Ballard High School filmmaker honored
BHS student, Lucy Harstrick, was awarded the Merit Award in Cinematic Arts by The National YoungArts Foundation earlier this month.
Lucy’s film was selected out of 11 thousand submissions nationwide through a blind adjudication process by a nationally and internationally renowned panel of judges, master teachers and artists. The panel recognized the “exceptional artistic achievement” evident in her work.
Young Arts was started in 1981 and was formerly known as the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts. The YoungArts program identifies and supports young talent in the areas of music, theater, visual arts, photography, writing, and cinematic arts (motion picture).
“I’m very impressed with the piece and would not have pushed to submit it if I didn’t think it had a really good chance,” said Matt Lawrence, Lucy’s film teacher at BHS.
Harstrick decided to go to BHS after learning about the film production program. As a third year student in the Advanced Video Production class, she pitched her idea last spring and worked with other BHS students to complete the project. She worked with Isaiah Hoban-Halvorsen (now at NYU), Josh Vredevoogd, and Kiana Wyld to realize her concept.
“At first Lawrence didn’t think the idea was going to work, but I told him it was something I really wanted to experiment with and he came around,” said Harstrick.
The film is a music video called, “Song for Anna,” and is just short of three minutes long.
Harstrick said that a friend wrote the song and that when she looked at the lyrics she knew it would be the right song to base the project around.
In the film a young man starts at the airport (Seatac), and there are darker colors used as he travels from the airport to a house. Meanwhile, a young woman starts at that home and travels to the airport, and there are bright warm colors used to view her scenes. Both characters never cross paths or interact with each other. The only indication viewers have that the characters even know each other is that both characters look at pictures of the other during the course of the film, and also the male character arrives at the same home the woman left.
The film has two simultaneous stories happening at once, yet they are related and depicts a couple either getting together – or trying to break up. At some points in the film, Harstrick used split screen to show the two stories at once.
“I chose the airport a setting because it’s really an anonymous place. Everyone is coming or going you don’t know who is who. .... I had to email TSA a month and a half in advance and they said that as long as I did not film agents it would be fine,” said Harstrick
Harstrick said her main role in the filming process was coming up with the creative concept, writing the storyboard, coordinating film shoots, camera work and a lot of the editing.
“The concept changed a lot over the course pre production, which is expected… I didn’t want it to be exactly a love story and that’s why the characters never meet and, I didn’t want it to be a romance because that would have said to much - I just wanted romance undertones,” said Harstrick.
In the editing process the team used graphic symbols like gates to show the stories happening at once and also relate. They also made actors movements synch with the beat of the song.
“We did little things to make the stories parallel and it really came together at the end.”
“I had that shot in my head before I even had the story. Originally we were going to do split screen the entire time but then we thought it would be double the shooting time.”
Harstrick and the team used close up and long shots to help tell the story of the characters.
“We did some hand held shots to give it a more personal feel because that’s when she’s looking in the mirror and deciding if she’s going to leave or not so it gave it a more intimate feel…but in the airport we did more long shots to give it a more distant vacant feeling,” Harstrick
The colors used in the film also added to its themes. Using dark colors to view the scenes with the male character and light warm to view the female character.
“If I had shot it in black and white it would have taken away the ambiguity of the story, and so I’m really with how used color the way we did.”
Harstrick has been a life long movie fan and had early inspiration watching movies with her father. She said she noticed the elements of certain films that led to her film production curiosity.
“There are some movies I’ve seen that made me want to make movies. One of the first movies I watch was the Evil Dead and I just loved all the shots and it was such a low budget film but the story telling with the camera was amazing. I think that (Evil Dead) would work with no dialogue, which is the mark of a good story.”
Though she draws inspiration from films, Harstrick said that she does not necessarily emulate any one-film maker but just takes bits and pieces from many.
“I really like the Quentin Tarantino films and like how telling the story out of chronological order does to an audience and that kind of lends to what I did where the audience fills in the blanks themselves.”
Harstrick explained that there is no direct message and leaves room for viewers to take away what they want from the film.
“I had seen movies before where the audience makes up their own ending and have to use their own imagination and usually I think that doesn’t work because it might feel incomplete but that’s what I was going for and it really came together”
“I thought it was a really strong piece. Its very sophisticated and unusual for any narrative form to have this structure that you can read in different ways. … It’s like an inkblot test. You can see a break up or a getting together,” said Lawrence.
Along with international recognition from the YoungArts program, the award comes with benefits for future college aspirations.
“YoungArts will be writing letters to colleges recommending the students that are honored. And if you look at the history of the Young Arts they are really good at identifying young talent,” said Lawrence
Harstrick plans to study film and has applied to a few schools with renowned film programs. She has been accepted to Emerson College and waiting to hear from Columbia College and DePaul University in Chicago. Harstrick is in a high school accelerated program and plans to enroll in the spring semester of this year.
“Song for Anna” will have its premiere with other recently awarded works by filmmakers in the Ballard High School Video Production Program at “The Showing” on Saturday, February 8 or Thursday, February 13 at 7 p.m. in the BHS auditorium. For more information visit http://bhsvideo.blogspot.com/.