Students get creative for Greenfield Schools Film Festival

  • Four Corners School student Josephine Joyce plays the squirrel in a scene filmed in the principal's office on Feb. 15. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Four Corners School student Arthur Fitzpatrick plays the principal and Josephine Joyce plays the squirrel in a scene filmed in the principal's office on Feb. 15. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Four Corners School student Josephine Joyce plays the squirrel, and fellow student Shannon Terry-Nugent plays Ms. Rancourt, in a scene from a film being produced at Four Corners School on Feb. 15. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Four Corners School technology teacher Andrew Lippman works with student Sam Eckstrom as he edits a squirrel video on Feb. 15. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Students edit a squirrel video, which will be submitted for the annual Greenfield Public Schools film festival, at Four Corners School on Feb. 15. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • A squirrel hiding out in the principal's office at Four Corners School. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Remember that cold snap? The one of historic proportions around the holidays when people needed new, creative words to describe just how cold it was?

According to a recently shot film — based on a true story — it was a memorable time for area squirrels, too.

A Greenfield-produced short tells the story behind the story of how a few squirrels broke into the Discovery School at Four Corners, wreaked havoc on one of the teachers at the elementary school and then what her students did to cope with the matter:

“What really started this," Director and Producer of the short film Sam Eckstrom started to explain, “was us telling a bunch of funny stories.” 

Sam and his fourth-grade classmates reflected on their week back from winter vacation when they found squirrels had hidden in their classroom during the brutal weather and how that all sparked their creative process.

“There’s a film festival and everyone wants to have a funny video,” classmate Lyla Mickiewicz said. “We were like, ‘Oh hey, there’s this squirrel that we can make a funny video about.’”

Lyla, an actress in the film, was referencing the annual Greenfield Schools Film Festival. Children throughout the district can make movies for the spring showing, with their classmates or on their own time. For a group of fourth-graders, they told the story of a squirrel.

“We used our imagination,” classmate Arthur Fitzpatrick chimed in. “One of the parts we used our imagination for was squirrels having a party.”

“We had the squirrels outside having a meeting saying, ‘It’s too cold,’” Logan Caron added.

A scene from the film, shown in advance of the early May festival, (which has an April 1 deadline for submissions) depicts a group of squirrels gathering around a fire in the parking lot of Four Corners, searching for ways to get warmer; eventually the squirrels in the film decide to head into the school to seek shelter.

“We really took the adventures of several teachers and their encounters with squirrels and we made a film,” their teacher, who inspired the film, Marguerite Rancourt said.

The film shows how a squirrel disrupted class at Four Corners, particularly Rancourt’s class to the point where she was seen peering into classroom closets and chasing the creatures down the hallways, broom in hand.

The underlining of all of this, though, was how Rancourt used this rather terrifying moment for herself as a teaching moment for her students.

When asked if anyone was scared by the squirrel, no fourth-grader raised their hand, but rather pointed, in unison, in the direction of Rancourt.

“She feels like whenever she’s near a rodent, she’s in jeopardy,” said Shannon Terry-Nugent, who played the role of Rancourt in the film.

“If she hates them so much, why would we study them?” Arthur then asked.

It was for the sake of education, after all.

Rancourt’s fourth-graders led an effort in the school to turn a potential distraction into a chance to be excited about their education. Some classes did math problems, others did writing assignments, while Rancourt’s class turned it into a film.

“It’s what you want to see as any teacher — kids becoming passionate about a topic and choosing to do work on that topic on their own,” said technology teacher Andrew Lippman, who guided Sam in editing the film.

Sam, like many of his classmates, is a natural when it comes to working the computer and figuring out how to use new software. While filming videos might not be new for students growing up in a generation of smartphones, using more professional equipment is.

“I feel like it’s pretty cool to do it on a camera because you feel like a Hollywood actor,” classmate Kristian Yagovane said.

The editing process, though, gives students a different perspective.

“On a phone you can just do something. You can do it and you don’t have to cut it out,” Lyla said. “You don’t have to have someone redo everything over again.”

Lippman explained how students today see more produced content than maybe ever before, so being on the other side of the equation, especially at a young age, can help them grow a greater appreciation for high-quality work.

“I learned that movies aren’t just for entertainment,” Sam said. “The editors work really hard to fix mistakes and it takes a lot of time.”

To put weeks-long stories into a five-minute film will be a challenge for Sam and his classmates, needing to make sure they meet all of the film festival criteria (see below) for the group category.

When all is said and done, the film will be screened at the Greenfield Schools Film Festival, held in the high school’s auditorium.

“It’s kind of scary because we almost have to show it to the whole entire world,” said Josephine Joyce, who wore a full squirrel suit for her lead role. A classmate chirped back at the star actress: “Dude, it’s just the Greenfield school district.”

How to submit your own film

Greenfield Public School students’ films must be submitted to the principal’s office by April 6 at 3 p.m., alongside a submission form and permission form.

There are three grade divisions, with different time limits for submissions: preschool to fourth grade (three minute limit), fifth to seventh grade (four minute limit) and eighth to 12th grade (five minute limit).

Students can also submit a group or class film for a separate category, not defined by grade.

Students must have usage rights for any music played in the film.

The film festival is May 11 at 6 p.m. and will be held at the Greenfield High School auditorium.

For more information, contact Four Corners technology teacher and film festival director Andrew Lippman at andlip1@gpsk12.org.

You can reach Joshua Solomon at


413-772-0261, ext. 264