GRAND PRAIRIE (CBS 11 NEWS) – A group of Grand Prairie elementary school students are earning critical acclaim on the big screen.

Zion Maxwell, Jonathan Coulter, Jennifer Renteria and Rodney Williams, all fifth graders at Daniels Academy in Grand Prairie, took home the top prize at this year’s South by Southwest Festival in Austin.

Their teacher, Kyle Damon says he received an email explaining the contest to produce a film to raise awareness about rainforests.

“Our teacher, Mr. Damon told us we were eligible to compete in South by Southwest and we were all like we didn’t know what that was,” said Jennifer Renteria.

Even though they didn’t know much about the film festival, they got to work -editing, making the set, and coming up with a story about how important trees are to us.

“You really need a lot of trees,” explained Zion Maxwell. “Because trees are like our breathing lungs. You need carbon dioxide and oxygen and that’s what the trees produce.”

The students competed against three other schools in the festival.

(credit: CBS 11 News)

(credit: CBS 11 News)

“When they heard all the names of the other films, they said ‘we’re not going to win.’ and I was like ‘No, we are. Trust me,’” said Renteria.

Jonathan Coulter recalls what it was like when they heard their names called as the winners. “We all jumped out of seats. It was like the academy awards.”

While they didn’t get a gold statue, the kids did get bracelets and carvings from the rainforest.

Now, these budding directors hope to rub elbows with other award winning filmmakers.

“I really want to meet like Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee. They’re real good people and I wanna be like them,” said Coulter.

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