A dark story about the power of choice and its consequences has emerged from a group of young Whidbey filmmakers’ minds and talents.
The Whidbey Island Center for the Arts’ Conservatory acting for the camera class will present its short film, “Heads OR Tails,” for free at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 9. In all, five youths, ages 13-20, took part in creating the movie about a pair of sisters, two of whom are murdered, and how their lives changed from that moment.
Tackling a premise as severe as murder was daunting, teacher and professional actress Amanda Yeoman Brooke said, but allowing for free creativity was important.
“Theater in high school presents so much opportunity to be part of a community, to be part of something bigger than yourself,” Brooke said. “It teaches a sense of responsibility and creativity.”
“Acting is so psychological that it helps you to be a better person in general,” she added. “You’re more observant… you’re trying to understand someone from their perspective.”
The story and script was written by 16-year-old Josh Cravy, a student at South Whidbey Academy. An amateur filmmaker since he was seven or eight, he said, he had a few ideas for a short film when he registered for the course. Through discussions with the other students, they settled on combining a couple and creating a story about parallel universes springing forth from violence.
Cravy said he didn’t have any themes in mind other than, “Don’t get murdered,” just an interesting story. He plays the mugger/murderer in the movie. In addition to writing the script and story, and playing a role himself, he also edited a couple of scenes and, like all of the students, handled some crew work by holding the mic boom. Of all the work, authoring the story and penning the words were his favorite.
“I definitely enjoyed writing it more than I did acting in it,” he said. “I tried to put myself in the movie the least amount possible.”
All of the scenes were filmed in Langley, and South Whidbey viewers will recognize the marina and Commons. The Second Street cafe was the location of Cravy’s favorite scene in which they recorded one long shot, uncut. Such scenes create dramatic tension, and in this particular film it takes viewers from one timeline to another. Behind the scenes, Cravy said, it was hectic as the actresses had to run outside to a different door and back in within seconds to complete the effect.
“For one thing, it just looks really cool,” Cravy said. “And it flows better. And it was hard to shoot.”
Learning from a trained actress was a powerful experience for one student. Mattason Straub, 13, had been in other film and acting classes before, but this course, which recently wrapped up, was the first that she actually got to step behind a camera as director.
When she was a younger girl, Straub said she would film scenes using her toys. Inspired by Youtube stars such as Smosh and Captain Sparkles, she would create scenes and record them for her entertainment, and maybe her family’s.
One of the youngest members of the course, Straub used that interest and experience in “Heads OR Tails.” She found Brooke’s experience and advice especially useful in her debut — at least her first film sans G.I. Joe and Barbie.
“I definitely know a lot more than before I went,” Mattason Straub, 13, said. “I know how to get better camera angles, about filming, about acting.”
“It was really fun to make, and I think it turned out very well,” she added.
Brooke submitted the film into the National Film Festival for Talented Youth (NFFTY) from April 28 to May 1 in Seattle. In 2014, there were 800 submissions from across the world, and only 214 films were accepted and showcased.
She plans on offering the course again in February.