StudioW attends the AAHSFF

StudioW, Westminster’s Upper School Film Club, competed in the All American High School Film Festival in New York during the weekend of October 8th. The AAHSFF was created with the intent to provide artistic experiences and opportunities and is a premier destination for emerging filmmakers from around the world. 

In 2021, StudioW was one of the 30 teams selected globally for this prestigious competition where they received a nomination for the Spark Award and Best Documentary for their production, A Divided City by Class of 2021 alumni and previous Studio W leads, Jonas Du and Samantha Cohn. StudioW also received a nomination for the Complete Experience Award for the film, Waiting For Grandpa

The documentary, A Divided City, highlights the history and legacy of racial, socioeconomic, and political borders of downtown Atlanta.

“It’s part of our independent study class, but also a StudioW production…We tried to take our narrative filmmaking even further, and we wanted to focus on the screenwriting to allow the other elements of film to support the story as much as possible,” said Du.

After their final production before graduation, Cohn and Du shifted their focus to preparing the next wave of filmmakers and leaders of StudioW.

To continue on the legacy, the new crew allocated weeks of time to develop and produce their short film Waiting For Grandpa for the film invitational.

“Early August, before school started, our team met several times to brainstorm ideas for the film using the prompt ‘waiting for.’ It took several weeks and drafts of different stories to settle on the story for Waiting for Grandpa, said senior Rachel Doman, director of the film.

The film’s central plot regards two sisters who arrive early in New York and wait for their grandfather to meet them at his home. They inadvertently discover a hidden box with photographs of their grandfather involved in government affairs and must uncover the truth before he comes home.

To accommodate the rigorous implementation of their idea, Studio W members had to consider the reality of locations, a 3-6 minute time constriction, and the amount of time required to accomplish everything.

“We had 56 hours from Wednesday morning to Friday afternoon to shoot and edit the entire film in another state”, said Doman.

After all the hours of endless dedication, they wrapped the production in just one day and even four hours early.

“These are extraordinary young filmmakers. The leaders of this club have been working and improving over the past four years, and they are extraordinary artists, cinematographers, and storytellers”, said Kate Morgens, a faculty advisor for StudioW. 

In preparation for their excursion to New York, the crew established numerous plans with Studio W’s other faculty advisor, Daniel Searl. The pre-production team laid a solid foundation for filming in New York, and the night before the competition started, several members scouted the location, touched base with actors, and prepared for filming the next morning.

“It was fantastic to watch the group of students collaborate and work together for such a short period of time. Everyone had a role, a responsibility, to complete and put the film together,” said Searl. “It was also really neat to be in the middle of New York City filming next to central park and feeling the energy of the city all around us.”

The atmosphere of filming in New York and attending the invitational was an exhilarating and new experience for many as this was only StudioW’s second time competing in the film invitational.

“My favorite experience with the film invitational was watching one of the last drafts with the entire team to consider reactions and what needed to be addressed in fine edits since it’s so valuable to have so many eyes,” said Doman. “It was really fulfilling to have everyone together and to experience the culmination of our hard work over the last two days for the first time.”

Even though neither works received a first place or runner-up award, both the crew of A Divided City and Waiting For Grandpa achieved their goals of receiving nominations which is especially impressive given the size, resources, and longevity of many of the other programs in the competition. In addition, they were able to take 12 members to the invitational and 16 total to the festival this year in comparison to only three in 2019.

“Watching the students work their tail off, have a good time, plan, and have a final product they are proud of to share with the world was truly amazing,” said Searl.

The two nominated works are currently posted on StudioW’s channel on Youtube for all to view, and StudioW continues to plan for further events.

“The future right now is focused on two main things, expanding our name by creating content the entire student body can connect with and recruiting and educating new members,” said senior Patrick Nagy, the current lead of Studio W.