StudioW debuts new short films

Westminster’s Upper School film club, StudioW, has recently released two short films that have been selected for the 2020 All American Film High School Festival. The development of these short films has required numerous hours of commitment from start to finish. 

“Making any short film is a really time-intensive process,” said senior Jonas Du, producer of both films.  

This intensive filmmaking process all originates from the inspiration for the screenplay. The screenplay writers of Marked, Samantha Cohn and Madeline Simpson, draw their inspiration from their desire to create something fast paced and definitely a thriller. 

“It’s like an adventure-type screenplay that kind of encapsulates the carefree, reckless teenage experience,” said Du. 

On the other hand, the screenplay writer of Disowned, Andrew Stevens, based his screenplay off a true story of one of his friends who didn’t have an ideal relationship with their dad. Disowned elaborates on the relationship between father and son through the common theme of the cello.

After the writers finished the screenplays, the crew proceeded to the filming stage of the development process. They started in early March and filmed for six straight days. 

“The first four or five filming days were from around 9 a.m. to midnight, and it really occupied our lives for the better part of May and June,” said Du. 

Their crew’s lives revolved around the production, and they even had to shoot scenes as early as 4 a.m. on a school day.

In addition to the rigorous filming schedule, the editors had to work for weeks on end to meet the deadline for the All American Film High School Festival. 

“I love the diner scene because I’m really happy with how the production design came together in conjunction with the colorful lighting and costumes,” said Cohn, also a director of Marked. 

The diner scene required many takes, starting from 4 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. on a school morning. After filming at the crack of dawn for three and a half hours, the dedicated students still proceeded to attend school.

“I thought the quality was really nice and advanced.” said freshman Helen Hong. “It was like a movie I can watch in theaters.” 

Another reason for the barrage of positive reviews for the films is how unique they are. Marked features a dystopian world that presents many twists and turns in its plot to capture its audience’s attention.

 “The mystery of the plot in Marked made it very unique because it kept me on my toes and made me want to keep watching,” said Hong. 

Furthermore, the genuine acting complements the mysterious plot perfectly. It undoubtedly brings the film to life and keeps the audience intrigued.

“I also love the fact that the leading actors are incredibly talented, and they make a strong, young, relatable, cohesive ensemble,” said Kate Morgens, the faculty advisor for the films. “As someone who works with the theater and the film groups on campus, I am thrilled that both groups work so well together.” 

One characteristic of Disowned that sets it apart from other films is the main theme of the cello. The film revolves around the protagonist’s mixed emotions toward the cello and his father’s expectations for his commitment to the instrument.

“In most films, especially student films, you don’t see a lot of cinematic, orchestral music,” said Du. 

The orchestral music is the highlight of the film and adds an element of cinematic magic to the ending. Students that have viewed Disowned all remark that they love the melodic addition of the cello. 

“I thought it was creative how cello music was used to portray the emotions and events of the film,” said freshman Sophie Wang. 

Another distinctive characteristic about Disowned is the level of relatability achieved by the storyline.

“The screenplays are rooted in real human experience, especially coming from our perspective as high schoolers”, said Du.

Like all StudioW’s films, the acting in Disowned is authentic, and the actors accurately portray the stories developed in the screenplay.

“I love the incredible acting and the relatable storyline”, said Wang. “I would definitely recommend this film because of the fantastic production quality and story.”

Given their graduation this spring, StudioW leaders Samantha Cohn, Madeline Simpson, and Jonas Du are now focusing on training the next wave of leaders as well as producing a documentary on the history and legacy of racial, socioeconomic, and political borders.

“We’ll be trying to take our narrative filmmaking even further than we did this year, and we want to focus on the screenwriting and allowing the other elements of the film to support that story as much as possible,” said Du.

Readers can view these short films on the Westminster StudioW YouTube channel.