, its use of special effects and discuss future goals during a question and answer session with the audience.
To watch "Final Hours," visit the ChavarriaProductions channel on Youtube.