The student news site of Bellaire High School

Three Penny Press

The student news site of Bellaire High School

Three Penny Press

The student news site of Bellaire High School

Three Penny Press

Theater student turns writer’s block into self-directed short film for UIL Contest

Provided by Rachel Carrillo
Director and junior Emma Kolah telling the actors how she wants them positioned for a scene in the film. They are all trying to snap Emily, the main character, played by junior Rachel Carrillo, out of her trance, and it is a close up of Emily with everyone’s hands snapping.

After working with now-graduated student Madelyn Carrillo last year for the 2023 UIL Short Film Contest, junior Emma Kolah tackled the task of directing and producing the short film “Write That Down” for the 2024 UIL Short Film Contest alone.

Although last year, the film was filmed and edited in the six days before the deadline, this year, Kolah started the process of writing the script a month in advance, and then didn’t work on it for a few weeks.

“I didn’t know how to visualize it, like making a storyboard, casting actors and filming locations,” Kolah said.

She then worked on all the details and practicality of the film and wrote everything down step-by-step, something she hadn’t done last year.

Story continues below advertisement

“In about a week’s worth of time, I made a storyboard for all the scenes and a shot list,” Kolah said. “This time, I had like a really specific shot list, like every angle I wanted for every scene which made the process of filming a lot smoother.”

Because at the beginning of the process, Kolah had trouble coming up with an idea, she found a way to incorporate that into her film.

“The [plot] for my short film is the way that I found my idea for the short film,” Kolah said.

The plot of the story follows a girl named Emily who has trouble coming up with an idea for her short film, and once she gets it, she keeps forgetting it. She then comes up with a plan to remember the idea.

Even though Kolah said working with someone else last year when directing last year’s UIL Short Film, “Friend or Foe”, was less pressure and workload, she preferred this year more.

Director and junior Emma Kolah angling the camera to get another shot of the first talking scene of the short film. It had already been filmed once with two other actors speaking, but Kolah wanted a close-up of junior Rachel Carrillo speaking. (Provided by Rachel Carrillo)

“There was less to debate about, and also I think I knew more [about short films] so I learned a lot,” Kolah said.

Before starting to film, Kolah reached out to junior Rachel Carrillo to play Emily, already knowing that she would want to be a part of this project since she and Carillo had worked on other films in the past.

“I knew that I could direct her well because I know her very well,” Kolah said.

Carrillo had the same sentiment, saying that because she and Kolah had known each other since the fourth grade, they were able to work well together.

“We tend to be in sync, so we were able to tap into each other and really connect on what we wanted this to look like,” Carrillo said. ”She came up with the idea, and I was just there to be a part of it.”

This was not Carrillo’s first time acting on film with Kolah. She had done two films, “Friend or Foe” and “Escape” in the past, but this was her first time playing the main character.

“This [film] was definitely the one where I was the sole focus, and I really thought that was special,” Carrillo said. “I liked getting to come out of my shell and be the star of something.”

Because of the bigger role she had in this film, her mindset changed when approaching the process.

“Over time, I’ve gained confidence in myself and I’ve realized that this is what I do, and this is what I want to do,” Carrillo said. ”And it’s been really reflective going from being the last choice to being the first choice [for a role] in a sense.”

Kolah also recruited junior Quinn Shefman as one of the three friends of Carrillo in the film. Although Shefman had done theater in middle school, she had never acted in a short film before.

“[Acting in] a short film doesn’t come with the same pressure that comes with doing an onstage play,” Shefman said. “[In an onstage play] you only have one shot but with a short film, if you mess up, you can do it over and over again, “

After acting in the film and seeing what happened behind the scenes, Shefman thought it was an “eye-opening” experience.

“I knew it was work, but every single scene took us like four or five different shots,” Shefman said. ”It takes different angles of the camera, different shots and different focus on different people, but the little clip that you see was maybe two seconds.”

Carrillo has always valued the behind-the-scenes of filmmaking, and it was one of the main reasons that she was so interested in being a part of the process.

Junior Emma Kolah filming a scene of a phone call between Emily and all her friends. All of them were squeezed into one bed because up until that scene there hadn’t been a scene without all three of them, so Kolah thought it would be funny to keep it going. Kolah had to go back later and clip audio pieces from both perspectives together to make the phone call make sense. (Provided by Rachel Carrillo)

“I’ve always appreciated the backstage and the technical side of theater and filmmaking and that kind of thing,” Carrillo said ”I’ve always just respected it a lot.”

After acting in this short film, Carrillo made note of what she would change if she did this again, especially in a role as big as the one she had.

“I’ve never truly focused on character work and I’ve always mainly focused on the lines,” Carrillo said. ”So [next time] I would dive deeper into the story, my character itself and who that person is in relation to the story.”

There were also challenges on the directing side of the process. For Kolah, one of them was communication with her actors.

“I didn’t realize how difficult it was to convey an idea you have and actually get [the actors] to act that way,” Kolah said. “ Compromising [was something I learned through this process]. Learning how to direct actors is a whole different field that I’ve never experienced before.”

Even with all the short films that Kolah has done, her view on her future career has changed a little bit.

“Last year, I had said that film was what I wanted to pursue,” Kolah said ”But now looking back, I think I’m definitely leaning more towards theater now. I think you can take away a lot of things from film [that I can apply] to my theater career.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Three Penny Press Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *