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Santa Barbara Teen Wins National Peace Video Contest

Senior Erik Choquette, 17, takes top honors for the second year in a row

Santa Barbara teenager Erik Choquette has claimed the $1,000 first prize in the 2009 Swackhamer Disarmament Video Contest for the second year in a row.

Erik Choquette
Erik Choquette

Called The Nuclear Genie, Choquette’s three-minute animated video uses inventive graphics to connect nuclear weapons history with a way to “get the genie back in the bottle” through public participation in the democratic process.

Click here to view the top three videos, as well as the four that received honorable mentions.

Choquette, 17, had a clear strategy for this year’s competition. “I focused on a call to action and how this issue has influenced our society for so long,” he said. “It’s an issue that many people simply ignore, never fully realizing, or wanting to realize, the possible effects of using a nuclear weapon again especially in our modern society.”

There were 120 videos submitted to this year’s Swackhamer competition. They displayed a variety of approaches, from animation to claymation to live action drama. There was even one nuclear disarmament rap, “War on Nuclear Warheads,” which received an honorable mention.

“The judges and the staff of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation were all overwhelmed at the research, creativity and countless hours that went in to each of the videos,” said Rick Wayman, director of programs for the foundation and contest coordinator. “It was difficult to pick the winners for this year’s contest; there were many videos contesting for the top spots. We honor each and every one of the entrants for their commitment to the cause.”

Choquette will be a senior at Santa Barbara High School this fall.

“I’m applying to roughly nine to 10 major film schools like USC, NYU and UCLA. My dream school is USC, but it’s going to take a lot to get in,” he said. “For now, I’m starting to focus on narrative filmmaking. I’m starting production soon on a film I wrote several months ago which will act as an application film for colleges, but also as a film to enter into festivals.”

Second prize, and $750, went to the animated video “Numbers of Destruction” by Tyler Short of Portland, Ore. Third prize, and $250, was awarded to “Beautiful World” by Calvin Brue of Fergus Falls, Minn.

All videos had to be three minutes or less. The topic for the contest was “Breakthrough: Putting the Nuclear Genie Back in the Bottle — How can we achieve a world free of nuclear weapons by the year 2020? Once this is achieved, how can we make sure that the ‘nuclear genie’ stays in the bottle forever?”

The video contest will be held annually. An announcement about the next contest will be made in March.

— Steven Crandell is the director of development and public affairs for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

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