Idyllwild Arts alum, Gabe Harshman, acted in "Love Without End"
By Marcia E. Gawecki
All five shorts shown at the Student Film Screenings on Saturday, May 26, were about love.
They involved different themes, including a zombie apocalypse, teen angst, separation and death, gay marriage and restoring eyesight to Ethiopians. But the overall premise was about love — of self, your siblings, your parents, your friends, your spouse and your fellow man.
By the packed house (for the second night in a row) and the standing ovation at the end, the audience loved them all. Even a few tears were shed.
“Get ready to cry!” exclaimed Shanna, a visual art student, after intermission. “The next one is really sad.”
She was right. “Love Without End,” written and directed by Rosey, was a story about love and loss. It was produced by Harald, edited by Minori and filmed by Cyrus.
“No matter what kind of love you have, it never ends,” said Rosey, as she stood at the podium introducing her short film. By the dramatic pauses in her brief speech, it appeared that the film could be autobiographical.
"Life After Death" was more than just a zombie apocalypse movie
“Love Without End” featured two strangers sitting on a bus headed for a special stargazing place in the mountains. Richard, played by Gabe Harshman, an Idyllwild Arts theater alum, lost his wife to illness, while Jason, played by Jared Billings (a film teacher), never found his sister after his parents died and different families adopted them.
The two standouts in the movie were local youngsters, Brighton Dahleen, who played Jason at age 8, and Jennie, played by Elsie Fisher, from the Universal Studios computer animated film, “Despicable Me.”
“It just tore my heart out to see them separated,” Shanna said.
Gabe also got a callout in the thank you credits. He is best known as the louse with the powdered wig in “Learned Ladies.” While at Idyllwild Arts, Gabe also played in the “Laramie Project” and the “Mystery of Edwin Drood.” Now, after two years at Roosevelt in Chicago, he’s living in Los Angeles and taking improv classes with Gary Austin, founder of “The Groundlings.”
He’s also friends with Idyllwild Arts film alumni, Nick Caine and Sean Stromsoe, who helped edit the films.
“Gabe was great to work with,” exclaimed Lujie one of the crew. “He worked with us until midnight and never complained.”
If you look closely at the way that “Love Never Ends” was shot, the two men who play the leads were never face-to-face, but side-by-side (on the bus, on the rock). That’s because Gabe’s part was shot first, weeks before Jared’s part, that was added later.
“I take pride in taking direction,” Gabe said earlier. “I’m an actor, not a director or producer, whose job is to look at the big picture.”
He said it was great coming back to the natural surroundings of Idyllwild after living in LA.
“It was really peaceful looking up at the stars,” Gabe said. “I miss that.”
Film crew unloads on location in Idyllwild
For the first film shown Saturday night, “Life After Death,” was more about the love between a sister and brother, than a zombie apocalypse. It was written and directed by Armani, a sophomore film major. In his introduction, he keenly noted that not many sophomores got their films “green lit.” He thanked his leading actor, Quincy, for making the most of her big sister role. Armani also thanked his real-life sister for her inspiration and his mother for her loyalty.
“This film is dedicated to my mother,” Armani said. “For believing in me, even when I turned into a zombie.”
He also said that he was inspired by a book that featured zombies that were not just cold-blooded killers, but still showed signs of humanity.
The action-packed zombie short, featured realistic makeup on the battle beleagured Quincy and her boyfriend, Eric. In an instant, she left her 5-year-old brother alone to go out with Eric. (In hindsight, it may not have made a big difference if she was home because the zombies were taking over the world).
The movie makes good use of TV news announcements and voice mail messages to convey the seriousness of the zombie apocalypse. In most of the scenes, Eric wielded a semi-automatic rifle, to fend off zombies, coming close to getting bit once.
When he shot one zombie in an abandoned home, the bloodstain left on the wall was digitally enhanced.
(from L) Juwan sings to Jared, as Caleb plays at the 2011 screenings. This year, Jared acted in "Love Without End."
