NORWAY — Two teens running in opposite directions downtown collided Monday morning. They got up and did it again, then again, with video cameras capturing each take.

“Eli, you’re smiling. Don’t smile,” teacher Timothy Ouillette told one of the actors. “Make sure you’re not showing your teeth during any of this.”

The students were in a hurry. It would be time for lunch soon and the light was changing. They needed to get the scene right. Again, Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School students Dustin Edwards and Eli Gabrielsen ran into each other at a spot on the ground marked with a pen.

Edwards was carrying a backpack, an item central to the short film written and directed by student Chris Draper. Draper said the film doesn’t have a name but is being called “The Backpack” for now.

Ouillette said the backpack is a sought-after item in the movie, although its contents are never revealed. He compared it to the briefcase in the movie “Pulp Fiction.”

Three students worked the cameras while another held a boom microphone. One held a large panel that reflected the sunlight to make for more even lighting.

Between takes, Draper and Ouillette went over the script and compared it to the actors’ scene. Ouillette told one of the actors to ad-lib less.

“They’re complicated interactions,” he said of Draper’s script.

Draper’s movie is one of many the class will make this year.

Ouillette said each student gets a chance to write and direct a short film. Some are comedies, some drama and this year, two students hope to produce musicals, which Ouillette said is a first in his eight years teaching the class.

Advanced Communications is a two-year course at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris. The nine students filming Monday were in the second-year course. Ouillette said the first year class is always a little bigger, but most students hang around for a second year.

He said the class used to have three times the budget and could put more work into audio and even work with 3-D filming, but cutbacks meant losing some of the expensive movie-making software past classes had used.

“These are great kids,” Ouillette said. He said his former students have studied film at schools such as Emerson College and the New York Film Academy, and have worked in production houses in Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Boston after graduation.

“I feel strongly that it’s probably one of the best programs in the state of Maine,” Ouillette said. “But of course, I would say that.”

Still, students hoping to get into an art or film school “need a step up,” he said.

The classes give them confidence, and many have been involved in filmmaking outside the classroom. They’ve worked on public service announcements and other local projects.

Ouillette’s students are a close-knit group. Alumni of the class have a Facebook group where they post the movies they made in the class.

Once filming on “The Backpack” wraps up, students will move on to other scripts. Each student will get to make a 7- to 12-minute movie. On May 14, the class takes over a screen at Flagship Cinema in Oxford for “Advanced Communications Night,” a mini film festival where student films are displayed on the big screen.

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: