LA News Archive
Recently, a team of LA alumni participated in the @48HourFilmProject. Led by Alex Vassilakos ’12 (Producer), Connor Gowland ’13 (Director) and their production crew of former Spartans (Emily Perrault ’13, Haley Gowland ’13, Jonny Mangini ’14, Jason Karos ’14, Kara L’Heureux ’14, Joe Casper ’13, Erin Gifford ’15, Rebecca Wnuk ’14, and Calli Scofidio ’14) produced an action/adventure film entitled “Wrench.” #AlwaysASpartan
By Allie Goodrich '13
The idea to compete in a 48-hour film festival didn’t happen overnight — it happened over breakfast.
“Haley [Gowland '13] and I were talking about how many of our close friends are pursuing the arts as a career path,” recounts Alex Vassilakos ’12. “We wanted to find a way for everyone to work together again. Connor [Gowland '13] had participated in the 48 Hour Film Project in the past, and we thought it could be a great way to bring our old friends and collaborators together again.”
The 48 Hour Film Project is an international competition that begins locally: In cities around the world, film crews are challenged with writing and producing a 4-7-minute film in 48 hours. Alex and her team, Suchecki Productions, entered the festival in the Portland, Maine, competition.
“At the beginning of the festival, each team is given two genres and must create their film in accordance with one of those genres,” Alex explains. “All of the teams are also given a character, prop, and line that they must incorporate into their films during the weekend. The prompts are received at 7 p.m. on Friday night, and you are expected to deliver a film at 7 p.m. on Sunday, which is a pretty tight schedule to work on.”
Films are then submitted to a team of judges, and the best film in each city earns a spot at Filmapalooza, an international competition; the winner of Filmapalooza gains a spot at the famed Cannes Film Festival. Suchecki Productions was awarded Best Use of Required Prop for their film, and was also one of three nominees for Best Score, Best Actress, and Best Emerging Filmmaker.
There are 12 recent LA graduates on Suchecki Productions’ crew of 15: The Gowlands, Calli Scofidio ’14, Emily Perrault ’13, Joe Casper ’13, Jason Karos ’14, Kara L’Heureux ’14, Jonny Mangini ’14, Erin Gifford ’15, Andrew Fyffe ’16, Rebecca Wnuk ’14, and Alex herself. The group’s film is called Wrench, which Alex describes as “a high-stakes action film exploring how far people will go for love or hate.” Alex both produced the film and worked on its writing team, but she emphasizes how much the project relied on a strong group effort.
“My favorite part of the process was collaborating with so many talented people that I hadn’t worked with in such a long time,” she says. “It was an incredibly rewarding experience to see how well everyone is doing and how they have grown as both people and artists.”
The last time Alex and her fellow alumni had been in the same place, they were at LA.
“When I looked around the set last weekend, I saw small pieces of the LA Arts Department in everyone,” Alex recalls. “We were all essentially ‘raised’ as artists in the basement of the Gray Building with such powerful inspirations surrounding us.”
As they wrote, composed, acted, shot, and produced their film, Alex says she found herself calling upon her arts experience at LA when questions arose: “There were many moments when I found myself thinking, ‘Well, what did we do during XYZ production at LA to get this done?’ or ‘Okay, what did Joel [Sugerman] or Brian [Feigenbaum] do during tech rehearsals to motivate us when we were exhausted and hadn’t slept all week?’
“We had a very unique high school experience of being encouraged to collaborate across artistic mediums and employ everyone’s specific strengths to one project to make them stronger,” she continues. “Not many high schoolers are given [that] opportunity.”
Alex’s LA experience has been followed by a television-radio major at Ithaca College; an internship with a production company in London; a role as Entertainment Director for IC’s cable television station, for which she produced a late-night talk show; and an internship at Nickelodeon in their casting department. She is now getting ready to move to Los Angeles, where she will be pursuing a career in film and television. But no matter the project, from Suchecki Productions to the big names of the entertainment industry, it’s clear that all that time spent in the arts wing of the Gray Building all those years ago still influences her work.
“We were given a great deal of creative freedom at a young age,” she reflects. “I know that has definitely broadened my scope of vision when working on any project.”
Haley, who led a team of musicians to score the film, echoes that sentiment: “The projects we worked on in high school set the stage for how we collaborate and devise, not only in theatre and dance, but in projects like this film project,” she says. “The processes they taught us are now frameworks a lot of us use naturally in our work.”
In the end, it’s clear that this group had a strong advantage heading into the competition: a steady foundation.
“You work best with people you’ve worked with before, I think,” says Emily, who both helped write and starred in the film. “There’s a certain amount of comfortability that comes with that.”