NNPS students experience movie making with industry professionals

Posted: July 3, 2024

Groups of students from each Newport News high school learned about all aspects of film from professionals in the field as the school district partnered with Next Generation Storytellers this year.

NGS co-founders Trent Garrett, a Peninsula native, and Jacob Young are experienced Hollywood actors and producers who founded the organization to foster young talent. They and a team of mentors shared their many years of movie industry experience with students.

"Jacob and I created this program to build platforms for the next generation of storytellers' voices to not only be heard, but showcased on the world stage by means of movie magic, which is something we all can relate to," Garrett said, describing how the project started in Hampton City Schools and is expanding to school divisions across the country.

"These kids are hungry for creativity and have truly excelled beyond our wildest dreams, though we aren't surprised. Jacob and I didn't have this opportunity growing up in our hometowns and we are thrilled and humbled to be able to pay it forward to the next generation."

Starting in January, selected students took 16-week moviemaking and 8-week screenwriting courses simultaneously online after school. As part of the coursework, students worked on and submitted scripts, with six chosen to be made into short films.

Auditions took place in April for acting roles and students volunteered to work as crew members. Filming took place at various Peninsula locations in the last two weeks of June.

The completed movies will be shown at the 2nd Annual NGS Film Festival on Oct. 18-20 at Christopher Newport University's Ferguson Center for the Arts.

Through the project, students earned work-based learning credit while gaining exposure to industry technologies and professionals, and making valuable career connections.

The online coursework took place throughout the spring as scripts took shape.

"This is such an incredible experience for the students to be immersed in the entertainment industry and learn about scriptwriting and moviemaking from the pros themselves," said Janine Carneal, a teacher at Menchville High School who worked with the program. "The learning process was engaging and interactive, with visits from our guest speakers sharing their stories and tips."

Brook Hurd, a 2024 graduate of Virtual Learning Academy at Point Option High School, wrote the script "House of Clues" that was selected for production.

"We got to learn a lot, not just about acting and filming, but about the behind the scenes, the other roles such as directing, lighting, camera, sound and all that really goes into filming and what it would be like working in the actual film industry," Hurd said.

Tairesu Carmichael, a rising 10th grader at Heritage High School, wrote the script for "Multiplayer Mayhem" that was chosen for filming. Carmichael likes to write stories in his spare time, and said he really enjoyed the classes and felt the experience of creating a script was valuable.

"I was actually quite happy that it got chosen," Carmichael said.

After six scripts were selected, students who wrote them joined a crew of students and professionals on set for the filming process in June.

"I liked how the characters seemed so real in it, how the actors and directors made it feel more real than just characters on a piece of paper," said Hurd, who advised as her script was filmed over two days at the Boxwood Inn. "They're real people. They have characteristics and flaws and backgrounds, and everything that makes their personality."

She and the student director worked closely with the cast and crew.

"The director and I were there if we needed to fix anything, if we needed to change anything," Hurd said. "Both of us were monitoring the entire time, saying maybe this scene needs to change, maybe they need to say this line differently. We both got to do that."

Hurd plans to attend the film festival to see her story on the big screen, and after becoming interested in the film industry she will continue working on her writing.

"I am so excited to see it," she said. "I was told throughout the entire thing keep writing, keep doing this. So I plan to keep doing it. I plan to keep writing scripts, do short films, movies, whatever I can."

Carmichael was on set as "Multiplayer Mayhem" was filmed at a house in the local community. He was interested in working with lighting, and got to see first-hand how his script would become a film.

"At first, I didn't really think about it but I guess I joined the class because I wanted to get better at making movies or the things that are required to make a movie like lighting and audio," Carmichael said. "I definitely did learn a lot from it and I do think it will help me in the future. I honestly didn't know that there were so many jobs to do to make a movie or how many different people were needed to make a movie."

Carneal described the experience for students as uniquely different.

"After the filming of 'Multiplayer Mayhem,' and seeing the scriptwriter actually get to see his script come alive, watching the actors interact with each other on the vision of the film, and the coming together of the entire crew to create a message for the viewer, I am so appreciative of Trent and Jacob who realized the importance of inspiring our Next Generation Storytellers," Carneal said.

Hurd emphasized the work and effort that went into the entire writing and filming processes.

"We had at least 20 people there helping with filming, camera, lighting, sound, and for directing and helping with everything," Hurd said. "We had hair and makeup, costumes. And a lot of those were students. We had a student film crew, as well, that was doing behind the scenes footage.

"Our director was a student. And it was from every high school. It was really all of us coming together working on this together."