According to Google, the standard Hollywood blockbuster takes around 15 months to complete from start to finish. The first few months are dedicated to pre-production–casting, writing, principal planning–and around two months for shooting. Add a couple of weeks for financing or shooting problems, special shots, and other inevitable delays, and you’ve got quite a while to go before the film can be released to the world. A thirty minute sitcom, a la Parks and Rec or How I Met Your Mother, takes five 10-12 hour days a week to shoot per episode.
On the other hand, a Lake Forest High School New Media video takes, on average, six weeks to complete. It depends on the project, of course, but within the relatively short timeframe of five to six weeks, a student director, assisted by their New Media peers, comes up with the idea, writes the script, finds actors, sets, and props, and shoots, edits, completes, and uploads a video all their own.
A woman standing in a roomIt’s a daunting task for sure, but these New Media students have become pros–nuanced over the course of multiple semesters in the class–are accustomed to the hassles and hectic schedules that come with the class. Every year, however, a select group of New Media students participate in a competition that takes everything they know about filming and schedules and flips it on its head: the aptly-named 7 Day Challenge, in which they have to create and submit a whole video for a regional competition in a week.
There are two central prompts for the Midwest Media Educator Association’s 7 Day Challenge that the applicants must work off of: every film submitted must include a given line of dialogue and a certain prop featured in at least five shots, and the video has to be less than seven minutes. The rest–the tone, the genre, the dialogue–is all left to the creative decisions of the New Media students.
This year, the prop was a stapler, and the line, “It’s not my fault.” While specific, the two unconnected elements opened a whole world of possibility for the Lake Forest New Media team who participated in the competition.
From Monday, March 6th, to 10 o’clock the following Monday night, four New Media veterans–Annalise Craig, Bailey Lawrence, Clara Finley, Colin Gregg, and Whitney Perschke–aided by friends and other New Media students, took the lead on production after one New Media class comprised of many students brainstormed the idea together. In fact, 23 students in total signed on to be a part of the project. Craig was the director, Lawrence the cinematographer, Finley the script supervisor, Gregg the fine tune editor, and Perschke the assistant director and lead actress.
The final result was “The Wall”, a profoundly moving, beautifully shot, and impressively lengthy short film. It follows a grandmother (played by the lovely Mrs. Kathy O’Hara), a woman with Alzheimer’s struggling to remember a past that is slipping away from her, and her granddaughter, Ellie, a high school senior and avid photographer who is documenting her life in photos before she leaves for college. Both women are grappling with the past they’re terrified of leaving behind while simultaneously looking for ways memorialize the present they hold so dear.
Click on the following to view the video on The Forest Scout website: http://theforestscout.com/inside-lfhs-new-medias-7-day-challenge-wall/
It is an emotional piece, one whose reflections on ideas such as anticipation of the future, sentimentality of the past, and a familial love for a grandparent and their own story they have to tell make it stirring for everybody who watches it.
“[The story] was mainly inspired by my grandma,” Bailey explained. “I grew up witnessing her struggle with Alzheimer’s and through those years, I was able to learn so much about her. In a way, it sort of brought us closer. When I pitched the idea to Annalise, Clara, and the New Media class, we all decided it would be an important, relatable, and impactful story to tell.”
A group of people standing in a roomAs with any lengthy and complex project, there was a certain type of pressure–and a unique sense of satisfaction–that came with the production of the film. As Clara Finley elucidated, “It feels like you’re part of a real movie shoot, with complicated scheduling and abundant equipment, and the absolute urgency of every minute. Suddenly, nothing except the challenge is priority. Not only do we have to create something with an engaging storyline but we have to write it knowing that we will have to be able to film it all in two or three days.”
Ideation and writing occurred in the first few days of the week, during class periods and over group texts. With the help from fellow New Media peers such as Renee Ye (actress and production designer), Genevieve Kyle (production designer), Jack Bailey (production designer), Cameron Redding (actor and script supervisor), Masha Zhuravleva (production coordinator), and Quinn Dailey and Van Staunton (production assistants) filming was ready to begin by the weekend.
“This was probably the most fun I’ve ever had on set creating a video,” Annalise said. “We all could joke around really easily, but we also could get serious quickly and be productive.”
whitney perschke assistant directorFrom Friday to Sunday, there was around a total of 18 hours dedicated to filming alone, in multiple sets that included the halls of LFHS and the Craig household. And once the filming was finished, the editing began: the perfect scenes were picked out of the footage, shots were compiled,with the help of Colin Gregg (sound and editing), and music–some of it original pieces by LFHS senior Spencer Schmid–was added on top. After a long Monday evening of editing and polishing, the video was complete and ready for submission–under seven minutes long, with five shots of a stapler and the line “It’s not my fault”. Despite the very limited timeframe, the New Media crew had completed the challenge.
“We all really rely on each other’s abilities; we help and support each other and I think it shows in our end products, especially with this video,” Clara observed. “It seems to have struck a real chord in the community.”
“The Wall” has been published for only little more than a week and half, but it has already accumulated close to 15,000 views. The video has resonated with all who have seen it; it has been flooded with praise for its touching story and acting, the exquisite shots, and fine directing. It is undoubtedly a polished, even professional piece–it’s easy to forget that that it was all accomplished in a week.
This article was written by Grace Bentley, a junior at Lake Forest High School. It was first published in The Forest Scout.