Love At First Zoom

by Julia Hawkins ’22

This year hasn’t gone as planned for most; with the pandemic still in full force, many extracurricular activities were put on hold, or canceled entirely. The AMHS Fine Arts was no exception; with the cancellation of the musical ‘Bright Star’ at the start of the pandemic, it wasn’t clear what the department could do this year while still following COVID guidelines. Usually, AMHS puts on a fall play in November. This year, live theater is virtually impossible. That was until Brent Stainer presented the idea of doing a movie in place of a play. Brent has been involved in live theatre for more than 30 years. He has received awards for his playwriting, technical effects, and lighting designs. On film, he has produced, directed, and edited several projects. This was Brent’s first time co-writing with students, “Yes, it was stressful, but rewarding. Working with student writers takes more time, and more effort, but I don’t know of any other school that offers such a large scale opportunity.” 

Initially, Stainer wanted to do an original film entitled; “Beautiful Bombshells,” Which is about actresses in the 1940’s, their rises to stardom, and their struggles. However, due to COVID concerns, we were unable to complete that production. The next best thing was to write a script about COVID, so that all actors could either be on Zoom or in-person with face coverings. Brent began writing this script by enlisting the help of his Assistant Directors – Adriana Hilerio (‘21) and myself. The three of us worked together to develop a plot and characters in mid-August, called ‘Love At First Zoom.’ Since then, a wonderful cast and crew have been putting their noses to the grindstone to put this production together. Cast and crew are in agreement – this production hasn’t been easy.“I guess probably all of the different shots that we have to do and the long hours it takes just to get one or two scenes done [is the hardest part]. Also, filming in the cold weather. It was all worth it though,” said Tatum Russell (‘23).

From a writing perspective,  “The writing was, to put it nicely, rigorous. We wrote, rewrote, and scrapped scenes. The character name changes are a clear example of the drastic changes we made, seeing as the character Sam was previously called Reggie. Even throughout the filming process, there were changes made to the script. If writing was my only task, I may do it again, but not if I have other roles in the production,” said Adriana Hilerio (‘21).  “Myself and the other two writers didn’t always agree. We had different thoughts and directions. But we disagree respectfully and discuss the screenplay as a unified effort. No one walked over the others. Everyone contributed and all have their personality imprinted on this fine screenplay. I’m very proud of the work the three of us have done.” Hilerio added.

However, there have been some positive aspects of this production as well. “On the first day of in-person filming, I got in a car for one of the scenes. Although the main purpose was to simply get a few shots, I ended up talking a decent amount to the person I was acting with. It was really fun to get to know somebody new given how COVID has stunted meeting new people,” said Elliott Montoya (‘23). Kristina Verzosa (‘22) added, “All I can say is that I have been able to join the little family of our school’s acting community. I really love the idea of earning your place in a role and really getting into the vibe of your own character. No matter what, it always feels like you can have a place. I hope more people join the productions and come to watch them in the future.”

Speaking from personal experience, this project has been draining, to say the least. However, it has also been the most rewarding project that I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of, and I would do it all over again if I had the chance. In the end, through the long hours of writing, rewriting, and filming, I feel I’ve gotten something much more valuable from this project: the friendships. At the end of the day, that’s what all of the cast and crew will take away from this, the bonds, the memories, and the friendships that will hopefully last for a very long time. 

So, what would you get if you combine high school, COVID, best friends, love, photography class, and a nitwit boyfriend? Love At First Zoom! This video production tells the story of a photography class adjusting to COVID and hybrid learning. Meanwhile, students in the class struggle to figure out relationships. Interested in watching this unique production? AMHS is hosting a drive-in movie right in the parking lot! Our premiere dates are still pending – however, we are aiming for a March weekend premiere! Keep an eye out for more info on the ASB Instagram page; we can’t wait to see you there!