In honor of the five-year anniversary of my graduation from Redwood High School, I want to throwback to my days as a filmmaker in a drama elective I took senior year. I’ve been told that in the five years since I took the class that the quality has increased immensely, with students creating school news announcements and legit viral web content, but back in my day, this was a class where me, 1-2 other females, and a whole bunch of dudes could kick it and pretend to make films.
By senior year of high school, I was a drama-nerd dead-set on being an indie film actress in LA, so I signed up for this class. My intentions started off completely pure: I wanted to learn something about cameras and video technology, act in every film-nerd’s videos, and map out a film career of my own.
What I ended up getting was a class full of nerds and stoners (almost all male!), most of whom were already my friends, where we did everything except make films. A lot of times we’d be instructed to break off into groups and go work on a film project, so I’d get into a group with ~the boys~, check out some video equipment, and then go roam around campus pretending to film. And sometimes we didn’t even do that: sometimes we wouldn’t even pretend to check out equipment and just escape to the lobby of the theatre where there was a nice big couch to chill on. Sometimes I’d tell my teacher I was joining ~the boys~ for a project, but instead I’d just get in my car and take an extended lunch period (all 45 minutes of 4th period and all 35 minutes of lunch) and go catch an episode of Ellen. But no matter what I chose to do with the class time, film-related or not, I looked forward to 4th period very much.
After a semester full of half-assed projects and hanging out with my friends, we were given a final assignment where each of us had to make and complete our own video projects to be screened on the last day. After we screened mine, my teacher gave me a look of amused disappointment, and told me it was the most vain thing he’d ever seen.
I present to you now a visual representation of how the biggest theatre-nerd almost didn’t pass a drama class: a music video for “Bulletproof” by La Roux, directed by, edited by, and starring me:
From the looks of the video, here’s an estimate of what was going through my head in the pre-planning stages:
Who should star in it? Me!
What should be the plot? Nothing!
What should the shots be? Whatever I think of at the moment!
Are there any props I should use? Nah. Oh wait– it’d be kinda cool if I played around with a twig, maybe! Like, I could stroke it or something!? OH–and there’s this Container Store coat-rack I spray-painted black for a dance performance to “Cell Block Tango” from Chicago! Maybe I can vamp around with it for a bit? I could even stage that part in the parking lot–that’d be so sick!
Should I learn the words? No! Just read them off a printed-out piece of paper and make sure the paper is out of the frame (or don’t!) Whatever!
But what should I do if I can’t get a crew? I don’t know, just film on a MacBook or something!
What should the editing be like? As erratic and unnecessary as possible, please!
Should anyone make a cameo? The ONLY person who should make a cameo is my elderly AP Lit teacher. I should walk down the school hallway like it’s a runway and she should be in the shot for a second, opening a door or something.
Is there any hip technology I should include? Something that’ll really impress my film teacher? Oh, you know those effects on the Photobooth on Macs? Use those!!! This is a film class, right!?
What if I don’t get enough footage and the deadline is here? Just cut off the end of the song! WHO CARES!
If a friend asks me to put it on YouTube so she can see it, what will I do since I don’t have a YouTube account? I guess I’ll make one!
But what will you call the channel? Probably something really humble and casual, like “The Megan Patsel Project.” Channel names are really easy to change, right?*
Honestly, as I watch this video back five years later, my biggest regret is forgetting to mute the audio from the camera. Amateur mistake.