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West Branch students shine a spotlight on social impact of excessive gaming habits | News, Sports, Jobs

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West Branch’s “Unplugged” short film stars at the Friends4Friends Film Festival Sept. 15, from left, Riley Harris, Dru DeShields, Michael Kanagy, Zack Pinkerton and Lauren Lee

West Branch students Dru DeShields and Jay Brownlee during filming of the “Unplugged” short film.

BELOIT – On Sept. 15, students from across the valley gathered at the Friends4Friends annual Film Festival, a showcase featuring seven short films created by and starring students from around the area addressing issues facing youth. The event was held at the DeYor Performing Arts Center in Youngstown.

At West Branch, more than 15 students worked with staff and the Friends4Friends campaign to create the group’s short film“Unplugged.”The film features Max – a student overindulging in video gaming – encountering the habit’s detrimental effects in a number of areas in his life.

The project began last spring, with the students and staff working together to draft and revise the storyline. Students auditioned for parts, and the Friends4Friends team filmed and edited the video, which was released on YouTube in early September. Michael Kanagy’s performance as Max won the teen Best Actor at Thursday’s ceremony at the DeYor Performing Arts Center in Youngstown.

The Operation Keepsake has been inspiring students to become change agents within their schools and communities through the Friends4Friends campaign for several years. Seven films were part of the 2022 Friends4Friends Film Festival, bringing light to topics such as bullying, sexual pressure, dating abuse, peer pressure, stealing and video games. All of this year’s short films can be viewed on the OK, Inc. YouTube channel or at operationkeepsake.com.




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