If you have walked by the media lab recently or come to school for some reason over the last few weekends, then you may have noticed some high tech film equipment being put to use in the cafeteria or hallways. On the afternoon of Monday, May 22nd, the high school premiered its first feature film — directed and produced as a collaborative passion project by media and journalism teacher, Lawrence Shackelford, and drama teacher, Tom Schulz. Not only is this the first time the film and drama departments have produced a film of this nature, but it is also the first year a shot film is replacing the traditional staged alternative.
The film is called Freak, and the plotline is as follows: Somewhere in America, there’s a New Girl at the local high school struggling to find her way among a crew of high achievers, pill poppers, and drama kids. While all of these characters aggressively carve out their niche and aspire to change the world, New Girl wonders if she’ll ever be anything more than a Freak. Ohh… and, by the way… she may (or may not) be a robot. Ultimately it’s a film about identity, with a twist. Freak explores the pygmalion myth re-visualized among recognizable cliques and labels that get tossed around the SAS community on a daily basis.
Students currently enrolled in the advanced filmmaking and theater classes at SAS were given the opportunity to be a part of the creative team behind the film, whether it be on-screen or behind the scenes in a production role. Junior, Kaitlyn Greening, who is not a part of either class, was extremely surprised when she was offered a leading role in the film. She was previously one of the characters on “OMG,” a student-run web series associated with The Eye.” According to Mr. Shackelford, “[He] noticed her on the show and both [Tom Schulz and I] felt that she possessed a real talent for being on camera and character acting in general. Kaitlyn possesses this really visible tendency to be extremely vulnerable or darkly cynical and in total control; the role demands that.” When asked about what it was like to play such an integral role in Freak and the process of rehearsing scenes, Kaitlyn noted that “working on Freak was an amazing opportunity for everyone involved. Whether it was filming from midnight until 4 am or shooting on a beach in the early hours of the morning, it’s provided everyone with unforgettable memories.”
Everyone knows that what goes on behind the camera is equally as important as what we see on our screens. To get a deeper understanding of what it was like to be a part of the production crew in a feature film like this one, we interviewed advanced film student, Shaynan Vinayak. Shaynan was a camera technician, sound recordist, and production assistant for several of Freak’s more ambitious shoots. “It’s amazing to be a part of an actual film setup in school. The process was like nothing I’ve ever been a part of before. Although it could be stressful and time-consuming, altogether the experience is one that I will remember forever.” And, unlike the expected stage production of this sort of script, both actors and crewmembers will have a physical film that hopefully lives on a keepsake of their hard work.
If you are a fan of films that ask a lot of interpretation of the audience, a sucker for a classic coming of age film, or just someone interested in seeing your friends and peers in performances and processed images with more sheen and polish than anything you’ve seen in the past, you will definitely NOT want to miss freak when it becomes available to the wider public audience. The process was so successful, that both Schulz and Shackelford hope to make these collaborative projects a staple of combined-discipline endeavors in the coming years. So, if you want to apply your stellar acting skills or fancy a place to show off you dedicated camera work, make sure to let all the amazing people behind the production team know. SAS Studios may soon be shooting on a campus near you!