By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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Aaron Witherell walked away from the Sequim High auditorium Friday night with the “Elkie” trophy after his 4½-minute film, “My Backyard,” was chosen by audience applause.
“I was surprised for sure. I wasn't expecting it,” he said Saturday.
Witherell's film also was named second-place winner of the festival by the judges, securing him a $750 scholarship and $50 cash award.
A wakeboarder and snowboard fanatic, Witherell made his film with a mini-movie camera that he strapped to his head while he boarded and surfed on the Peninsula.
About 550 people turned out for the ninth annual Elkies, the Sequim Education Foundation's student film festival, said festival founder Elna Kawal.
Fifteen films of no more than six minutes each, made by 28 students, were screened.
Sequim High senior Sarah Hutchison's film “You Are” won first place, netting her a $1,000 scholarship and a $75 cash award.
“You Are” featured interviews with more than 30 students who talk about the “mental heckler” who stops them from going after their dreams.
Two films tied for third place: “The Banks of Iron Mountain” by Michael Gufler, Megan McAndie and Tenille Tosland; and “Instant Water” by Cameron and Kelley Bluthenthal. Each student won a $500 scholarship and a $25 cash award.
Kawal said the film festival has awarded about $48,000 in student scholarships in the past nine years. The foundation raises the money through private donations.
All awards except the “Elkie” and the Environmental Award were chosen by judges Elaine Caldwell, Marine Jahan Hirschfeld, Bruce Hattendorf, Brandon Taft, Sue Ellen Riesau, Jessica Plumb, James Trekas and Ellen Frick.
Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society judges picked the environmental winner.
Other winners are:
■ Best Actor: Cameron Bluthenthal in “Instant Water.”
■ Best Actress: Jaden Rego in “Bigfoot Investigators.”
■ The Club Award: Nicholas D'Amico for “Mrs. Morrison's First Period Science;” a $500 cash award for the Sequim Middle School Science Club.
■ Environmental Award: “Coral Bleaching” by Grace Koenigsaecker; $50 cash award.
■ Honorable Mention: “Instant Water” by Cameron and Kelley Bluthenthal; $25 cash award each. Money was provided by the Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie contributed to this report