Posts Tagged ‘Ira Abrams’

Casey Abrams’ Album Release Set for June 26

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

Casey Abrams latest album will be released Tuesday. Banner art by Marcia E. Gawecki.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

“American Idol” heartthrob Casey Abrams’ first self-titled album is set for release on Tuesday, June 26. Already several web sites have showcased his entire album, including the Hollywood Reporter and Amazon.

Not to spoil the fun for anyone who hasn’t heard the album yet, I’ll speak in general terms. Casey is singing about his life in real time. About living the simple life, falling in and out of love, longing and not changing his personality in spite of fame.

One fan said on the MJS big blog site, that he’d surely buy Casey’s album for it’s great music, but the themes of rejection and longing for the unattainable reminded him too much of his own “loser teenage years.” Yet, “Hit the Road Jack,” a duet with Haley Reinhart, was well worth the album price (Amazon presale: $9.99).

Most of the upbeat, Bob Marley-type tunes, were likely written by Casey because they are clever. You’re tapping and singing along, dancing along even, and then he throws a few zingers that shows he has a soul or at least lived a few lifetimes already.

The three tunes that I can mention (because Casey has already released them as singles on You Tube) are “Get Out,” “Simple Life” and “Stuck in London.”

“Simple Life” (studio version) could be about living his high school years in Idyllwild. Casey sings about unplugging his laptop, cell phone and TV, and enjoying the simple life. He injects a bit of humor by stating that he should never had dumped that hand-me-down from dad (Ira Abrams from the Idyllwild Arts Film Department). What was Ira’s hand-me-down–clothes, a Cadillac or a musical instrument? Casey never says.

His “Get Out” lyrics are heartbreaking, even though they are sung in an upbeat way: “Lately, I’ve been going crazy/ cuz I want you, baby/but you don’t/ so get out, get out, get out, get out of my heart!/

So sometime over the past year or so Casey fell in love. Ten to one it’s not Haley, because she’s just as busy as he is promoting singles and scheduling public appearances. Could it be Bianca King, the young actress from The Philippines who was hell bent on meeting Casey during the “American Idol Live” tour? She turned to her Twitter fan base to help get a backstage pass (see Idyllwild Me post, “Casey’s Expanding Fan Base,” dated Jan. 15, 2012).

Jazz musician Barnaby Finch with Casey banner outside Cafe Aroma. Art by Marcia E. Gawecki.

Why I guessed Bianca is because Casey sings a lot about eating mangoes in a mango tree in “Stuck in London.” Well, mangoes grow naturally in The Philippines, and he was visiting there for a couple of days. But is that long enough to fall in love?

Ira Abrams is careful not to give too much away about his son’s personal life. But he admitted that many young Filipinos are crazy about Casey.

“Did you know they hang banners from buildings with quotes from Casey?” Ira said outside Fairway a few weeks ago. “Some quotes are mundane like ‘I sometimes watch TV.'”

Whether Casey is singing about Bianca is nobody’s business. But it sure makes the song more interesting if we know the juicy details. Remember when “You’re So Vain” was released by Carly Simon in 1972? Well, her self-absorbed lover wasn’t husband James Taylor, but Warren Beatty, the actor from “Shampoo” and “Reds.” (Wikipedia stated there was “much speculation” about three men, including Mick Jagger, Nick Nolte and Warren Beatty).

However, all that speculation may have helped “You’re So Vain” reach no. 72 on Billboard’s “Greatest Songs of All Time” chart. So, to help boost Casey’s record sales, someone needs to find out if Bianca has eaten mangoes in trees before.

Casey with Caleb Hensinger at an Idyllwild Arts film event.

Probably the only song that Casey didn’t write in this latest album is the tune popularized by Ray Charles. “Hit the Road Jack” is a spanky little duet with Haley Reinhart. You’ve got to admit it, those two have chemistry. He’s classy, and she’s brassy. He growls, and her voice has range.

But he’s a great jazz musician and could actually make it in the movies, if he wanted to. And singing duets with Haley has boosted her popularity since he took her under his wing in “American Idol’s” Season 10.

