Horace Mann Film Institute Screening Showcases Student Talent

Simon Yang, Staff Writer

As the lights of Recital Hall began to dim and the sound of student chatter began to fade, the title of the first film boldly appeared on the screen.

Taking place on the night of July 12th, the Horace Mann Summer Film Institute screening celebrated the work of aspiring student cinematographers. It showcased twelve short films, each written, shot, and edited by the students, with some even starring the students as actors.

Taught by photography teacher Jordan Rathus and teaching assistant Maggie Brill ’18, the HMSFI students spent four weeks both learning the basics of cinematography and shooting their own films, Rathus said.

Gavin Delanty (12), an HMSFI student, described the filming process to be thorough and complex. “The shoots required a lot of attention to details and involved a lot of improvisations when shots went awry,” Delanty said. “That’s why it felt so amazing and relieving to finally finish a shoot.”

While the filming process was involved, many found it engaging. “I found the shooting week to be the most interesting,” Wilder Harwood (11), an HMSFI student, said. “We were able to go off campus to film, and that made the experience even more fun,” she said.

Although the actual shooting process lasted only for four days, the final editing process was arduous, Rathus said. After filming, the HMSFI students edited and perfected the films until the last minute, she said.

The films delivered a broad range of creative stories, ranging from time travel to an action-packed chase sequence between students competing for a candy bar. Ashley Dai (11), who attended the screening, was impressed and surprised by the creativity of the films, she said. “It was so interesting to see how all the films told such unique stories within the short span of three minutes,” Dai said.

Director of Summer School Caroline Bartels, who helped administer the program, believed that the students’ efforts were successfully reflected by the screening. “It was really fun to watch the students come to school every day excited to film,” Bartels said. “To see such energy and excitement come through in the screening and the talkback was invaluable.”

Delanty was a little nervous to show his film to the audience at first, he said. “I do wish that I had gotten more footage of certain parts,” he said. “I was happy with how my film turned out.”

A brief talkback session with students and Rathus followed the screening, where students discussed their processes of filming and scripting in more depth.

Many students expressed their changed perspectives on filming, often pointing out the surprising amount of work and flexibility required in even the simplest shots. “The amount of effort needed to get footage for a three-minute film was something I didn’t expect,” Mika Asfaw (11) said.

Delanty, who had no prior knowledge of filmmaking, learned how difficult it is to make a film through the summer program, he said.

While the program was involved and rigorous, students believe HMSFI was a meaningful learning experience. Delanty was happy to learn a variety of editing and filming skills, which he believes will be useful in the future, he said.

Harwood thinks the four weeks allowed the students to express their potential. “You’re only making one movie for four weeks, so all your attention is focused on the films,” she said. The focused process enabled the students to gain even more from the experience, Harwood said.

“The most important takeaway from the program is that students can learn how to balance being prepared with being flexible,” Rathus said. She hopes that the experience allowed students to gain more comfort with artistic experimentation, she said.