Luke McDaneld set up his camera facing a set of stairs at Lawrence High School and got ready to roll.
But not before he had a few last-minute tips for his actors.
“Be more like, ‘Hey!’” McDaneld said, with an enthusiastic wave. His actress girlfriend, Elise Loney, who is the inspiration and namesake for McDaneld’s film, replies, “OK. Got it.”
Then the moviemaking begins.
But creating a student film is a long and arduous process.
“I filled up a whole tape yesterday, and I’m probably going to get three minutes of footage out of it,” McDaneld said in an interview earlier this month. “There’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t work.”
So it helps that the Lawrence junior loves doing it.
“It’s the only thing I do in school that I really enjoy,” McDaneld said. “I think it’s just a really cool way to share your view.”
He’s getting ready for the fourth annual Lawrence High Film Festival, which boasted more that 50 films from 13 high schools in northeast Kansas last year. For LHS film teacher Jeff Kuhr, the festival is a way to get his students’ hard work to the public.
“This is our Sundance,” Kuhr said. “I think students have a unique perspective on the world, and I think that this is an opportunity for them to share that perspective.”
“Elise” is the first film McDaneld will be submitting to the festival. The drama is based upon how he was feeling when Kuhr assigned script writing to his film class.
“At that point, I was really stuck in the whole routine of schedule,” McDaneld said. “I wanted to ... see the influence one person can have on another.”
While the script may be the first hurdle a filmmaker must jump, a list of decisions follows.
“When you actually get down and think about it, there’s a lot of different things you can control,” McDaneld said.
Black and white or color? What angles should be used? Should there be movement or just static shots?
McDaneld said he shoots as much footage as possible to make sure he can create his vision, but he still goes into the editing process a bit blind.
“You can’t really know what’s going on when you’re filming it,” he said. “When you put everything on the computer and you piece it together, it all starts to come together.”
While McDaneld can play the film he would like to create in his head, he’s still waiting to see the real life translation.
“I’m actually sure it’s going to be different than the way I imagined, but I’m not sure exactly how it’s going to be or how good it’s going to be,” McDaneld said.
But LHS has a pretty good history of winning at its film festival, which is judged by an impartial panel of people in the film industry.
“I think everybody in our program is really working hard to keep our run going,” Kuhr said.
Screenings for the festival will be at 3 p.m. April 16 in Lawrence High School Room 125. The award ceremony will be at 1 p.m. April 19 at Liberty Hall downtown. Winning films will also be shown that day.
McDaneld is hoping “Elise” gets a run at the downtown theater.
“I’d like to win,” he said, “but I really still don’t know how it’s going to turn out yet.”