This is not the first duet for Casey and Haley. So far, they’ve sung “I Feel the Earth Move,” “Moanin,” and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

It’s not Casey’s first album either. Casey released “Like a Mirror,” in 2005 and “Oh, You Kid!” in 2010. He probably funded the first two, while Concord is taking credit for this one.

You can purchase all three of Casey’s albums on Amazon. Or you can sample “Oh, You Kid!” on Casey’s web site, www.caseyabrams.com.

“Give him a Grammy already,” said another Casey fan after reviewing his album. “I love every song on this album!”

To preview some of Casey’s hit singles, visit You Tube at www.youtube.com or go directly to Amazon, and buy the album for $9.99.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved. Banners of Casey Abrams by Marcia E. Gawecki are now on display at the Bill Anson Gallery in the Backstreet Art District in Palm Springs.

 

Student Films Target All Kinds of Love

Monday, May 28th, 2012

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.”

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

Student Film Screenings Tonight & Saturday

Friday, May 25th, 2012

A zombie screams

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Zombies and pilots are among the themes for this year’s Student Film Screenings held tonight and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the IAF Theatre on the Idyllwild Arts campus. The much-anticipated event is free and open to the public.

Part of the zombie movie was shot next door to me in Idyllwild. I volunteered my neighbor’s house because frankly, my kitchen was a mess.

Maurice Mysenburg’s home was perfect because it was unoccupied (he lives in La Habra), it had a small Sherwood Forest in the back yard, and dark wood paneling throughout.

The script called for one actor to shoot a zombie dead against the wood paneling in the bedroom.

“I wonder if the blood will leave a stain?” asked Isaac, head of the Film Department.

Isaac and Gerald decided they needed to match the wood paneling so they could use it as an overlay. (I’m sure my neighbor, Maurice, wouldn’t want to live with zombie blood above his headboard.) As it turned out, however, they created the blood stain in post-production.

The film crew unloads all of the equipment

Outside, the film crew was unloading the lights, camera and equipment. I was just sorry that I wasn’t going to be around to watch them shoot the zombie film, “Life After Death.”

Before I left, one of the students asked to use my garden hose. I imagined that he needed it to fill up a fog machine or something.

As it turns out, he needed to hose down a zombie.

She had platinum blonde hair, and caked blood all over her face. She was a gruesome sight. And she stood there screaming. Why the zombie needed to be wet and miserable was unknown.

A zombie in full makeup

The zombie film was written by Armani, a sophomore film student at Idyllwild Arts, who insists that it’s got a decent storyline.

“It’s about a guy who convinces a girl to leave her 5-year-old brother at home so that she can go out with him,” Armani explained.

(See ‘Zombie Teen Flick” Idyllwild Me post dated April 10).

“‘It’s more about the story between the sister and brother,” Armani said.

Armani said that “Life After Death” is not autobiographical.

“My sisters didn’t leave me home alone until I was 10,” he said.

Most of the other short films, including “Wing Man” were shot in and around Idyllwild. Those who come to the Student Film Screenings tonight and Saturday night will notice many local sites.

Like all Idyllwild Arts events, the event is free and open to the public. But come early to get a good seat. For more information, contact (951) 659-2171 or visit www.idyllwildarts.org.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

 

 

Zombie Teen Flick Shot in Idyllwild

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Idyllwild is the perfect locale for a zombie movie

By Marcia E. Gawecki

‘Bong of the Dead,’ ‘Chopper Chicks in Zombie Town,’ ‘Dead Men Don’t Die,’ ‘Flesh Eating Mothers,’ ”Oh, My Zombie Mermaid,’ and ‘Plan 9 from Outer Space’ are among the more curious titles of zombie movies listed on the internet.

You could say the world doesn’t need another zombie movie.

“But it’s not just a zombie movie,” insists Armani, a sophomore film student at Idyllwild Arts. “It’s got a decent storyline.”

Armani is talking about “Life After Death,” his short film that was “green lit” recently. (Green means ‘go’ in the film world). The high school students that make up his crew began shooting yesterday.

