SFCA grantee spotlight: short film by Maui teens world premiere at film festival

October 3, 2023
Still frame from horror film

“VIRAL”, a short film created by SFCA ARPA grantee Stefan Schaefer and five Maui students, premieres October 6-8th at the 28th Annual H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, Oregon. It also screens in Mobile, Alabama, November 3-5th. The 18-minute film description: “With dreams of quick fame and fortune, five Maui teens set out to create a viral video based on ancient Hawaiian mythology. It doesn’t go as planned.” Starring Javi Frith, Makani Ravello, Cyris Laury-Schaefer, Talei Laury-Schaefer, and Kealani Warner.

The 2022 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant awarded to Schaefer supported his collaboration on this short film with students ranging in age from 14 to 19.

Schaefer reported, “Initially, due to differing school schedules and Covid, we met via Zoom to discuss what sort of film they might want to create. We discussed what TV shows and films they liked (and disliked), watched a variety of shorts, and began to brainstorm in terms of genre, characters, and locations we could secure. After three or four sessions, a set of characters and a general story arc began to emerge from our discussions. I took these elements and wrote a treatment, and then a draft of the screenplay. At each point along the way, my teen collaborators expressed their opinions, often with the brutal honesty of youth. After five drafts of the screenplay — now work-shopped in-person, in a rehearsal setting — all seemed happy with what we’d developed.

Working with a young cinematographer and her assistant, also a teen, we shot the film over the course of three days. Again, the teens have all had the opportunity to watch the various edits, make comments, discuss among themselves and, in this way, learn about taking an artistic project from concept to completion.

Some of these teens may end up as professional actors, or work in the entertainment business as writers, directors, or technicians. They certainly have the aptitude. However, if they don’t, I think they all come away from this experience with skills and knowledge that are transferable to other work and life settings. We all learned about collaboration, respecting one another’s opinions, the joy and struggle of the generative/artistic process, and that creating something that you can be proud of takes time, dedication, and focus.”

In-person and streaming tickets for “VIRAL” at the 2023 H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival are available on the film festival’s website: HPLfilmfestival.com/films/viral⁠.

About the SFCA ARPA Grant

In 2022, the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts (SFCA), Hawai‘i’s state government arts agency, distributed $759,500 to 41 Hawai‘i arts and culture organizations and 20 individual arts/culture practitioners impacted by COVID-19. These American Rescue Plan Act funds, provided by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), were designed to support the arts sector as it recovers from the devastating impact of COVID-19.

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