Members of the Pine View High School faculty and staff surprise Porter Christensen with a scholarship after his Reflections entry in film production won the highest national honor Friday, May 4, 2018.(Photo: Chris Caldwell / The Spectrum & Daily News)Buy Photo
A 3-minute short created by a Southern Utah student about a teenager with autism has been named the national winner for Outstanding Interpretation in Film by the National PTA.
Porter Christensen, a senior at Pine View High School in St. George, wrote, produced, filmed and starred in “Help.”
In a surprise presentation Friday, PTA representatives joined family, friends and teachers at the school to tell Christensen he had been named the winner. He will receive an $800 scholarship, a $200 prize for the Pine View High unit of the PTA and a free trip to New Orleans to present the video at the National PTA Awards and Reflection Celebration.
“It’s very humbling,” Christensen said. “There are so many people who have been supportive. It’s so nice. Everyone is so compassionate.”
Showing a different perspective on life
Christensen said he spent about a month working on “Help.” He portrays a person with autism, delivering a monologue describing the world through his eyes.
“Autism doesn’t mean I can’t think. It doesn’t classify me as worthless,” he says at one point in the film. “It just means I have a slightly different perspective.”
A month short of graduating, Christensen said he plans to serve a mission for his church before coming back to attend college and study film.
Compassion helps student connect
When Christensen started acting and became involved in theater, it was clear he had a special talent, said Kelly Thomas, the school’s theater director.
“Everything he does is done with such care and such compassion and such honesty,” she said. “That’s the reason it connects with everybody.”
Christensen has two other short films up for national awards. He was nominated in the Operation Prevention Video Challenge for his film “Waiting to Die,” as well as for the Toyota-sponsored TeenDrive365 contest for his video “Stupid Stats.”
Christensen has long expressed interest in stage acting, said his mother, Tonya Christensen, who works with Brigham’s Playhouse in Washington City.
When he started making videos, she said the family supported his work and let him explore, but Porter Christensen always worked to pay for his own equipment.
“He loves acting, but he has a real gift and a deep passion for this,” she said of his production skills.
15,000 participated in Reflections contest
Porter Christensen (left) laughs with Washington County School District Superintendent Larry Bergeson at Pine View High School on May 4, 2018. (Photo: Chris Caldwell / The Spectrum & Daily News)
Washington County School District Superintendent Larry Bergeson, who was at Pine View on Friday, invited Porter Christensen to be recognized in front of the county school board in its meeting Tuesday.
“You know how when you do something really big you get a key to the city? I’m giving you a key to the school district,” Bergeson quipped.
A national winner is chosen in each of the six arts categories in the National PTA’s Reflections program: dance choreography, film production, literature, music composition, photography and visual arts. This year there were 1,053 student submissions from 50 state PTAs up for the national awards. Christensen’s entry was one of 30 from Utah that advanced.
Utah has among the highest rates of participation in the Reflections program, according to the National PTA. More than 15,000 students nationwide took part in this year’s contest.
Follow David DeMille on Twitter, @SpectrumDeMille.
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