There’s no ‘zombie’ or zombie reference in the title of his film, which was intentional. In fact, Armani doesn’t even want to discuss zombies.

“I don’t want to speak of it,” he insisted. “Everyone has their own opinion of zombies.”

However, he will talk about is his storyline.

Recently, teen zombies were roaming on the Idyllwild Arts campus

“It’s about a guy who convinces a girl to leave her 5-year-old brother at home so that she can go out with him,” Armani explained.

Zombie drama ensues.

“‘It’s more about the story between the sister and brother,” Armani said. “I’m fighting hard to keep that part alive.”

“Life After Death” is not the first film at Idyllwild Arts that was written one way and turned into quite another.

Two years ago, “Prima Ballerina Assoluta,” Dhavit’s 18-minute short film about ballet dancers, started out as a Kung Fu ninja fighters movie, with lots of death and fight scenes. (See “Kung Fu Ballerina” blog post dated 4/20/10).

“But then Isaac (Webb) and I realized that the only ones on campus athletic enough to carry off a fight scene were the dancers, so we had to change it a bit,” Dhavit said.

Armani has plenty of students willing to turn into zombies for him, but he wants to make sure they don’t take over the movie. The familial relationship is key.

“No, it’s not a true story,” Armani laughs, when asked. “My sisters didn’t leave me home alone until I was 10.”

Kai, a former film student at Idyllwild Arts, said that horror films and night shooting takes a lot of work.

“You have to light every step,” Kai insisted. “Sometimes it’s better to rewrite a night scene.”

Armani said that most of “Life After Death” will be shot during the day or inside the house at night, so lighting isn’t going to be a problem.

“We’re shooting at Bruce Ryan’s son’s house in Idyllwild,” Armani said. “It’s practically across the street from us.”

Look for "Life After Death" to be shown at the IAF Theatre in the spring

Bruce Ryan donated the funds for the sound stage, and his son often lets film students use the house when they’re away. And it’s secluded enough that you wouldn’t see zombies roaming on Tollgate.

Not too long ago, zombies were roaming around on campus. They were not the undead, but students playing a Humans vs. Zombies tag game that lasted more than a week.

“You can stun a zombie by throwing a sock at him,” explained a faculty member at a recent All-School Meeting. “Inside is safe, but outside anywhere is fair game.”

Throwing socks seemed harmless enough until one dancer lost her balance in all the excitement and dislocated her shoulder.

“The sock didn’t hurt her, but her heavy shoulder bag pulled her down,” explained a student who witnessed the fall.

As a heavy fog rolls up the mountainside, Idyllwild appears to be the perfect setting for a zombie movie. Likely, the students have already wrapped up shooting. But in this small town, where many residents believe in fairies, ghosts, and Idyll-Beasts, it’s possible that zombies already roam Hwy. 243.

“Life After Death” and other student shorts will be screened at the end of the school year. The film screening is free and open to the public. For more information about the film department at Idyllwild Arts,  visit www.idyllwildarts.org.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

 

Glass Fixer Knows About Film Crashes

Friday, April 6th, 2012

A cracked windshield can obstruct a driver's view

By Marcia E. Gawecki

In 2005, Doug Shelby, owner of Shelby Auto Glass in Hemet, got a call from one of the film students at Idyllwild Arts. The teenager was thinking of putting a car crash in his short film, and he wanted to know about breaking windshield glass.

Doug doesn’t remember who it was, but likely it could have been Alexis Echavarria, who won the “Audience Choice Award” for “18 Minutes,” a short film about the last 18 minutes of sunlight on earth.

The 16-year-old student died before the screening at ShortFest 2009 in Palm Springs, but a student award has been set up in his name.

In one of the scenes in “18 Minutes,” a young couple pauses on the street for a moment to kiss, while another car hits them head on. The teenage girl goes through the windshield, while the teenage boy survives. A dramatic scene ensues, showing the boy picking her up and cradling her in his arms, just moments before the world ends.

