While most Maine schoolchildren enjoyed spring break, nearly 100 Grade 8-12 students converged on the Sanford High School campus to educate others about what it is like to be a teenager in the present culture. Members of the school’s Student Film Club are shooting an as-yet untitled movie representing the challenges of their generation.

The film is being produced as a collaborative effort between students, the Sanford Safe Schools Healthy Students Initiative and Project Aware.

Project Aware, a private, nonprofit entity founded in 2003, is directing, packaging and promoting the effort.

Co-founder Carl Lakari said the organization’s mission is to empower youth to take the lead in making decisions for positive change among their peers. Since 2004, that has been achieved via statewide presentations given by teens. The sessions include interactive activities, like skits, games and music. Project Aware also has earned national recognition for three movies detailing peer pressure, bullying, drug abuse and the power of influence — all co-produced by Maine teens.

Last summer, several Sanford High School students attended Project Aware’s Student Summer Filmmaking Institute. Now they are working with Lakari and Project Aware to make a movie of their own

Film overseers invited Sanford High School students to submit their anonymous stories detailing issues they struggle with. A team of student writers was formed to come up with a script based on those elements.

The movie is intended to capture the thoughts teenagers wrestle with rather than what they actually say. A good amount of the dialogue will be spoken via voice-overs that convey the actors’ thought processes.

Sanford High School sophomore Amanda Riopel, 17, has been involved in late-night cramming sessions to educate herself about her assignment. As the make-up and wardrobe directo, she is working with mediums like rubber cement, corn syrup and strawberry Kool-Aid to create realistic-looking wounds for key scenes of physical abuse.

An alumna of Project Aware’s summer film institute, Riopel also will help mentor new student filmmakers, share her creative input during the filming, get the actors camera-ready, take on the role of a girl who self-mutilates to mask her inner pain and provide voice-over narration for that character.

“I’m one of those people who does whatever is needed to help out,” said Riopel. “I play the role of the girl who self-injures herself by cutting. She doesn’t talk a lot but you hear her inner thoughts.”

Riopel said the subject matter resonates with her generation, many of whom, herself included, come from broken homes or varied abusive backgrounds.

“This is about more than just making a movie,” said Riopel. “It’s about creating a greater support system (for teens).”

Lakari said students have really stepped up on the project, putting in long days to shoot at several locations around town.

“These kids are doing it all as crew members: grips, props, make-up, camera and acting; were are simply here to provide the (technical support and filming experience),” said Lakari. “The kids are learning to find their gifts and passions and bring them out into the world, making a difference through team work, communication, being respectful of each other and collaborating in a healthy and positive way. This is high quality stuff. We’re making something that they can be proud of.”

The film club is expected to wrap this week and be released in June.


Staff Writer Deborah Sayer can be contacted at 791-6308 or at: [email protected]


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