Photo by Seth Halleran
The Same Old Thing writer and director, Isaiah Hoban Halvorsen.

Ballard High graduates reunite, collaborate to make professional indie-films

By Seth Halleran, UW News Lab

In the nine years since Isaiah Hoban Halvorsen started playing with cameras, making videos with his friends, his passion for film hasn’t wavered.

19-year-old Hoban Halvorsen wrote and directed the short film The Same Old Thing, a dark-comedy exploring the parallel stories of two Seattle teenagers.

“It’s a pre-coming of age story,” says Hoban Halvorsen, “it’s basically about people trying to figure themselves out and not quite realizing who they are.”

Many of the 24 teens and young adults that made up the cast & crew of The Same Old Thing, including Hoban Halvorsen, graduated from Ballard High School’s digital filmmaking program.

The Same Old Thing has been the biggest project undertaken by those spearheading its production.

“It was like looking at it and trying to bite off more than we can chew and doing our best to wolf it down any way we could,” says Vann Fulfs, one of the film’s four producers.

Fulfs believes that the shared experience of the Ballard high graduates helped foster a professional environment on set.

At the center of this shared experience sits Matt Lawrence, who founded Ballard’s award-winning filmmaking program in 2001 and has been the sole teacher since.

Known to his students as BDL (Big Daddy Lawrence) and more recently Powerhouse, Lawrence has his students develop original story ideas, then vote to produce the most promising.

“I know programs that are in many ways well-taught but that are convinced that if students make the content that it won’t be important somehow,” says Lawrence, “and I’ve never understood that.”

Once they’ve chosen their projects, before students can check out equipment they must submit a portfolio notebook with storyboards, schedules for shooting and production, and agreements from actors and locations.

Over the summer, Lawrence hosts weekly college application workshops for students in the program, helping them build their portfolios.

For Hoban Halvorsen, attending this workshop every week for about half the summer helped him receive a $186,000 four-year scholarship to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

“He really believes in the power of media,” says Fulfs, “He has a deep passion for storytelling.”

After graduating, many of Lawrence’s students go on to study at film schools across the nation like Columbia College and Emerson College.

One particularly interesting part of Lawrence’s program is his focus on visual storytelling.

This meant for Hoban Halvorsen that 2 of the 9 projects he worked on in high school had no dialogue and told story solely through visuals, as assigned by Lawrence.

And this experience carries over into The Same Old Thing.

“The dialogue doesn’t tell the story, it just enhances it,” says Hoban Halvorsen. “I think the visuals are really going to tell the story.”

Fulfs added that this project was the first for many of those involved with a budget.

Jake Eisner, another of the four producers, organized an Indie Gogo page for the film and fundraised about $1,200 dollars.

In comparison The Foxy Merkins, produced by adults with Master’s degrees in various art fields, premiered at the Sundance film festival this year and raised about $12,800 through Kickstarter.

With their budget the group was able to rent high-end equipment, shoot at locations across Seattle, and costume the cast in appropriate Seattle thrift-inspired garb—all while providing meals for the whole cast & crew.

With such a smooth production phase, some of the students can hardly wait for the next project.

Hoban Halvorsen will be working on a project titled Captain Fantastic, set to be shot around the Seattle area alongside The Same Old Thing producer Lucy Harstrick.

The Same Old Thing
Hoban Halvorsen reviews footage on the group’s Blackmagic camera. Photo courtesy of Vann Fulfs via Facebook.

With the rest of the crew left waiting, Fulfs plans to reunite them once more to shoot his film Ultra Hue before the end of summer.

“That’s a good sign, isn’t it, about the kind of creative relationships that they had?” says Lawrence. “This is a collaborative art form so that network is really really important.”

The Same Old Thing is in post-production and Hoban Halvorsen hopes to have it show at youth film festivals next year.

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