Four New Trier student films screened at All American High School Film Festival in NYC

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Two aspiring New Trier filmmakers and a Class of 2017 graduate got to see their films on the big screen in New York this month after their works were chosen as official selections at the All American High School Film Festival.

Seniors Lucy Spahr and Sofia Mena and recent graduate Kelly Zabors attended the film festival on Oct. 6-8.

Each year, the AAHSFF hosts the largest high school film festival in the world with a mission to "provide immersive education with a profound impact, connecting filmmakers of the future with the rewards, respect, and recognition they deserve," according to their website.

Spahr created a music video about a broken teenage romance called "If We Were Rain," which was filmed at the Santa Monica Pier. Spahr collaborated with her friend Sophie Feldman, a singer and songwriter from Seattle who composed the song. Spahr's film was screened on Oct. 7 at the AMC movie theater in Times Square.

Spahr's interest in filmmaking started at a young age, and she has honed her skills to incorporate writing with filmmaking and editing in order to tell stories in a more visual way. She said she found inspiration in the Greg Harris Film Festival, an annual festival featuring films by New Trier students and alumni.

"The All American High School Film Festival has always been something in which I wanted to take part," Spahr said. "The chance to meet other filmmakers and go to different film-related discussion panels throughout the weekend event introduced me to new ideas and will hopefully help me improve my own films."

Mena created a film called "Oh, It's Nobody," a majority of which was filmed during her Film Production 2 class at New Trier. The film is about two high school students who have an unspoken "conversation" during English class through the eye contact they make from opposite sides of the room. Her film was screened on Oct. 6, also at the AMC movie theater in Times Square.

"I feel like this experience is a very universal one for students at New Trier because sometimes you don't know everybody in your class, but in the classroom, connections can be made without even talking to one another," Mena said about her film. "'Oh, It's Nobody' wasn't just about camera work, and scripting; it was about the connections I made with actors and my crew. You don't need industry-grade equipment and a Hollywood set to make a good film; you just need passionate people who love what you're doing as much as you do."

New Trier alumna Kelly Zabors, who now attends the University of California, Berkeley and plans to major in business administration with a minor in film studies, submitted two films that were screened at the AAHSFF. "The Sound and the Fury" is an experimental film based on the complex nature of William Faulkner's writing in the book of the same title.

"In the book, sentences lack punctuation and formatting, and the read feels incredibly natural and unfiltered," Zabors said. "What seems to be a simple conversation between a brother and a sister carries so much more weight when considering the subtle cues behind each action, and I wanted to express that alternative subtext through a more visual platform."

Zabors was also a finalist for Best PSA for her film "Virus," which explores a "somewhat exaggerated spiral into chaos" after an unassuming teen clicks on a dangerous website link. She credits her former New Trier video production teacher, Iwona Awlasewicz, for helping her become the filmmaker she is today.

The students decided to submit films for this year's AAHSFF after Awlasewicz took seven of them to the NYC festival last fall.

"[Last year's festival] was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life to date," Mena said. "I was so inspired seeing all the amazing student films that I decided at the last minute to submit 'Oh, It's Nobody' to the comedy category. I am so grateful to Ms. A for taking me; without her I would not be nominated!"