Senior and alumnae films to be played in Times Square

October 12, 2017 — by Elaine Sun

Seniors' short films selected to be played at the All American High School Film Festival. 

Short films made by senior Stacey Chen and alumni Kate Smails and Kanika Vora were shown in the AMC Empire 25 theaters in Times Square for the All American High School Film Festival on Oct. 4-7.

While the films were played in the Times Square local, they were created here at school.

Chen produced her experimental short film entitled “I Once Tried to Store Away the Past” for her final project for English 11 Honors. The film starts with her playing a VHS tape. Then, it depicts her painting a mural outside of room 002, overlaid with quiet piano music.

“The idea I was trying to reveal was the plight of an individual trying to escape past memories,” Chen said about the mural. “It was a common theme found in our English 11 curriculum.”

Since this is her first experimental film, she said it is about “using different mediums of art for self-expression.”

It was Chen’s second time going to New York City. One of her films was selected for the festival last year as well.

The process of making the film was very spontaneous, making a shot list and filming random snippets. Chen wanted an original soundtrack, so she played the piano music herself.

Her partner in the film, senior JR Im, helped her film the piano scenes. To create the feeling of memories, Chen added a VHS tape effect, which gradually faded away as the mural was completed. According to Chen, the film “showed how art can help people escape the past.”

While Chen’s film focuses on freedom of expression, Kate Smails’s and Kanika Vora’s film focuses on mental disabilities affect people’s lives.

Their documentary, “The Olympic Spirit,” which was made for their Media Arts Program senior project, is about Special Olympics competitors and married couple Lindsay Mibach and Ryan Epidendio, who have Down Syndrome. It explains how they met through the Special Olympics and how participating in the games  has helped them in their lives.

“It’s about how the Special Olympics gives intellectually disabled people a chance to play sports and grow mentally, physically and socially,” Vora said.

The most difficult part of their process was choosing the subjects. After deciding on the pair, they filmed practices and tournaments for the sports they participated in.

Smails thought that the opportunity to have their film played was an incredible experience and that their project ended up being a strong film.

“We were really proud of the film, and we had faced a lot of challenges along the way in producing it, so it was nice to have it all come to fruition,” Smails said.

Chen’s, Smails’s and Vora’s films have been posted online for viewers to watch at home or for viewers to watch on the big screen at the Times Square event.

Although none of them ended up winning, they all agree that it was a great experience and gave their films more exposure.

“It was really incredible for it to be an official selection,” Vora said. “The purpose of doing a documentary on this subject was to show people the humanizing side of this topic and help with The Special Olympics outreach, so for people to see it in the biggest theater in America is really amazing.”