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Teen Directors on Making Movies
By Aaron Broder
Scholastic Kids Press Corps

Aaron Broder and teen filmmaker Ben Easton. Kid Reporter Aaron Broder and teen filmmaker Ben Easton.
Courtesy of Aaron Broder
One of the Nashville Film Festival's premiere categories is "Youth or Consequences," a category that features many films directed by teens. I got a chance to talk with a few of these young directors. First up—Ben Easton, whose film, Arley's Balloon, tells the story of a kid who expresses her emotion towards her sick sister through something as simple as a balloon.

Scholastic News Online: Where did you get the idea for this film?
Ben Easton: Well, to tell you the truth, I'm not really sure. As clichéd as this sounds, I actually think I came up with the idea right before I was about to fall asleep one night; I started developing the idea and asked some friends what they thought of it. From there, little by little, I got ideas about where to shoot segments of the film, and what Arley (my sister Abby) should say, and I came up with the perfect music. Basically, once I had the concept grounded in my head, the ideas kept coming for the details of the movie.

SN Online: How many people were involved in this movie?
Easton: The only two people who really were involved were me and my sister Abby, who is 11 and played Arley. I got a lot of advice from my school advisor and film teacher Steve Smail, and my school—the University School of Nashville—allowed me to use their digital lab and Final Cut Express to edit the film. There were also the places that let us stay inside to warm up [this movie was filmed over winter break].

SN Online: Was it difficult for you to make this movie?
Easton: It was difficult, but not in a negative way. The difficulty was in the time that I had to commit to the project. Shooting took about a week total, and I recorded the voice-overs with Abby with no trouble. The most difficult elements were the editing process, and shooting in 30-degree weather!

SN Online: What was your motivation for making this movie?
Easton: Initially, this movie was made for a class I took this year in film and digital video at my school. I got permission to extend my due date to tone it for the festival. I've always had an interest in filmmaking and being on- and off-camera, and this class and this festival have inspired me even more.

SN Online: Why do you think it is important that kids are recognized in the festival?
Easton: The artistic director of the festival, Brian Gordon, said this today: "There's a lot of honest things that can be said through film without having to use expensive equipment or paid actors or anything excessive." What's important is showing that kids can tell a story that has some sort of meaning to it. Giving me the opportunity to show a film that really means something to me (and hopefully to other people) at the movie theatre I go to regularly [makes] me proud.


 Jake Sawyer on the set of <i>Shoes</i>.
Jake Sawyer on the set of Shoes..
(Photo: Courtesy of Jake Sawyer)
Do shoes rule your school? They do in the movie Shoes, directed by Jake Sawyer, which is a humorous look at peer pressure from the eyes of one who has lived through it. When Frankie gets made fun of for his shoes, he learns a valuable lesson about peer pressure.

Scholastic News Online: Where did you get the idea for this film?
Jake Sawyer: I remembered the agony I went through in middle school trying to fit in by wearing the right shoes and apparel, and I thought it would be a great subject for a middle school audience.

SN Online: So the peer pressure is based on a real experience?
Sawyer: I remember getting these awful blue and white shoes when I was in middle school. My buddies just ripped me to shreds. It was horrible. I imagined all the different ways I could secretly destroy, burn, or blow them up without my parents noticing.

SN Online: Did you write a screenplay for it?
Sawyer: The script I originally wrote rounded out to seventeen pages, but by the time I had the final cut completed, [it was] only thirteen of the pages. The more experienced I become, the more it seems less is more.

SN Online: How many people were involved in this movie?
Sawyer: Six were on my crew, including me, and we had around twenty five extras and actors and several dozen more who graciously donated their equipment, locations, or support.

SN Online: Was it difficult for you to make this movie?
Sawyer: The hardest challenge was gathering support, but because I was persistent and serious, I pulled the needed resources together and was able to do some really amazing things.

SN Online: Why do you think it is important that kids are recognized in the festival?
Sawyer: We're going to be the next generation of filmmakers that will be putting the films you'll be watching up on the big screen.

SN Online: In your movie, is there a message you are trying to communicate to your audience?
Sawyer: That you need to be careful with vanity and worrying too much about being accepted by what you display on the outside.

SN Online: What was your motivation for making this movie?
Sawyer: I was inspired to make a short that spoke to a middle-school audience [about] the perils of fashion.

SN Online: Is filmmaking something you think you will continue to do?
Sawyer: Definitely. I think I've been lucky to find one of my true passions at a young age.


Kid Reporter Aaron Broder and teen director Molly Proffitt.
Kid Reporter Aaron Broder and teen director Molly Proffitt.
(Photo: Courtesy of Aaron Broder)
Molly Proffitt is the 18-year-old film director of Endurance, a short documentary about teenagers and the struggles they go through.

Scholastic News Online: Where did you get the idea for the film, Endurance?
Molly Proffitt: I was listening to a song called 'Below the Ocean' by David Arkenstone, and it got me thinking about the world around us.

SN Online: How long from start to finish did it take to complete this movie?
Proffitt: The idea to write out and contact everybody took about a week and a half. The production work took about a month, and total it was about two months.

SN Online: Why do you think it is important that teenagers are represented at the festival?
Proffitt: I think it is important that kids are represented at the Nashville Film Festival because they're going to grow up and this is what they want to do. They have stories to tell just like everybody else and they're not less important than adults.

SN Online: Is there a message you are trying to communicate?
Proffitt: Everybody can relate [to each other, because] everybody has been through something in their lives that has been hard for them.

SN Online: Where did you meet the people in your movie?
Proffitt: One of them was me, so I didn't have to worry about that. Another one was my brother, so that too was easy. The rest were just my friends and people I knew.

SN Online: Where do you get the ideas for most of your movies?
Proffitt: Everyone has a weird story inside of them and I just think and think, and sometimes I dream, and I'll take a dream and turn it into a screenplay.



Nashville Film Festival
Kid Reporter Aaron Broder pays a visit to the Nashville Film Festival.