Darian Henry and Michael Mejia are teenage filmmakers from Albany and they're presenting their work at Madison Theater Thursday night. They're part of Grand Street Community Arts Youth FX , a six week intensive, hands-on summer film program.
The mission of Youth FX is to "empower and inspire youth through the acquisition of technical skills in the emerging field of digital media as well as to foster their creativity through the art of visual storytelling." I can't speak for all of the students, but from the short time I spent with Darian, Michael and the program's director, Bhawin Suchak -- their mission succeeded, and then some.
Their film, The Third Rail, blew me away. I had the opportunity to screen it this past week and I wasn't expecting what I saw -- at all.
What struck me most about the film is its depth: the images (striking in composition and color), the story (the plot isn't complicated -- it's about the end of the world from a kid's perspective, but it's executed well), and the depth of these kids. The thing is, you see that they're teenagers and that some of them may be doing this for the first time, but the film itself is beyond that.
The film is so mature.
Narrative film is a genre, that as a filmmaker, I stay very far away from. I prefer documentary because the content is already there. Fiction takes imagination, guts and creativity -- all of which these teenage filmmakers have.
Michael and Darian worked on the film with a handful of other students in the program, but they both take DP (director of photography) credits. Michael even has a small acting role at the end.
I asked them what the hardest part about making the film was -- and like any project that takes many minds, it was working together. Darian says "yeah, we did butt heads," but they worked through it. And as Bhawin added, working well with others is a big part of succeeding in filmmaking.
The Third Rail is one of six short films that will be screening this Thursday. Other films include a documentary about a pizza parlor and a film about a Latino youth conference.
The students that take part in the program primarily come from Albany and outreach is specifically targeted to teenagers living in the South End, West Hill and Arbor Hill neighborhoods. There will be another session this summer, but the dates have not yet been announced. (You can become a fan of them on Facebook to stay updated.)
Says Bhawin of the program's students: "I am really proud of them and what they have accomplished -- they are really talented and amazing."
These kids have talent and plan on making a career of it. Both Darian and Michael, seniors in high school, are applying to film school for the fall.
The Youth FX screening at the Madison begins at 7pm on Thursday, February 3.
Film still, on-set photo and flyer courtesy of Youth FX.
1036 Madison Ave
Albany, NY 12208
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