Dad helps shoot a scene on the river. “The Homework Club”, created by Hallie Crawford, 15, landed a spot at the 2021 Alexandria Film Festival.
“We don’t really know we have things in common until we get to know each other,” Hallie said.
Set on the streets and waterfront of the old town of Alexandria, the short film involved the girls carrying out the project as a kind of punishment for doing something in school, similar to the classic “The Breakfast Club” from the 1980s. “I love this movie,” Hallie said. The girls went from the waterfront to the torpedo factory, where they remembered an experience years ago when they were younger. An argument ensued and the newbie actresses gave the stress in front of the camera their best shot.
The cast included Sophia Webster, who is in second grade at West Potomac High School, Jasmine Williams, who is home schooled, and Charlotte Benson who is a classmate from Hallie to Bishop Ireton. The co-producer was Ella Schmutz, the screenwriter was Olivia Dedham, and Hallie’s father, Brett Crawford, took care of the camera and editing.
At school, the Cappies Theater Award program was announced, and it also included an award for films, which gave Hallie the inspiration to make a film and possibly submit it for a Cappie. “It really interested me,” she said.
Before shooting last winter, they planned it out and organized a casting to find the rest of the cast and put it all together. It was a lesson in perseverance, said his father Brett Crawford. “A fun but difficult experience,” he said.
On the one hand, they started filming in February, but in early spring the flowers bloomed and the trees had leaves, so the background changed. This presented a challenge since the plot unfolds in one day. “It required creative editing,” he said. “It’s something that everyone enjoyed,” he added.
There was a dance scene to indescribable music, so there were no copyright issues, and arguments and thoughts that were voiced secretly, but it all worked out in the end. One thing they didn’t have was a director running around with a storyboard, plotting the scenes. The cell phone worked for this. “We watched the dance scene on our phones,” Hallie said.
Hallie noticed that a film festival was going on in the city, so she leaned into the subject. “I’m excited about this,” she said.
Cell phone cinema
Technology is making movie making more accessible to everyone these days because just about anything can be captured with the cell phone. “Cinema is no longer a Hollywood studio business,” said Patti North, executive director of the Alexandria Film Festival.
“That’s one of the reasons the film festival exists – to give independent filmmakers an audience for independent films. Hence our motto ‘celebrate independents,’ said North.
Although Hallie accomplished a lot by attending the Alexandria Film Festival when she was 15, another teenage girl named Julia Hocker was at the festival a few years ago. Hocker’s debut film won the Burke & Herbert Bank “Lights, Camera, Save” competition, and she produced more.