GCS Takes on the All-American High School Film Fest

Pictured: Fin Wrazej, Colin Todd, film team advisor, and Aulden Borthwick preparing for the first shot (Photo by Altea Peyser ’23)

In October, Grace’s film team took off class, and took on the All-American High School Film Festival (AAHSFF).

One Junior Team and one Senior Team spent three days working on their short films: “Waiting for Grace” and “Nobody’s Waiting for You,” respectively. Each team had just these three consecutive days to organize, film, edit, and submit. The films, along with all others in the competition, were completely student-led. 

The Junior Team, directed by Willa B. ‘23, worked on “Waiting for Grace.” Willa’s flick follows a young dancer navigating a morning of midtown chaos. The lead, acted by Beatrice White, faces the hustle and bustle of a New York commute gone wrong. Willa and her team traversed the Diamond District, Lincoln Center, and Chelsea during the production. 

Still captured from the credits of “Waiting for Grace”

“Directing ‘Waiting for Grace’ was really an exciting and an amazing learning experience not only for myself but for my whole team,” Willa recalled. “The team took the film and I very seriously, which I appreciate. I honestly couldn’t have done it without them.”

During the production, the juniors faced hurdles left and right: cameras broke down, clapperboards snapped, and lights broke—practically nothing worked as expected. To Willa, the most challenging part was “having people agree on one thing. My team is full of very passionate people who all want to voice their opinion so at times it was hard to come to a mutual agreement.”

Jonas M. ‘23, the boom operator (sound person) and gaffer (lighting specialist), added, “There was a conflict in ideas because none of us really knew what we were doing but we all wanted to do something. I would like to have more creative direction, so would everyone.”

“Sometimes it’s like sitting in traffic,” Jonas continued. “We were just working on a tiny student film with five minutes and one actor in a few locations, and it was still so challenging and tiring.” Jonas continued, claiming that they “scripted a film that [they] didn’t have the means to execute” and that they “had to accept that.”

The inexperienced team worked with unfamiliar professional equipment—a BlackMagic camera, a boom, intricate stabilizers, and lots of wires. Hours of troubleshooting delayed the production process. Willa admitted that “it was slightly bumpy and we all agreed that our final outcome was not as good as we hoped but watching my team members become excited and invested in our project was so worth it.”

“I am satisfied with the final cut because I know how hard we worked on it,” exclaimed Willa. 

Pictured: The Junior Team (and Mr. Todd) after filming at the Lincoln Center (Photo by a passerby)

On the other hand, the senior project, led by Olivia B. ‘22 and Frankie R. ’22, had a rather seamless production process. The Senior Team worked on “Nobody’s Waiting for You”—a cliffhanger narrative about a school counselor who turns into an unlikely anti-hero. 

Still captured from credits of “Nobody’s Waiting for You”

Frankie (Director) and Olivia (Director of Photography, Producer, Co-Writer) have previously directed, produced, and shot their own films. The team also hired Alexis Loiselle, a professional actress, to play the school counselor. Their prior experience is evident in the final cut. 

“Frankie and I wanted to write a story about an anti-hero, a very unlikeable protagonist, and I think we accomplished that,” exclaimed Olivia, who is also an editor on the Gazette. “It is the story of someone spiraling as they are tasked with helping others when really they need help themselves.” 

Pictured: Seniors (Left to Right) Frankie Rogerson, Nylah Mulzac, and Olivia Berger in the editing process. (Photo by Olivia Berger ’22)

It’s easy to guess that the juniors traveled around the city for each shot. The frenetic energy of “Waiting for Grace,” turned out to be a crucial element of the film. It mirrors the student film experience and, of course, the energy of New York City. Unlike the juniors, the Senior Team shot within the high school building. In fact, the whole short film takes place in a single room—the office of Mr. Pennoyer, Assistant Head of School. Olivia explains that the calculative plot of “Nobody’s Waiting for You” develops “a movie that doesn’t leave you with a conclusion.” 

Willa and Olivia both admitted that they expected more from the final cut; however, they were proud and fully satisfied with their work once screening came around. Once completed, the student films played at the AMC Theaters in Times Square, and on the following day, AAHSFF hosted the awards ceremony at the famous Kings Theatre in Brooklyn. Students dressed up and walked the red carpet—the true Hollywood experience. 

Unfortunately, Grace did not come away with any awards this year. Nevertheless, the challenge of the student film was overcome. For both of the film teams, it was an invaluable escapade of discovery—one that no plaque could capture.   

“Waiting for Grace” can be found at this link: https://vimeo.com/644476962/06d2ac7e6b

“Nobody’s Waiting for You” can be found at this link: https://vimeo.com/644477135/b44ae44830

Brando Babini is the Social Media Editor of the Gazette and a member of the junior film team.