Da’el Clapperton’s SuperFly Filmmaking Experience

My name is Da’el Clapperton.  I’m 14 years old, and I attended the 7th annual SuperFly youth filmmaking competition in Seattle, WA.  First off, I would like to thank Wide Angle Youth Media for offering me such a memorable opportunity like SuperFly.  Without Wide Angle Youth Media, I never would have been able to experience SuperFly for myself.

So, before I get into any details, I would like to mention that SuperFly is a partnership between Long House Media and SIFF, the Seattle International Film Festival.  SuperFly accepts 50 students and 30 mentors for an intense weekend of filmmaking.  Everyone has 36 hours to completely finish a short on a given topic and/or genre.  That includes pre-production, shooting, and editing – so don’t go there expecting to get much sleep.  After the allotted 36 hours, all the films will be screened in a local theater open for the public for a fee.  Of course, all of the filmmakers get free admission.  Now that you know what SuperFly is, I will tell you about my experience there.

Day 1: Thursday, May 31, 2012

We arrived at DayBreak Star – the Native American cultural center in Seattle where SuperFly was being held – at 4 o’clock pm to get settled in.  At this time, all we knew about the competition was our group number, and that cupcakes were going to be the subject of our film.  I was in Group 2, and our group genre was open, so we could basically take our film in any direction we wanted to as long as we followed the script.  Some groups were given genres as part of their scripts: Group 1 was horror, Group 3 was a drama, and there even was an animation group.

At 5 o’clock, everyone gathered as one big group for the first time, and all of the students and mentors introduced themselves.  I was feeling a little intimidated because, even if it was some people’s first time there, everyone seemed to know each other.  A lot of kids were from the same reservation, and some were just super comfortable and friendly.  Then we split up into our individual groups; each group had 10 kids and 3 mentors.

It was really awkward at first.  No one wanted to speak, no one gave any feedback, and our mentors were trying to make it less awkward, which was making it even more awkward.  After the first hour of pre-production, we warmed up a bit and seriously began brainstorming.  Our script basically was about a mother and her two kids who were on their way to a potluck.  Their contribution was a nice platter of delicious cupcakes.  The daughter wanted some, so she hid her brother’s shoes and sent her mother off on a wild goose chase as she and her brother stole cupcakes.  We had an hour-long argument about whether or not we should make our film into a comedy or a dark gloomy drama.

Finally, we decided on a silent film (which actually was my idea).  Around 8:30pm, we started our shotlist, and decided on actors, music, and special effects – basically, everything we needed to be ready to film the next day.  Lights-out was at 11:30pm, and our group didn’t stop until 12am.  We all tried to hurry off and sleep – since we were shooting off-site, we had leave early the next morning.  And we would not get any sleep the following night.

Day 2: Friday, June 1, 2012

After a nice breakfast at 8:30am, we took our equipment and left the building at 9am.  We had until 6pm to film everything we needed, and lunch would be provided.  We got busy on-set right away.  Some groups had set positions, but our group rotated as director, cameraman, sound operator, lighting tech, assistant director, scripter and, later, editor.

Filming was so much fun.  I was introduced to some very professional equipment – equipment that I had never seen or used in all my years of filmmaking.  Of course, as a bunch of kids making a video, we got off track a lot,  but our wonderful mentors were there to keep telling us to keep it professional.  We had a taste of what it was like to be on a real movie set.  In fact, one of our mentors had worked on many movie sets, and he said that working on our set was a pretty similar experience.

We got our very last shot at 5:55pm, leaving us 5 minutes to pack up and put the house we were filming in back in order.  Very proud of ourselves, we took a group shot outside the house.  Later at DayBreak Star, we had a traditional dinner that included Elk!  There were even some performances, and one included my fellow MVP student D’Andre Guess (far right).

At 8 o’clock, editing time began, and we all broke up into our groups.  We edited in an old, unused preschool room with Final Cut Pro 7.  We rotated as editors, taking two hour shifts.  That’s when we really connected and put our differences aside.  We had to edit this 20-minute footage into a 5 minute short and we had until 7am to do so.  We all got really close and actually everyone (mentors included) were acting really silly. Laughing kept us awake, and we laughed until we were finished.  Our group became a team (we called ourselves the Power Group) and our mentors became our friends.  Putting everything in order, aligning music, adding special effects, and, of course, credits, we set our video to render at 6:30am.  We did it!

We were the only group left awake and, apparently, the only group who stayed awake together the whole time, even when we weren’t editing.  We had until 10am to sleep, and we all took advantage of those precious and few hours to rest up before the screening.

Day 3: Saturday, June 2nd, 2012

The Screening – At noon, we all gathered to go our separate ways.  The SuperFly coordinators congratulated us, and said our videos would screen in town at 4 o’clock.  We were free to do whatever we wanted until then, but we really just felt like hanging around DayBreak Star until 3 o’clock, when we got a ride into town.

At the theater and before our screenings, we watched three other clips, which were all amazing and inspiring.  Finally, we saw all of our 36-hour SuperFly shorts.  Watching everyone else’s films was so amazing.  Even with the time limit, all the groups somehow managed to make their films so entertaining and surprising!  Everyone did a spectacular job with camera positioning and editing.  And then the big moment came: seeing our own video on the big screen.  Watching something I worked on so intensely on a movie theater screen gave me a buzz.  Most of it was probably from lack of sleep but still I couldn’t help but think, “Wow…we did this!”  I was so proud of my team and myself.

After the screenings, we took a group photo of all of the SuperFly participants (above), and went to an after party at a pizza joint.  That really was the place for final goodbyes.  Emails, hugs, and numbers were exchanged as we all went our separate ways.

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Da’el and D’Andre are the 5th and 6th students that we have been able to send to Super Fly over the past three years. The films that Da’el and D’Andre filmed while in Seattle are not available online just yet, but once they are we will be sure to post them!


Photo Credit: Longhouse Media
Visit the SuperFly website to learn more!

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