On the night before she graduated from Mountain Pointe High School, Shayla Mackenzie was saluted by district Superintendent Dr. Kevin Mendivil at the Tempe Union Governing Board meeting last week.
Shayla received the CTE Film and TV Student of the Year award and also won best screenplay at this year’s Tempe Union High School District Film Festival.
Mendivil said that while interning in Tempe Union’s district community relations department, Shayla “played a vital role in the filming of Marcos and Mountain Pointe promotional videos and streaming governing board meetings, all city award ceremonies and school performances.”
Bound for Arizona State University’s Cronkite School of Journalism, Shayla worked with Warren Cole, the district’s multimedia specialist and videographer.
The daughter of Samantha Cunningham and Sean McKenzie, she helped edit and live-stream various events for all seven district high schools while helping to develop promotional films for Mountain Pointe and Marcos de Niza high schools.
“As the semester progressed and we were able to go back to school in person again, I acted as production assistant for Mr. Cole,” she said.
“This included setting up lights, slating a scene, and working audio at times. I then was able to move into directing and helped him with the promotion videos for Marcos De Niza and Mountain Pointe.”
She said she is especially proud of a short film she made this year with the help of her classmate and friend Zoe McCollum. That film won the best screenplay award.
“I’m most proud of this because it helped me prove to myself that I have the potential to be a great writer and could give an audience something to enjoy,” she said.
That also bolstered her long-term career hopes of becoming a director and screenwriter.
“I know it’s a tough business to get into and there’s a lot of competition, so winning the award gave me a much-needed confidence boost in my writing capabilities,” Shayla said.
The internship averaged two to five hours of work a week.
Since hers was a new position, she said Cole and she “were not really sure what to start with,” although “as the semester progressed, we both got more of an idea of how things were going to go especially when shooting the promotional videos.”
At the Cronkite School she is aiming for bachelor’s degrees in both broadcast journalism and TV/film production.
“I’d eventually like to get my masters
in both fields as well – but baby steps,” she said.
Her dream job “has always been Marvel Studios or a big streaming company like Netflix.”
But, she added, “It’s always good to have a backup plan though, so if the whole Hollywood thing doesn’t work out, I’d love to be a producer for a news station in New York or Seattle.”
“Movies and entertainment have always been a passion of mine since I was little,” she explained. “My mom would take me to the theater to see one of the new Marvel movies with my brothers. I knew I wanted to be on set and see how the behind the scenes worked.”
Turns out her internship did just that.
“When I got into high school and was able to start taking film and TV classes, we worked on a journalism unit and I fell in love with that as well. I guess production, whether it be for a school broadcast or a short film, has always been a part of me and they always say turn what you love into your career.”
The internship also taught her “the ability to adapt,” she said.
“Being able to think on the fly when something goes wrong is a crucial part of pursuing a career in any type of production field,” Shayla explained. “Learning early on that when the pressure is applied and deadlines are approaching faster and faster, finding a way to make it work out is key – especially with all the stress that comes with it.
“But it’s honestly a thrill,” she said.
“I think better on my feet and under pressure. So, thanks to Mr. Cole and having taken Mrs. Idler’s film/TV classes,
I’ve learned to handle stress well and, again, adapt.”
Shayla in the past has played junior varsity soccer for fun and was a member of Mountain Pointe’s Key Club and the Rho Kappa Honors Society for social studies.