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Young filmmaker addresses social issues

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Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 12:03 AM
NEW TAMPA -

Cute and perky, Gabrielle Meyers has the charm and photogenic smile moviemakers like to star in front of the camera.

But it's behind the lens where the 10-year-old has made her greatest impact. And she has a collection of award ribbons to prove it.

"I want to be someone people know but not famous," Gabrielle said.

That may prove to be difficult to accomplish, if the Hunter's Green Elementary fifth-grader chooses to continue using her young Steven Spielberg-like talent for making movies.

Gabrielle was named a National PTA 2011-2012 Reflections Award of Merit winner in the film production category earlier this summer.

She also won top honors at her school and earned recognition as a Florida PTA Award of Excellence winner in the film/video category.

The Hillsborough County Council of PTA/PTSA also acknowledged Gabrielle for the original song called "Diversity" she wrote for the mini-movie.

All the accolades is for Comet Zoo, a two-minute video the Hunter's Green resident wrote and produced as a fourth-grader in her arts class at school. The theme was "Diversity means …"

As part of the assignment, Gabrielle designed the set, voiced each character, and wrote and performed an original song to run with the closing credits.

"She goes whole hog in whatever she does," said Susan Knox Meyers, Gabrielle's mother. "We are excited about it. For her, it's just another movie."

When Gabrielle started the project in October, she never imagined her video would wind up in the hands of National PTA officials, she said.

The National PTA recognizes student achievement in six artistic categories in its annual Reflections Outstanding Interpretation Awards contests, National PTA spokesman James Martinez said. Awards are bestowed for dance choreography, film production, literature, musical composition, photography and visual arts.

Winners are chosen from hundreds of thousands of admissions from students across the nation and in European schools serving military families.

The association announced the recipients of the national Outstanding Interpretation Awards, Awards of Excellence and Awards of Merit at its 116th Annual National PTA Convention and Exhibition in San Jose, Calif., in June.

Gabrielle hatched her mini-movie with the help of miniature animal figures she bought from a coin dispenser. Her 5-member speaking cast and large ensemble of characters could easily serve as pencil erasers.

She created a fairy tale starring Rover, a parrot, who spends his time helping his zoo friends resolve problems.

Gabrielle's 12-year-old brother, Paul, a seventh-grader at Terrace Community Middle School, helped his sister discover the iMovie app to produce her short animated movie.

To make the video, Gabrielle arranged the tiny, squishy figures in various positions for four scenes – a park, jungle, underwater and the Arctic. Each set was created by using scenic images scanned from online websites and glued inside a shoebox.

She composed the video using 132 snapshots she took in less than 24 hours. Then Gabrielle went back and laid the voice track with the characters' voices.

"I was thinking I could do a bunch of voices," Gabrielle said. "The first one I came up with, I knew I wanted to do a French accent."

"It was very fun," Gabrielle said of making the movie. "But when you have to redo it, you get annoyed. You have to move (the miniature animal figures) very slowly, and you wonder when it will be done."

Gabrielle's mother attributed her daughter's success to planning months in advance. She never imagined Gabrielle would receive so much attention.

"Her classmates think it's very funny," Knox Meyers said. "She does everything with such gusto."

Will making movies become Gabrielle's lifelong passion?

It's too soon to know, she said.

But Gabrielle did say: "Before I get famous, I know my education comes first."


kknight@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7413

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