By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — Dearborn High School seniors Mei Ling Marzonie, Tristan Nunez and Jake West took in their last film festival at DHS as films premiered at the Michael Guido Theater on May 23 and 24.
This year’s films were “Tribute to Russ Gibb,” “Epiphany,” “Together,” “High Road,” “Girlfriends,” “Friendship,” “Who Done It?,” “Eloise,” “Electric Oddity” and “The Serial Trip.”
“Epiphany,” “Eloise,” “Friendship” and “Who Done It” were nominated for an Emmy from the Michigan Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences with “Eloise” winning in the talent category.
Students began pitching ideas in September, developing scripts during the fall and shooting their first films in December. DHS Film Instructor Adam Rauscher said some of the films were done very early and others “not so much.”
“We had shoots for three different movies over this past weekend,” he said. “Our editors worked throughout the week and several of us worked through the night before the premiere. In fact, the last movie arrived at 6:32 p.m. with the show scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. The students really work on these the whole school year.”
Marzonie — one of the station managers of the film program — directed, wrote and produced “High Road,” and also directed “Friendship,” which came with challenges.
“The biggest challenges for me was coordinating everyone’s schedules and dealing with the weather,” she said. “Some of the places we filmed at were a farm in Saline, Ram’s Horn in Dearborn and Ford Field.”
Camp Dearborn was part of “The Serial Trip filming,” with many local businesses like Mati’s Deli letting students shoot for free, along with the parents who allowed filming to take place at their houses, Rauscher said.
Nunez, the other station manager, wrote, directed and starred in “Electric Oddity,” directed “Epiphany,” and wrote “Girlfriends.”
“I’m going to miss working with all my peers and on films within the film program at Dearborn High,” he said. “My favorite part was looking at the films when they were all done, the stress was gone and I was able to see that all our hard work paid off.”
As director of “The Serial Trip,” West said one the most memorable parts of filming was when the serial killers were at a party drinking. He also contributed with a voice over on the “High Road” film.
Rauscher said his favorite part of watching the students develop the films was how they blossomed during the process.
“West is a good writer, but he had to learn how to direct his movie,” Rauscher said. “He did and ‘Serial Trip’ shows a real style. Joze Hunter is young and didn’t feel like she was ready to lead, but ‘Girlfriends’ is a real crowd pleaser. Then watching the older students mentor the younger ones. Marzonie could produce any project. While writing and directing ‘The High Road,’ she asked sophomore Victoria Irish to produce her movie. Victoria is ready to direct a project next year.”
“Nunez helped almost every writer with their scripts, helping junior Eman Alnakash develop an amazing film, ‘Epiphany,’ that was nominated for best short film at the Student Emmys,” Rauscher said. “I am just so proud to be a part of a long tradition. The many alumni looking over my shoulder are just helping me understand how much WDHS is a legacy that I want to preserve.”
The process of creating the films begins with a longline, a one sentence idea for a movie, then the class votes on the best longlines, writers develop story points and the class votes again, Rauscher said.
“Then while the screenwriter works, we have students pitch to be directors, which the class also votes on,” he explained. “Usually, the writer and the director are the same person, but not always. Then we picked producers and the rest of the crew and start shooting as soon as the script is ready.
“As a teacher, I gave comments on scripts, but I didn’t write the scripts. One or two students flat out ignored my comments. I’m OK with that. This is their vision.”
The 2018-19 school year was Rauscher’s first as instructor after former instructor Kurt Doelle retired in June after teaching and working with DHS students about film and TV for almost 30 years.
Rauscher described the position as one with a steep learning curve and enormous shoes to fill.
“The program was founded by the legendary Russ Gibb who passed away recently,” Rauscher said. “Trying to manage multiple student productions was very difficult. However, it was well worth the effort. Students have new and fresh ideas that never cease to surprise me. They do things that are weird and silly and sometimes even stupid, but they’re always interesting.”
For the upcoming school year, the Russ Gibb Digital Media Center station managers are going to be Abbass Karnib and Eman Alnakash.
For more information on the DHS film program click here.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])