Lights. iPhone. Action.
Director of photography Charlie Baker, 16, of Thomaston knelt behind an iPhone rigged to a tripod as his crew members dangled handmade puppets over a mini-stage. Leif Flynn, 13, of Appleton held a light in front of his chest and experimented with filters.
Charlie and Leif are two of 11 middle and high school students from the Rockland area that make up the film crew for the music video “The Roaring ’20s” by singer-songwriter Alexis Pastuhov, 26, of Lincolnville. They wrote the script, acted, directed, dealt with all technical aspects of production and will be editing the footage.
“My parents wanted me to do it, and I wanted to do it, too,” said assistant cameraman Patrick Beachman, 12, of Camden. “It just seemed to be a cool and fun thing, and I like filmmaking. I just know I want to do something that’s creative.”
The music video is a pilot new media project for Julia’s Gallery of Young Artists, a part of the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, which started organizing free after-school teen arts programs in 2001.
“The final product is a project made by young students,” said Farnsworth director of education Roger Dell. “We’re just overwhelmed sometimes with all of their creativity.”
Charlie shuffled back and forth with the tripod. The iPhone has no zoom, so he needed the distance from the stage to be just right. The phone’s high definition camera was used to film the entire video.
“It’s what I have,” said filmmaker and program instructor Nicole Fuller, who conceived and presented the music video idea to the Farnsworth Museum. “It really makes sense to push its limits. And it makes the project unique. Above all, it’s accessible.”
“I see everything as it’s happening,” said Charlie. “We had to shoot a car scene, so it’s pretty useful getting into tight spaces.”
Songwriter Pastuhov, who describes his music as folk-indie rock, says the song is based on a nightmare he had:
A man wakes up on a dirt road at 4 a.m. He walks down the road and stumbles across an apparently vacant house, but inside is a party of people clad in 1920s attire — all dead — actors and musicians of esteem or notoriety.
“You wouldn’t be surprised to see Zelda Fitzgerald there, making a scene, fighting with F. Scott,” said Pastuhov.
The group waltzes out of the house and down the road to a valley where they dance and sing. The man then wakes up. He’s in a car, and the cryptic event was only a dream.
“The song strongly caters to a music video,” said Pastuhov. “It’s kind of a creepy song so hopefully the movie is pretty creepy, too.”
The student film crew has taken the original dream in their hands, and it has transformed.
“It’s kind of not my project. It’s just my song,” said Pastuhov. “I told [Fuller] how I pictured it in my mind, but in the end, it’s about the students. I’m kind of along for the ride. It was interesting to see how it changed. I haven’t even seen the footage. It’s really cool.”
Inspired by Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” music video, the group put together a narrative introduction to the music video, making the overall video about 10 minutes long.
“We’re going for glamorous zombies. Zombies — in the sense that they are dead,” said Fuller. Sequins, top hats and flapper dresses are combined with subtle hints of death such as fake insects and powdered faces.
The majority of the video was filmed at The Strand Theatre in Rockland, which partnered with the Farnsworth Museum for the program. Throughout September, the crew summoned extras, actors and Pastuhov on Wednesdays and Saturdays for film shoots to help them bring their interpretation of the song to life.
“It was quite the parade getting down here,” said Leith MacDonald, 30, of Rockland as he waited to jump into a scene as an extra Saturday during their final shoot. “Zombies traveling down Main Street — we stopped a lot of traffic.”
Clio Berta, 15, of Camden joined the crew to sew costumes and work on set design but ended up on screen.
“I joined late, but they were really welcoming,” said Clio. “There has been a lot of help and support, and everyone’s a lot of fun to work with.”
As the crew watched the beginning of the trailer in their classroom Thursday, Clio, dressed in a golden chin-length wig, appeared on screen.
“That’s so awesome,” she said. “I’m happy that I’m in it.”
As soon as the trailer is complete, it will be played before movies showing at the Strand Theatre.
“I think the text is too plain,” said Leif, who works on set to provide things such as special effects.
“We need James Earl Jones speaking,” said grip Jack Marin, 12, of Camden, lighting and rigging technician.
“I kind of like the text because it’s quiet,” said Clio.
Charlie and art director Declan Carlson, 15, of Camden, read the trailer’s text in deep voices. Makeup and hair stylist Maxine Buretta, 15, of Rockland, and chief lighting technician Hannah Lacasse, 15, of Rockland, laughed and asked Fuller to play the trailer again.
The month of October will be devoted to post-production, editing hours of footage into a 10-minute video with the computer program iMovie.
“This sort of project is working with available resources,” said Fuller. “The idea is to produce a movie not using expensive equipment, but things that students have access to themselves.”
They borrowed simple professional equipment such as extension cords called “stingers” and c-stands for lighting from Maine Media Workshops.
The Everyman Repertory Theatre in Camden allowed the group to raid its costume warehouse for ‘20s attire. What they couldn’t find there, they picked up at Goodwill or made themselves.
“I believe everyone has artistic talents in them,” Dell said. “I’ve seen kids blossom when music, dance and art are present in their lives.”
“It’s very different than professional projects,” said production designer and instructor Virginia Hastings of Brooklyn, New York. “In a way, it’s kind of loose and beautiful. It meets kids where they are. These are the natural talents, and this is how we work with it. I really respect the project and that approach to it.”
The video will premiere at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 4, at the Strand Theatre, which the film crew will enter on a red carpet. In addition to the video, a 7-minute documentary of the project produced by Daniel Quintanilla, 27, of Rockland, will be shown, and the students will form a panel for questions.
“This is also a kind of premiere for [Pastuhov],” said Nicole. At the event, he will be selling his first album, “All These Secrets Made the Greatest Friends,” which was completed last October.
Premiere guests are encouraged to dress in 1920’s attire — so get out your pearls, bold lipstick, sleeveless dresses, tailcoats and cloche hats and join the final parade of zombies waltzing down Main Street.
The premiere is free and open to the public. For information, call the box office at 594-0070.
For information about after school teen programs at Julia’s Gallery, call the Farnsworth Museum Education Department at 596-0949.