“I don’t think a head-on collision at low speeds, with one car parked would cause someone to go through the windshield,” said Doug. “Windshields are too tough now.”

In 'The Vow,' a woman goes through the windshield and gets amnesia

Doug explained that most car windshields are made of two panes of glass with a thin layer of plastic in between. That combination of glass and plastic is super strong, and makes it hard for anything to go through it, especially a person.

“You would have to be traveling about 90 mph straight into a brick wall to go through the windshield,” Doug said.

But teenage filmmakers are not the only ones who don’t get the windshield thing right.

A few weeks ago, Doug and his wife, Debi, went to see “The Vow,” a true love story about a married couple who get into a car crash. It’s the same premise. The two park momentarily at a stop sign to kiss, and then are rear-ended by a 14-wheeler. The woman, played by Rachael McAdams, goes through the windshield and survives, but gets amnesia.

“I leaned over and said to my wife, ‘That would never happen,'” Doug said.

Too bad director Michael Sucsy didn’t have Doug on the set to advise them about the realities of windshield glass.

Doug just shrugged and said, “That’s Hollywood!”

Many windshields crack in Idyllwild due to the weather

Shelby Glass is located at the bottom of the hill in Valle Vista/Hemet. Doug’s son works in their mobile unit that services Idyllwild businesses, including Idyllwild Arts.

“Shelby Glass is the best,” said Tucker McIntyre, head of Transportation at Idyllwild Arts. “We’ve used them for years because they’re reasonable and they come up to us for no extra charge.”

Shelby’s free mobile service covers Idyllwild, Beaumont, Banning, Hemet, and San Jacinto, among other cities.

For more information on Shelby Glass, contact (888) 298-7125, (951) 927-9810 or visit shelbyautoglass.com. The shop is located at 45457 Hwy. 74 in Hemet.

And to view Alexis Echavarria’s ’18 Minutes,’ visit www.alexisechavarria.com. (Video takes some time to download, so please be patient).

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

 

 

Using Tweets to Help Recruit New Arts Students

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

Emily tweeted Michael Jackson's son about attending Idyllwild Arts

By Marcia E. Gawecki

The faculty and staff aren’t the only ones who are helping recruit new students to Idyllwild Arts this year.

One enterprising theatre student recently targeted a Celebrity “A” List’s kid all on her own.

She tweeted Michael Jackson’s son, Prince, age 14, about enrolling in the Moving Pictures Department at Idyllwild Arts.

“Basically, I told him that he should look into the school, if he still likes film,” said Emily, 17.

Three days ago (Jan. 26), Prince and his two siblings, were in the news. They used their dad’s shoes and gloves and their own hands to make imprints in cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles.

Emily couldn’t remember how exactly she got Prince’s email address, or how she learned that he was interested in studying film. She just wanted him to get the same great experience that she had over the past three years.

Celebrities’ kids are not uncommon at Idyllwild Arts. More recently, Actor Cheech (of ‘Cheech & Chong fame) Marin’s daughter was a visual artist; The daughter of Ed Catmull (from Disney and Pixar Animation) was a film student; and the son of Dennis Haysbert (‘The Unit’ and Allstate spokesman) was an actor. Michael Jackson’s son would be in good company.

The King of Pop's son is interested in studying film, not music. Illustration by Marcia E. Gawecki.

Prince tweeted Emily back, saying that he would consider coming to Idyllwild Arts his sophomore year. He’s currently a freshman at a day school in Calabasas.

That was the end of the tweet exchange, but maybe not the end of the story.

If Prince ends up going to Idyllwild Arts, maybe Emily should get a commission or at least a hearty thanks for starting it all with a sincere tweet. More than likely, the two will never meet.

As one of the 70+ graduating seniors, Emily is focusing on college. She just auditioned at Pepperdine University, and is looking forward to group auditions with her theatre classmates in Chicago next week.

