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The Forest Scout

The Student News Site of Lake Forest High School

The Forest Scout

The Student News Site of Lake Forest High School

The Forest Scout


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New Media Team Takes on the Big Apple

New Media team at the Filmmakers event. Photo Courtesy of Grace Donovan

Just a few weeks ago, a group of ten advanced LFHS New Media students were selected to take our filmmaking knowledge outside of the classroom and compete in the All American High School Film Festival (AAHSFF) against hundreds of schools from around the world.

The AAHSFF is the biggest high school film festival in the world. Students from all over the globe submit our own short films and all travel to New York City to view the selections at the biggest AMC screen in Times Square.

The New Media Team participated in the “Complete Experience” category, which meant that about 12 weeks ago in August, we were given the prompt “What You Don’t Know” and a six-minute movie maximum to take on a challenge that seems fairly simple: to shoot all around New York, edit, and submit in 54 hours. 

The team had a 10 week period to write and plan. This consisted of meeting at least six times a week virtually and in person, and occasionally with mentors from across the country. Throughout the ten weeks we spent countless hours creating spreadsheets, read through the 30 page rulebook, and worked through 13 drafts to come up with the finalized version of our script: What You Don’t Know About the Bottom of The Bottle. 

We were accompanied by eight of our peers. Seniors Ava Bleck, Simon Pasquesi, Milana Yanev, and Elise Raffiani, juniors Chip Bailey and Jillian Duer, and sophomores Ford Davie and Kayden Prieto. Each was assigned a different role to make the short the best it could be. 

From Oct. 17-23 we set off to The Big Apple all with one goal in mind: to make a movie.

Timing was key when running around your locations trying to complete all of your scenes. Filming in the bustling streets of New York only added to that daunting challenge.

Team shooting inside of apartment. Courtesy of Katie Donovan.

“The only way to describe filming in New York is as [a] fever dream. We didn’t do anything else but think about this short [film] the entire 72 hours.” said producer/actor Milana Yanev.

During the time in Manhattan, there were several prime locations: An apartment, a high school, outside a furniture store, Grand Central Station, Central Park, and an old fashioned New York diner.

“We were all stepping into unknown territory, both metaphorically and physically, just working with what we had and trying our best as a team to make it work,” said head writer/script supervisor Jillian Duer. 

Many team members stepped into bigger roles which was a challenging, but ultimately was a fantastic learning experience.

“I was nervous at first because I had never taken on the role of being the producer. Throughout the trip, I got more comfortable producing as I learned what worked best for our team,” said senior and producer Ava Bleck.

We all became more comfortable as the days went on. We became more familiar with our surroundings and trying to figure out how we could use them to our advantage. However, even though our team had spent ten strong preproduction weeks developing our story and planning how to take on the challenge, we faced a few big and small bumps in the road, causing us to quickly pivot. 

During our pre-production, we planned on shooting one of our scenes in the Grand Central Station. As Milana and I talked to the office managers, we quickly found out that we would not be able to shoot in the station despite the fact that we had a permit. Although our primary idea did not go as planned, we talked to the rest of our crew and pivoted to shooting outside [the station]. This shoot ended up being a lot of fun and the scene turned out really well,” said Bleck. 

After a busy, exhausting and thrilling 72 hours, the clock struck 4:00 p.m. and it was time to submit. While hitting the submit button, our team was overwhelmed with emotions. Sophomore Kayden Prieto felt “enjoyment and proudness” for their hard work.  

“I cried because all the stress had been building for 10 weeks and for those three days we hadn’t gotten even close to enough sleep. We were all running on so much adrenaline. I felt so much joy being able to accomplish this. Now, I feel infinitely closer to everyone on the team,” said Yanev. 

The relief in the room was contagious. Submitting our work to the biggest student film festival in the world felt surreal. 

Live reactions immediately after hitting the submit button. Courtesy of All American High School Film Festival photographers.

“I felt relieved since all of our hard work finally paid off. There was a lot of stress and pressure during those three days, so finally submitting our project made me really proud of our group,” said Bleck. 

After submitting, we had a hard time processing that the months of preparation leading up to this were officially over. This experience changed all of our lives. 

The number one feeling senior and Director of Photography, Simon Pasquesi felt was “pure relief.”  

“A strong sense of fulfillment went through me. I sat there and thought to myself, wow how is it finally over. That was one of the best experiences of my life,” said sophomore Ford Davie.

After the trip, everyone was super happy and grateful to be apart of it, taking a great story home. Not only was it a growing experience in the filmmaking world, but we grew as friends too.

For a large part of the team, we have been together in this program for four years now, and this was our last trip together. We have laughed together, cried together, and have been frustrated at each other. Most importantly we have failed and learned from it together. We all know that we are one phone call, text, or shout across the New Media room away.” said Yanev.

Senior and lead editor Elise Raffiani says it best, “New Media is a family.”

Overall it was a once in a lifetime experience that has changed our lives. A special thank you to Mr. Steve Douglass and Mrs. Laura Grigg who made the trip a reality and helped our dreams come true. 

Go check out the final version of What You Don’t Know About the Bottom of The Bottle on YouTube and follow @lfhsnewmedia on Instagram to see experiences from the trip. 

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About the Contributors
Ryder Gamrath
Ryder Gamrath, Staff Writer
Senior Ryder Gamrath is heavily involved in New Media and LFHS Theater. In his free time he watches movies and spends time with his friends. He loves writing, filming, and editing videos and hopes to entertain students with content for The Forest Scout!
Grace Donovan
Grace Donovan, Staff Writer
Junior Grace Donovan is thrilled to be writing for The Forest Scout for the first time this year! Grace enjoys playing on the fall JV tennis team and the spring badminton team! She’s is a very dedicated member of the Junior Class Student Council and various other clubs. Outside of school Grace loves to be outside, attend church youth group, hangout with friends, make movies, meet new people and laugh! 
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    Susie PizzoNov 10, 2023 at 8:15 pm

    Amazing account of an incredible experience!! TY for sharing.