First Annual Lee Labs Captures Student-Made Films

With an insistent knock on the door, Emir Sahin ’17 opens the door to a cameraman and welcomes them to his “crib,” introducing his daughter, played by Jenni Lord ’19, and wife, played by Sarah Stack ’19, to the cameraman. This scene opened “MTV Cribs (The Johnsons),” which was directed, written, and filmed by Carley Kukk ’19 and Ria Vieira ’19. The film portrayed a family starring on an MTV network reality show, acting like they got along well for the camera but dropping subtle hints film that they didn’t like each other. In the end, the cameraman became so overwhelmed that he raced from the kitchen and out the door, much to the dismay of the family.

“My favorite part was shooting Emir dancing; he was actually very good and sassy. I honestly could not stop laughing when he dropped to the floor. I think, with our film, we were just trying to depict a stereotypical dad who is trying to be ‘cool.’ We knew we would be able to get a lot of laughs with some cringe-worthy lines,” said Kukk.

This film was one of ten films shown at last Friday’s Lee Labs, the screening of short films created by members of the Andover Moviemakers’ Club (AMC).

“[Lee Labs] was a new way for the club to experiment with the shorter time span,” said Alex Emerson ’17, co-head of AMC. “We still provided some kind of guidance, but not to the extent that we were doing with Flash Films.”

The tenure of Jackson Lee ’17 as Executive Producer of AMC culminated in the Lee Labs. The production of the Lee Labs began in late January and took place over the course of three weeks.

“I drew inspiration [to start Lee Labs] from my summer camp I went to for a couple years. There would be a skit making challenge, and each bunk would come up with skits. Each skit would have couple lines that you’d have to [use…] I loved the idea because it was so funny to see how different people enacted these certain situations, and I wanted to recreate that. With film, there’s so many other interpretations and such a wider range of opportunities to exhibit the same lines in different ways, so I was really excited to bring that in,” said Lee.

To participate, students signed up for various roles including writers, actors and directors, who both filmed and edited their productions. Each team was paired with a producer, who was a member of the Moviemakers Board, and given limited time to produce a short film. To aid the writers in coming up with different scenarios, there were six mandatory lines that had to be included in each film, consisting of: “Thanks, I grow/grew it myself,” “There is no way this could go wrong,” “No one thinks you’re funny,” “How does this keep happening,” “OPEN WIDE,” and *Character deeply sniffs someone or something*.

One of the Lee Lab films, “Caffeine Tea,” was written by Sophie Zhang ’17, directed by Alex Emerson ’17 and Andrew Lin ’17, co-heads of AMC, and featured Anlan Du ’18, Emerson, and Lee. The film focused on the main character, played by Lee, trying coffee for the first time after spending most of his life drinking tea. The film took a more mysterious tone as Lee’s character began the transition from liking tea to liking coffee, and ended on a comical, sarcastic note.

“The entire film was a great time to direct. Andrew and I decided to use an anamorphic lens setup so it would give our film a more traditional cinematic look. We didn’t have to direct the actors particularly much once they saw the script they were able to act very well. The overall experience was a little hectic, since we only started two days before the films were going to be screened,” said Emerson.

Another film shown at the screening was “Masquerade” and took the point of view of an everyday, nonspecific person narrating their struggle with fitting in. Directed by Harrison Ringel ’19 and starring Jacob Buehler ’19, Nathan Goldthwaite ’18, and Ringel, each of three characters portrayed wore masks to cover up their faces to provide a more generalized point of view to the audience. The beginning of the film, especially with the emotional narration, carried a solemn tone. By the end, the figures who had been wearing plain, general masks took off their outer layer and stopped pretending to be people they were not, each exposing different, unique patterns drawn on their paper faces.

“My favorite part of the film was the universality of the message that was demonstrated. Essentially, the film talked about how people hide their true selves in order to fit in with society. I think the detail that really pulled it all together was the way that the masks of the people representing society were all just blank and identical. You couldn’t tell who was behind the mask, and you couldn’t tell that Harrison and I were behind them. It could’ve been anyone behind the mask, and that, I think, is part of the beauty of the film,” said Buehler.

According to Catherine Shi ’18, a board member of AMC, she hopes that the club will continue the Lee Labs in years to come.

“I look forward to having the event next year as well,” said Shi. “It’s always great to see what people can come up with given the lines that have to be included… The filmmaking process encourages creativity, a sense of humor, and above all, collaboration within a team.”