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Countless people have gone to California to get discovered as a movie star. Cheshire High School senior Alexis Sansone is traveling to Los Angeles next month, with the goal of blossoming behind the camera.
Sansone, an aspiring filmmaker, will spend three weeks (July 24 to Aug. 13) at the New York Film Academy located at Universal Studios. The school offers hands-on training and class work from experts in the field.
“I'm very excited,” said Sansone, 17. “I think it will be really fun because that is where the movies are made.”
Since visiting California in sixth grade, she has enjoyed film. Sansone is looking forward to directing her own two films in the same studio where American classics like Psycho were created.
“I have classes all day from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.,” said Sansone, whose focus is film production. “They give you a lot of freedom, but they don't like violence and expected story lines. They want you to think outside the box."
It is the same school that she attended last summer, only those classes were held in New York. There are differences. In New York, her camp was only a week. Students were divided into groups of three to four people. Each person directed a film and the other students acted in it. Films were three minutes long without words.
“It was definitely easier (without lines) because I had never acted before,” stated Sansone. “I'm not very good on camera, so I don't know if I would have done a good job speaking.”
Her feature was called “Speechless.”
“In my story, a mute bus boy chases after a woman that he doesn't know is deaf,” explained Sansone. “I liked it a lot.”
Since this summer's program is three weeks, she gets to make an extra film and direct solely on live production stages.
“We get actual actors to be in them,” added Sansone. “They are all our age, so I think the process of finding the perfect character will be good, too.”
In the application process, she explained how this program could benefit her presently and in the future. CHS Technology Education teacher Jeff Goodin wrote her recommendation. English teacher Eileen Dunham, who also coaches Sansone in field hockey and lacrosse, helped edit her essays.
“It’s neat,” said Dunham. “I knew her as a writer and athlete, but this experience has allowed me to see her as a leader. She is such a great kid and cares about those around her.”
Sansone filed her paperwork in February and received word between late May and earlier this month.
“I also applied to another program at Emerson (College-Boston, Mass.) for animation, but they canceled that one, so I was happy that I got accepted into my other choice,” recalled Sansone, whose favorite movies are animation. “I like making people laugh.”
“She is psyched,” added Dunham. “Anything to get her exposure is great. She is dead-set on this goal (becoming a filmmaker).”
Sansone is paying for half of her summer's tuition.
“I got a $300 scholarship from Ram TV and I had to find other ways, like refereeing lacrosse games, to get the rest of the money,” stated Sansone.
“She wrote form letters to companies about her trip,” explained Dunham. “I think it is more meaningful because she had to raise money to make this happen for her.”
In preparation for her experience, Sansone wanted to do something new. She recently entered her first film competition, Possible Futures. Films were broken into four categories: Peace and Freedom, Fair Societies, Sustainability and Beyond, and Human Fulfillment.
“I was looking up contests online because I had to do more this summer. This one was international and something I could do,” said Sansone. “It goes from things like helping the environment to poverty.”
Her feature, “Our World,” is among 58 entrants under Peace and Freedom. The category addresses envisioning humanity resolving conflict, ending war and oppression, and bringing peace and freedom to all. Sansone's inspiration came from her school's Health and Wellness Club, run by classmates and lacrosse teammates Emily Kulpa and Maria Blois. Her script points out the world is full of different people, but each individual's everyday decisions impact people around the globe.
“I wanted to do something with different people in it,” explained Sansone. ”I figured if there were a bunch of them talking I could get the message across.”
She didn't have to look far for willing actors as she recruited her fellow students at CHS. During the week of finals, she used a study hall to film in the video room.
“I picked students in that room for the beginning and then chose other people that I thought would be good to talk to. They had study halls, too,” said Sansone.
Her film begins in split screen, each side showing half the face of a student. It changes to full screen, as friends discus issues facing their world. Developing healthy habits, such as recycling and “going green,” are changes people can make in their lives.
“I knew the beginning was going to be a face-over. I just thought it would be a cool idea to have all the different faces together,” reflected Sansone. “It took about two hours to film. Each person that I talked to had to go through the script. It took me all weekend to edit it.”
Editing and directing are her favorite aspects of filmmaking.
“I like coming up with ideas and making a movie come together,” explained Sansone. “It is hard work, but worth it when you see it on the screen.”
Voting for her film contest started Tuesday and ends July 19. Those interested in viewing and voting for Sansone's production can go to www.possiblefuturesfilmcontest.org and then click on Peace and Freedom. Registration is required to vote.
“She, first, showed it to me last weekend,” recalled Dunham. “I was floored. It is amazing.”
Before the contest started, her film garnered 500 views in just three days. It currently has 56 recommendations on Facebook.
“I put it on Facebook and my mom (Kathleen) is sending it to people. I've asked friends from camp last summer to get the word out about it,” stated Sansone. “A few of them (CHS students) asked if they would become famous. I said that I didn't know, but they think it is cool.”
“I think the video is really good,” added Blois. “It is respectful and I think she will do well in the competition.”
Being that this is her first contest, she doesn't know what to expect.
“If it keeps going around, I think I have a good chance,” said Sansone.
There are 317 films overall. Winners will be announced July 25, after a screening of the top 20 films in San Francisco, Calif. The top vote getter in each category receives $1,000. The overall winner gets $2,500, among other prizes.
“I like that it's international because it gives everyone a chance to see what people all over the world are thinking,” explained Sansone. “It also shows that we all have the same thoughts and that many of us are trying to get the same message across to viewers that we can fix the problems in our world by working together.”
Sansone thinks this experience will help her going into the college process for film schools.
“You are going outside your boundaries,” Sansone added. “I haven't looked that much in California. If I get the chance, I'd like to see some schools.”
Her advise to other filmmakers is to never give up.
“You can do anything if you have the ambition,” stated Sansone. “For those who think that people wouldn't want to act for them, there are plenty of people who want to be in their video and don't think they won't be supportive.”
Photos were submitted by Sansone family. Above, Sansone films CHS graduation on June 22. Sansone (grey dress) poses below with her New York Film Academy classmates last summer in New York. The bottom photo (from left) is of Blois, Sansone, and classmate Alyssa Hague. The trio will captain the CHS girls' lacrosse program next spring.