Warren County High School senior is film competition finalist

A documentary by Jacqui Ris, a senior at Warren County High School, is a finalist for the Virginia High School League Film Festival. Courtesy photo by Chris Whitney

FRONT ROYAL — Jacqui Ris, a senior at Warren County High School, has plans to become a director or cinematographer. She said she’s an intern with Mirandum Pictures and is going to study film at Virginia Commonwealth University next year.

While she played a role in some other film making projects, Ris described the documentary she created this semester in an independent study as “the first real project” she’s done.

On Thursday, the Virginia High School League Film Festival announced on its Facebook and Twitter pages that Ris’ film is a documentary finalist for the organization’s statewide competition. The group will announce the winners during the festival on June 2, the day of Warren County High School’s graduation.

Ris focused her short documentary on John Kovac, a harpist in Front Royal.

“It would be cool to document a musician because their instruments tend to look good on camera and they tend to live interesting lives,” she said.

John Kovac, the subject of Jacqui Ris' documentary, plays the harp in the short film. Courtesy photo by Jacqui Ris.

Ris began by sending Kovac an email. At the time, Kovac was out of the country, playing the harp in Guatemala.

But he said he was eager to participate in Ris’ film.

“I’m a bit of a ham,” he explained.

Ris set up a day when she could film and spend time with Kovac.

“It was a great job,” Kovac said. “She spent about eight or nine hours, total, filming.”

Throughout that time, Kovac said Ris was in control.

“I have never met a more cultured and well-spoken and brilliant young lady,” Kovac said.

But despite the accolades and the praise from Kovac, Ris’ reaction to her film is largely critical.

She described herself as nervous on the set and said that she didn’t set up as much for the shoot as she should have.

She said that she was surprised when she found out that her film was one of  the finalists for the best documentary film at the film festival.

“I didn’t expect it to go very far,” Ris said.

She described the film as a great learning experience, helping her figure out how to plan and make a film.

“I learned how to schedule better with my clients,” she said.

Ris is going to use those lessons in a few films she is working on.

Currently, she is trying to find time to shoot a music video for the Warren County High School. She may even have another project involving Kovac.

In June, Kovac is bringing in a Paraguayan harpist. When he arrives, Ris may film his performance, Kovac and Ris said.