For more information on Idyllwild Arts Academy, visit www.idyllwildarts.org or call (951) 659-2171.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Jan 29, 2012 @ 0:17

 

 

Student Film Screenings Unite, Excite

Saturday, May 28th, 2011

(far R) Scarlett wrote/directed Penelope; Laura wrote/directed/sang Rockstars; Malcom produced Fitz; while Sorrelle (far L) acted in Dead Serious. Courtesy photo.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

I like coming to opening nights. Everything is always edgy and raw. Bugs need to be worked out, things don’t always go the right way, but there’s an electricity in the air. You were there and You Saw it First.

Friday night was Opening Night of the Film Screenings at Idyllwild Arts. There were four shorts and one super-short, or a 3-2-1. The short films included: “Penelope,” “Fitz,” “Dead Serious” and “Rock Stars: The Pete Weaver Experience,” all created by women writer-directors. And the super short was entitled, “Bonding at Breakfast.”

You gotta love the Film Department at Idyllwild Arts. They really “roll out the red carpet” for these films. While people are standing in line, they’re treated to exceptional jazz music from the Jazz Department, stand on a red carpet and buy standard concessions, which includes popcorn, pop and chocolates. Proceeds go to help fund an upcoming film trip to Ethiopia.

If you’re planning on going to Saturday nights’ Film Screening, plan to come 30 minutes early. No kidding, it’s essential to stand in line to get a seat, or you’ll be standing in the back row. As you head down the hallway towards the theater,  try not to pick your nose or say anything embarrassing because “You’re on Candid Camera!”

(from L) Giovanna and many of the other dance students were extras in the films

Things went reasonably well for Opening Night. There was a schedule change. “Penelope” would be the first film, followed by “Fitz.” After intermission, “Dead Serious” would be first, and then Rock Stars: The Pete Weaver Experience.”

Because it was unexpected, “Bonding Over Breakfast,” a short short (or 3-2-1) by Alexa, was delightful. Like getting a free bon-bon. It featured Melanie, a Theater major, as the mother, and a young girl as her daughter. All I can say is that girl was wonderful, bright and wise beyond her years.

Melanie, a theater major, plays a single mom in Alexa's short, "Bonding Over Breakfast"

“Penelope,” written and directed by Scarlett, actually started out as a conversation with her father as they were listening to the song, “Penelope” on the radio.

“This would make a good movie,” both had agreed. Fast forward six months, and Scarlett’s father is gone, but not the dream for the movie. In short, it’s gonna be a tear jerker.

Set in WWII, Penelope, a nightclub singer, meets Elijah, and falls in love. Then Pearl Harbor is attacked, and the U.S. enters the war. Elijah leaves in full uniform, and Penelope’s world crumbles.

All I can say is that 20 minutes of “Penelope” is not long enough. I could have used about 20 minutes more. It was romantic, tragic and beautifully acted and filmed.

(from L) Michel, Peter and Harold all played extras in the films. Courtesy photo Idyllwild Arts.

Scarlett made a good choice in selecting Paley as her lead and Analia Lenchantin,a classical pianist and actor from Argentina who now lives in Idyllwild.

As Penelope, Paley’s voice sounds like it’s whiskey and cigarette tainted. Her face expresses every complicated emotion. However, we wouldn’t expect anything less. Paley’s got good genes. Her mother is a famous comedic actress in Mexico.

If Scarlett decides to expand “Penelope” into a feature film, it has my vote.

A lot of the other students thought “Fitz” was the best film of the night.

“It had everything,” exclaimed Benny, a classical music major. “The story was great, and the lighting and the cinematography were spectacular!”

Benny was seated next to Andrew Leeson, a Creative Writing staff member, who agreed.

“Yep, that’s the one,” Andrew said.

“Fitz,” was written by Brit, produced by Malcom, filmed by Kai and edited by Paris.

In his opening remarks, Malcom gave the audience part of the back story.

(from L) Three for "Fitz," including Malcolm as producer, Kai as cinematographer, Gabby as lead actor. Sorrelle (far R) acted in "Dead Serious" Courtesy photo Idyllwild Arts

“Brit brought Kai and I the script, and said that she had written it over the summer and wanted us to take a look,” Malcom said.

They did, and told Ira Abrams about it, who agreed it was a gem.

