In Hollywood, it takes dozens of seasoned professionals, a group of name-drop-worthy producers and months of planning and execution to create a screen-worthy film.
But for Lake Highlands High School’s Lake Cinematique club, creating a quality movie takes only 21 students, one advisor and 24 hours.
Joel Rosenzweig, the high school’s own ex-Hollywood-director-turned-history-teacher, is that advisor, and the club members are his student filmmakers. Once a year during the Video Association of Dallas’ 24-Hour Video Race, dozens of teams made up of everyone from kindergarteners to professionals set out to create an five minute mini-film in under a day. For the Lake Cinematique team, that means hours of adrenaline-fueled fun, but it also requires meticulous organization.
“The students do everything from the scriptwriting to the directing to the final editing, but they have to play by my rules,” Rosenzweig says. “Most importantly, everyone has to do their job and stick to it, just like on a functional Hollywood set. Once you start putting too many hats on one person, letting a director act or a writer edit the video, things get complicated and fall apart.”
At the midnight pre-race meeting, all competing teams meet at Fair Park to receive their theme, prop and line of dialogue — for the recent competition in May, they were a “twist of fate”, a key and “What’s this going to cost me?” Cinematiquers hit the trenches immediately afterward, with writers getting straight to work at Café Brazil — “because it’s the only place open,” quips Rosenzweig — writing dialogue and hammering out plot details until 6 a.m., when the finalized script transfers into the hands of the student producer.
The producer has just more than an hour to work through everything from costumes to setting; then at 8 a.m., the director takes over. By noon, the first take is sent to the film editors, and the rest is turned in as quickly as possible.
Sound tough? It is, but it works: The club’s film debut, “Lady Killer” in 2003, was a fan favorite (though it was out of the running for formal awards because of a late entry time), and the following year’s “Tag, You’re It” won both the division and official “audience favorite” awards.
This year’s film short “Fizz”, a romantic comedy about the winning Coke bottle cap and one girl’s dream homecoming date, didn’t win any formal prizes, but the team still enjoyed producing it.
Rosenzweig attributes his students’ success partly to the ultra-organized filmmaking process.
“We see a movie a month, have meetings and talk about what works, what doesn’t work and why,” he says. “Then they choose what part they want to play, and we go from there.”
But mostly, he says, the students succeed because of their go-getter attitudes.
“I don’t recruit anyone or do anything special,” he says. “They come to me.”