Studio North, a student-run organization designed to facilitate student filmmaking on campus, presented its 2018 Grand Premiere at the Parkway Theatre on Wednesday, April 25. The historic theater was packed with students, professors, families and community members eager to watch the work of student filmmakers who had received funding for their projects in the spring of 2017.
The evening began with senior Irving Nestor’s Operation First Light, a light-hearted, comedic journey through a battle between male and female campers at a sleepaway camp. The film opens with a group of young campers, all boys, preparing for the mounting “war” with the other group. They load their plastic guns and polish their other pretend weaponry. From there, we follow the boys through the battlefield as they try, and ultimately fail, to triumph over the girls.
The camera work adds to a mounting feeling of suspense throughout the film: The camera darts between the characters, zooms in on tense moments and runs after them through the fields. Sound also plays an important role as it brings us into the imagination of the young characters. As one of the campers, Cow, hides out in the cabin, we hear realistic explosions and gunshots booming on the outside.
The film was shot at a sleepaway camp in Thurmont, Md. In his introduction to the film, Nestor explained that the narrative was inspired by his time as a camp counselor at Camp Kesem, a nonprofit program organized in part by Hopkins students. Nestor elaborated on his vision for the film in an email to The News-Letter.
“I suppose the thing that got me going was that they were all just being really honestly intense in their seriousness,” he wrote. “For many of my boys it wasn’t a game but a serious battle of wills with many dramas and interpersonal elements woven in. So my film had to be at a summer camp for kids for that innocent intensity to come through.”
Nestor also commented on what he hopes audiences will come away with after seeing the film.
“I hope people remember what it’s like to be a kid and have nostalgia for the innocence of that time. The goal is to capture not only the sweetness, but also the drama and legitimate feelings of being young,” he wrote.
The next showing was of senior Bobby Peretti’s The Cyclist. The film opens with shots of colorful Baltimore rowhouses; the cyclist of the title, a young boy named Carlo, bikes across the screen. The plot centers around Carlo’s desire to gather money to buy a dress for his babysitter Penelope. Throughout his journey we meet Penelope, friends of Carlo’s older brother, Carlo’s father and a Baltimore resident trying to find the money to pay his rent. We follow these characters as they work through budding romance, friendship, boredom and financial strife.
According to the film’s director of photography, junior Giovanna Molina, the crew scouted specific Baltimore locations together, driving around the City until they found a setting they liked.
Casting was also conducted throughout the City. In the formal Q&A session following the premiere, Peretti explained that he cast the roles of Carlo and Carlo’s father by sitting in the Waverly YMCA for hours until he found a father and son who were right for the parts.
The final presentation of the night was Dollar at the Door, a four-part web series created, written and directed by senior Kyra Lesser. While all four episodes will be released on YouTube, Lesser premiered the first episode, “P**** Pill,” and third episode, “Sheryl Goldberg,” at the Studio North event. The episodes follow the protagonist Kiki (Lesser) as she is inducted into her college’s improv comedy troupe, The Brewery. Lesser cast current and former Hopkins students as the eccentric members of The Brewery: seniors Phoebe Gennardo, Gabe Gaston and Isaac Lunt and alumna Tatiana Nya Ford.
More interested in pursuing a television format than film, Lesser received support for her project from both Studio North and the Saul Zaentz Innovation Fund.
She wrote the episodes over the summer of 2017, began pre-production in January of 2018 and shot the episodes in February.
In an interview with The News-Letter, Lesser explained that the events of the series are loosely based on her time in the Hopkins improv troupe, The Buttered Niblets, as well as her college experience overall. She also commented on her hopes that audiences will be able to relate to the content of the series.
“I hope that they feel some sort of relatability to the college experience in general; that they can see themselves or their friends in one of the characters,” she said.