Fitz, short for Fitzgerald, is a co-ed boarding school, much like Idyllwild Arts. The only exception is the uniforms. “Fitz” centers on one newcomer, (exceptionally portrayed by Michael Minor, a classical bass player).

It’s hard to imagine that Michael Minor was just a bass player, until this movie came along. He had never acted before, and to take the lead was nothing short of astounding. Some people are just natural actors, and Michael is one of them.

(from R) Brooke (shown with actor Joe Spano) plays the lead in Ellen's movie,"Dead Serious." Courtesy photo.

Anyway, the story is about students who overcome an overbearing headmaster and take over the school. The cast of local talent shines, including headmaster.

“Dead Serious,” is a female teen angst film, complete with mean girls and a tragedy.

“It’s a black comedy,” Andrew Leeson explained, as  I complained that the mother was so callous.

Brooke was spectacular as the nice girl who gets bullied. Like Greta Garbo, the camera loves her face.

Madi, a Creative Writing major, was good as the Mean Girl. All of us have been bullied some time in our youth. Hats off to Sorrelle, one of Madi’s friends, who continually “hisses” at Brooke, like a pissed-off cat.

“Rockstars: The Pete Weaver Experience,” the fourth and final show, features a young boy who dreams of becoming a rock star. Hard to imagine the script from this show was originally about a poet who sent off his poems into the universe via helium balloons.

(from L) Melanie and Brit, who wrote and directed "Fitz." Courtesy photo Idyllwild Arts.

In the storyline. a young writer is at odds with his father who owns a Camero body shop. More than anything, he’d rather be writing and playing rock songs. Naturally, his dad wants him to focus on the task at hand.

However, when Pete has a chance to meet one of his rock star idols (played by dance instructor Jonathan Sharp), he takes a risk that changes his outlook.

It should be pointed out that Conor O’Farrell, an accomplished TV, film and screen actor, plays an exceptional grease monkey father. He notes his son’s artistic dreams, and makes a deal that could help him.

Laura wrote and sang songs for her film, "Rockstars: The Pete Weaver Experience." Courtesy photo Idyllwild Arts.

Writer-director Laura, not only plays his onscreen love interest, but also writes and records songs. In essence, “Rock Stars: The Pete Weaver Experience” is about her, and other songwriters, trying to make their mark on the world.

In short, the four, shorts shown at the Idyllwild Arts’ “Film Screenings 2011” are outrageous, funny and dramatic. They will make you laugh, cry and left longing for more!

Saturday night’s Student Film Screenings starts at 7:30 p.m. at the IAF Theater on campus. All shows are free and open to the public. Arrive early to get a good seat.

For more information, visit www.idyllwildarts.org or call (951) 659-2171.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved. Photos courtesy of Idyllwild Arts Academy.

Published on: May 28, 2011 @ 8:47

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Weekend Release of Four Student Films

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Laura wrote and directed the film, "Rock Stars: The Pete Weaver Experience" and even wrote two of its songs.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

This weekend will showcase four short films created by the Idyllwild Arts Film Department.

It is a year’s worth of hard work writing, directing, casting, filming, scoring, and editing.

“It’s a running joke on campus that the film students never get to see the light of day,” one film student said.

Yet, it’s also the year in which all four films were written and directed by women. (Although this may be remarkable in Hollywood, in which men tend to dominate, the ratio of women to men on the Idyllwild Arts campus is about four to one.)

The four films featured include: “Rock Stars: The Pete Weaver Experience,” written and directed by Laura; “Dead Serious,” written and directed by Ellen; “Penelope,” written and directed by Scarlett, and “Fitz,” written and directed by Brit.

The films, ranging from 15 to 21 minutes each, are as diverse as the students who created them.

“I’m glad that I was first to shoot my film this year,” Laura said of “Rock Stars: The Pete Weaver Experience.” “That way, I could take my time to finish and edit it the entire year.”

Laura not only wrote and directed the film about a lovestruck rock star, but also wrote the music score for two of its songs. Last year, she wrote and sang in one film and acted in another. In fact, her 2010 single, “Time Bomb,” is also featured on iTunes.

