Lights! Camera! Chutzpah!
By Ari Wunderlich
This year at “Lights! Camera! Chutzpah!,” a 24-hour filmmaking program, a group of five teenagers came together to make a short film, two public service announcements, and one trailer, which will be played at the Austin Jewish Film Festival. The participants were diverse in age, skills, experience, background and interests. They were all able to share stories, ideas, ask deep questions and have a lot of laughter. From the moment the teenagers walked into the Austin School of Film, to the moment they left, they all learned so much about film, culture and each other.
The group wrote, produced, filmed and edited an original film called “As Long as You Bloom” featuring a teenager named Chana and her grandmother, Bubbe. The film is about the pressure and stereotypes that can be placed onto teenagers, the beauty of family, and that all flaws are strengths. A large part of its purpose is to make the audience feel something, whether that be comical, stressed, embarrassed, sympathetic, or sentimental. To create these strong moods, the production aspects such as lighting, sounds and camera work were closely considered. Sounds were used to add suspense, tension and discomfort. Costumes and props were used to convey character, time and culture.
The plot of the short film is meant to be relatable and awkwardly funny. They poked fun at the stereotypes, but also made it clear that people are just people and that labels aren’t for everyone. What Chana thought was a huge flaw, her shyness, turned out to be a defining characteristic and even a strength. The other character, Bubbe also learns about the pressure she put on Chana, and reminds her that her love for Chana is unconditional. That is something important for everyone to hear, especially in times of doubt.
One particular student impressed everyone with his AfterEffects skills while working on a Superman public service announcement, filmed on green screen. Also, a claymation PSA was made. Both of these are meant to make people laugh and set them in good spirits before the film as well as convince the audience to keep themselves and their phones quiet while the film is playing.
Overall, this was a great opportunity to learn and improve skills and knowledge. Everyone was able to engage in any part of the creation they wished to help with. The experience of dedicating such a short time to a large project was interesting, everything was sped up. All of the participants were very determined, in hope that all of their time laughing together, will allow the audience to also laugh together while viewing the short film. ■