In his opening remarks to “Life After Death,” Jared said that the special effects company has agreed to work with Idyllwild Arts students again next year.
“That says a lot about the professionalism of our film students,” Jared said.
“The Wingman,” a coming-of-age comedy, features two Idyllwild Arts alumni in the leading roles, Connor Farwell and Russell Bomgardner. It was written and co-directed by Gabby and her brother, Angelo.
“As a former theater major, I thought I’d escape acting,” confessed Gabby, in her opening remarks. “But then, I’m in the film, so Angelo directed me.”
“Wingman” was produced by Alyssa, edited by Paris, Alex and Gabby. It’s about Jace, played by Russell (Shortcomings) who is bullied by the overbearing Payton, until a tragedy happend. Connor is still self-absorbed, but Russell has changed. Gabby, as the angel that only Russell can see, helps him find his backbone and realize his true merits.
“We think Angelo is awesome,” exclaimed Ira Abrams, in his opening remarks.
As cinematographer, Angelo captured Idyllwild’s natural beauty, including scenes from Lake Fulmor, and meadows near the state park.
(from L) Idyllwild Arts alum, Russell Bombgardner (shown with Kathryn) plays the sidekick in "Wingman"
The “Assosa Eye Clinic” documentary, also showcased the talents of Idyllwild Arts alumni, Sean Stromsoe (film) and Charles Haysbert (theater). It showed the efforts of Dr. Samuel, the only physician for 200,000 people, and the Tropical Health Alliance, to help restore eyesight to cataract patients in Ethiopia.
Though mostly visuals and little dialogue, Sean and Charles tell a heart-warming tale about a father and son. Through cataract surgery, sight in one of the father’s eyes is restored.
“I can see you!” the father exclaimed as his bandages were removed. “This is my joy to see my son again. Thank God.”
“Perfect,” a 3-minute short-short, was written and produced by Anna, just days before the weekend film screenings. It featured a love-struck girl musing about her prom date. Then reality strikes when his mom drives them to the dance.
The final film of the evening took on a political tone. “A Family Like Mine,” is a documentary about children growing up with same-sex parents. It was written by Katherine, or Tia, whose single dad is gay. It was produced by Tirzah, filmed by Alex, and edited by Moira.
President Obama portrait by Marcia E. Gawecki, Idyllwild
Recently, President Obama has supported legislation that allows same sex couples to marry. It is landmark legislation and a big risk for an incumbent president, yet opposed by the religious right.
“When I came to Idyllwild Arts, I was surprised to learn how many people grew up like me,” Tia said.
In her film, several instructors from Idyllwild Arts told their perspective of gay families, including Shambo Carpenter, a philosophy teacher, and Melissa Wilson, an animation teacher. Also, the wife of Daniel Gray, who was pregnant at the time.
They spoke of confusion, pain and isolation growing up as children of gay couples.
“My brother and I decided once that we weren’t going to listen to or associate with people who didn’t understand our family,” said Shambo, who has two mothers.
Tia, whose father is gay, didn’t know the term until she was nine years old when another child told her.
Her father described how his own mother sent him to a psychiatrist when he was young, to see if he was gay.
"Gabe was great to work with," exclaimed Lujie.
“They put me in a room with all kinds of toys. I bypassed all the cowboy guns and went straight for the dolls,” Tia’s father recalled. “When my mother asked the doctor if I was gay, he said, ‘Regardless if he’s gay or not, he’s going to be a father.”
“A Family Like Mine,” showed Tia growing up, riding bikes and drawing with her dad. Tia is African-American, and her father is white.
“People on the street used to ask me where I got this child, and if I took her from someone,” Tia’s dad said. “I used to tell them that I was babysitting for Diana Ross.”
Through a multitude of conversations with gay parents, children of gay parents, priests and news clippings of the opposition, “A Family Like Mine” will help give an insider’s perspective to the same-sex marriage debate.
“People don’t realize that when they are attacking same-sex couples, they are also attacking the children of those families,” Tia said “People like me.”
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