It’s not unusual for a script to go through many changes over the course of the school year, especially when others get involved and offer their opinions. Originally, “Rock Stars” was written about a guy who wrote poems and sent them sailing into the universe via helium balloons. However, along the way, Laura decided that a quiet boy and balloons wouldn’t make a good movie.

The poet turned into a rock star, featuring one of the school’s ballet instructors.

“Jonathan Sharp is perfect for the role,” Laura said. “He’s good looking and gregarious. He’s the ultimate rock star.”

Luckily, the 30 film students can draw from many talent resources, including student actors, dancers and musicians, who are willing to work for free to be in a movie.

C.D. sported just boxer briefs when trying out for the 'psycho' role for Brit's film, "Fitz"

Although Laura’s film changed a lot over the course of the year, Brit’s film, “Fitz,” did not. It’s about a prep school in which some of the students take over the school. “Fitz” is short for “Fitzgerald,” the name of the school, but the title could be ambiguous on purpose.

C.D., a musical theater major, was eager to try out.

“My role in ‘Fitz’ was to basically play a ‘psycho,'” C.D. said.

To nab the role, C.D. knew that he had to pull out all the stops. He had to make a lasting impression on the casting crew.

“I showed up in my underwear!” he exclaimed.

They were boxer briefs, actually, and C.D. also had on a navy blue preppy blazer and shoes.

“We couldn’t stop laughing,” Kai recalled of C.D.’s audition. “His clothing choice was ingenious, but he won us over by his dialogue.”

Kai, who won acclaim for his lighting of “The Other Side,” a dramatic short film from 2010, was dumbfounded to discover that lighting for dramas and comedies is not the same.

“I was surprised that Brit challenged and changed my lighting choices,” Kai recalled the early days on the set. “But she was right. I had to rethink my style from drama to comedy.”

Film students like Alexa, shown with film wheel, work hard all year long. Alexa worked on a 3-2-1 short.

From casting to filming on location, the film students don’t leave out any details. Case in point: Ellen needed a photo for her poster for “Dead Serious,” so she and her crew went to a cemetary in San Jacinto, near Hemet.

“The story’s about a girl who gets bullied in school,” Ellen said, trying not to give too much away. “But someone ends up dying.”

Ellen, Alyssa and Brooke, a musical theater major who plays the lead in the film, all went to take pictures among tombstones. Even during the day, the location was a bit spooky. During the shoot, Brooke gave a mocking smile.

Could they have grabbed a tombstone from the internet and PhotoShopped it in? Sure, but it wouldn’t have been the same. If you knew these Idyllwild Arts film students, you’d know they never take short cuts. They continue long into the night, if that’s what it takes.

Just this past Sunday, Scarlett was putting the finishing touches on “Penelope,” a romantic period piece set in Mexico. Four jazz music students followed Scarlett to a local recording studio on Sunday evening to record a song. They worked from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., breaking only once for pepperoni pizza.

Anna or “Paley,” a post grad theater major from Mexico, plays the female lead. It was the first film she had starred in, and a welcome project at the end of the year. Acting comes naturally for the 18-year-old whose mother is a famous comedic actor in Mexico.

“She was perfect for the role,” Scarlett said.

It wasn’t easy for Scarlett to watch Paley kissing her boyfriend. But it was all for the movie’s sake. You see, Scarlett’s boyfriend, Austin, plays Paley’s love interest.

“Whenever we’d kiss on the set, I’d look over at Scarlett, and she’d be turning her head,” Paley said jokingly.

“Rock Stars,” “Dead Serious,” “Penelope” and “Fitz” promise an evening’s worth of comedy, passion and intrigue this Memorial Day Weekend. Shows start at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at the IAF Theater (located in the Bowman building). Shows are free and open to the public, but come early to get a good seat.

For more information, visit www.idyllwildarts.org or call (951) 659-2171. Some film trailers may appear Friday on You Tube.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved. Most photos courtesy of Idyllwild Arts Academy.

Published on: May 25, 2011 @ 2:07