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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

From drama student to producer: Alumnus Mandell lives dream through short film ‘Laugh Along the Way’

2011 alumnus David Mandell, now a senior and theater arts major at University of Southern California, is producing a 15-minute film titled “Laugh Along the Way.” The film centers around three characters: John, Sam and Chris, who each deal with his own set of adversities, much like Mandell, who also dealt with struggles during high school.

In Mandell’s film, John, a high school senior, is diagnosed with leukemia. During chemotherapy, he meets an 11-year-old named Sam, who is diagnosed with the same disease. Sam’s older brother is Chris, who is openly gay and a past victim of John’s bullying. The three become friends and cope with their problems together through the support of new friendship.

“My inspiration for the story came from hearing countless stories from people I have interacted with who have dealt with their own personal adversities,” Mandell said. “We hope to inspire anyone attempting to conceal something from the world.”

Mandell, who said he struggled with his sexuality throughout high school and later came to terms with being gay while he was in college, uses film as a way to represent those who are going through hardships that they are afraid to share with others.

My case was a little bit different; knowing whether or not I was gay was a separate issue,” Mandell said. “I didn't have time to think about girls, let alone figure out I was actually into guys. It was something I was hiding from even myself.”

Mandell hopes “Laugh Along the Way” will inspire others to speak up, and not feel confined by judgment by themselves or others.

During his time at Saratoga High, Mandell was a drum major, a speech and debate individual events team captain and ASB president. Mandell, however, credits the school’s drama program for giving him the support and strength to pursue his goals.

“Saratoga High allowed me to dive into different areas of the arts and explore parts of myself I may not have found before,” Mandell said. “It encouraged me to pursue my dreams and allowed me to balance everything I wanted to accomplish.”

Mandell and his team have faced hardships since they started pre-production in May, such as insufficient funds and scheduling conflicts. Mandell, however, continues to remain optimistic and determined to make his dream a reality. He started a fundraiser on the website Indiegogo on July 25 and was able to reach his $11,000 goal on Sept. 6, thanks to generous donations from the public.

[Acting and producing] is what I plan to do for the rest of my life, and learning with a hands-on professional short film is the best learning situation I could have asked for,” Mandell said.

Mandell has already cast a talented group of actors including himself and fellow USC students Zachary Roozen (Chris) and Amber Coney (John’s girlfriend), to play lead roles in the short film.  He hopes to submit “Laugh Along the Way” into film festivals throughout the country and eventually develop it into a full-length film.

Mandell will begin shooting in October, and the short film will be released in 2015.

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