Siegel(11) writes and directs drama with faculty and students in Filmmaking class


Allison Markman and Nikita Pande

“When I look back on filming this film of mine, I really do see it as the hard work and dedication of so many people,” Sam Siegel (11) said. Siegel is directing a film that involves other members in Film teacher Jordan Rathus’s Filmmaking 3: Creating the Short Film class. The film takes a look at the life of a high schooler going through a regular day but highly dramatizes it, he said. 

Siegel intends for the film to be more serious from those normally created in filmmaking classes, Rathus said. “A lot of filmmaking students have a tendency to make something funny, but he wanted to try something different,” she said. “He wanted to try more of a drama.”

In addition to his passion for filmmaking, Siegel’s directing skills are an asset, Rathus said. “[He does] a great job of demonstrating the professionalism that he hopes to attain throughout his filmmaking career and was really great at explaining context to his actors.”

Producer Lawson Wright (11), who is part of the Acting for the Camera class that is working on Siegel’s film, is delighted to be part of the project. “I was excited to work on Sam’s film because I can tell how passionate he is about his work,” he said. 

As director, Siegel is in charge of editing all the footage, but he expects that Rathus will also take a look before the final product is created, he said. His hope is to complete the editing process by March.

Siegel’s entire crew was instrumental in the creation of the film, Siegel said. Wright ensured everything ran smoothly by coordinating schedules and locations, and he also helped Siegel achieve his artistic vision for the film, Siegel said.

Logan Dracos (12) is the Director of Photography, operating the camera and designing the shot list, Siegel said. “He basically helped figure out what it was going to look like, how we’re going to shoot it, and what campus we’re going to use,” Siegel said. 

Another member of the crew is Morgan Frances-Cohen (12). Frances-Cohen is responsible for guaranteeing that all the audio was captured when filming, especially the dialogue, as well as making sure the background music stays consistent, Siegel said. 

In addition, teachers played a vital role in the project both behind and in front of the camera in order to create many of the scenes. Rathus, for example, acts in the film, allows Siegel to check out cameras, and serves as a mentor throughout the process. In addition, other teachers act in the periphery of the film and were crucial to making the film run smoothly, Siegel said. 

Siegel reached out to Upper Division Library Department Chair Caroline Bartels, asking if she would act in the film as a librarian who intervened in a student fight, Bartels said. “He created the script but I said that’s not what I would actually say, and he let me sort of adlib.”

It took all of G period to film one scene because multiple takes were required, Bartels said. “We had to kind of keep doing [the scene] because they wanted different angles.” Siegel explained how after filming, with all the takes acquired, he was going to edit and choose the best shots, Bartels said.

The film will most likely be finished in the spring, Rathus said. “We have one more film project that [Siegel]’s working on right now,” she said. “And when he’s finished with it, he’s going to go back to the edit.” 

Siegel’s inspiration for the film stemmed from a brainstorming activity that he did in his filmmaking class when a member of the class came up with an idea to showcase the day in the life of a high school student, but with twists along the way, he said. 

After coming up with the idea in filmmaking class, Siegel wrote the script from September to October, he said. At first, he put certain visuals for the camera in the script but had to move those visuals to a different document later to separate the script from ideas and camera movements, Siegel said. 

During the writing process, Rathus kept an open dialogue with Siegel and helped him develop the film’s characters. “We talked a lot about the function of the different characters and how they were playing a role in the main character’s life,” she said. After the script was drafted, Rathus and Wright edited the script further. In October, Siegel gave the final version of the script to student actors in the Acting for the Camera class, he said.

The pandemic has posed a few problems during filming. Masks require students to enunciate and convey things through their eyes, Bartels said. A significant obstacle of creating the film thus far has been coordinating everyone’s schedules with all of the days that were off from school, Wright said. “Throughout shooting, we lost at least three days due to surprise days off and people being out of school,” he said. “However, we were able to work through those challenges and I’m quite proud of what we were able to accomplish.”