20 Under 25: Zachary Riley

Filmmaker, 16, Tampa

click to enlarge Zack Riley regards the world. - Todd Bates
Todd Bates
Zack Riley regards the world.

Wars hero: Zack was the youngest filmmaker to be accepted and awarded honors at the Sanibel Big ARTS Filmmakers Showcase this spring. His winning short, Street Vendor's Wars, is a cheerfully goofy Chaplin-inspired silent film about two brothers fighting for sidewalk soda-sale supremacy.

Happy Camper: Zack made Street Vendor's Wars at Tampa Theatre Film Camp, which he's attended every summer for five years.

It runs in the family: His father, Kevin, is an Emmy-winning animator who's taught at the camp and who first suggested to Zack that he might enjoy it. "I was always inspired by my dad and wanted to become an artist. ... We were watching a lot of [stop-motion animation] movies like The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline, and he asked me if I wanted to do a stop-motion camp, and I said, '"Wow, now I can do my own! So it was really cool."

And now he's explaining it all to the grownups: Deborah Kozdras of USF's Florida Center for Instructional Technology, a partner in Film Camp, invited Zack to assist in a presentation to teachers regarding the use of digital filmmaking as an educational tool. He showed his film, and according to Kozdras, was a big hit with the audience: "The educators loved Zack's insightful comments and answers to their questions about filmmaking," she said in an email. His father says the win and the speaking opportunity were big boosts for Zack, who will be a junior at Plant this year: "His confidence soared."

His latest work has taken a more serious turn: Last Saturday, Film Camp screened his most recent movie, Almost Forever. It's another silent, but it's not goofy: in the climactic scene, a girl is choked to death by her ex after her current boyfriend (played by Zack) proposes to her; revenge ensues. "Actually," says Zack, "a lot of people came up to me and said it brought a tear to their eye."

Where you can see his work: Tampa Theatre plans to show one of his films before its screening of the silent 1924 version of Peter Pan on Sunday Aug. 28 at 3 p.m. Chances are Street Vendor's Wars will fit the mood better than Almost Forever. Or watch Wars on YouTube.

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