Teen could make national film competition

Rich Harbert

Years of filming School Committee meetings helped earn Alex Russo a shot at winning a national film competition.

But nothing could have prepared the Cedarville teen for the grueling prospect of collaborating with 10 other teens to cast, shoot, edit and produce an action movie in less than a week.

Russo, 18, spent six long, but fulfilling days last month on a crash course in film-making complete with the car crash. The result was "The Long Way Out," a 10-minute action hero film that could send Russo and his team of young filmmakers to Hollywood for the annual AFI film festival. Online viewers will decide which of nine teams of teens nationwide deserve the honor.

A 2008 graduate of Plymouth South High School, Russo has plenty of experience behind a camera. He has been working as a cameraman, broadcasting live school committee meetings since 2004. Russo also studied graphic arts in the technical studies program at Plymouth South and plans to pursue studies in media communications at Cape Cod Community College in the fall.

He heard about the film competition sponsored by Samsung Mobile and the National Guard from a friend and was one of 6,000 who applied for the 99 slots nationwide last spring.

The competition involves nine teams of 11 teens from major cities around the country. Each is required to make a movie in seven days or less.

Three teams filmed an action hero movie, three made comedies and three made dramas.

Internet voters are selecting the best of each genre this week. The overall winner will move on to the film festival in Hollywood. Winning team members will also get laptop computers and cell phones.

Russo and 10 other Boston area teens made their film between July 7 and 12, working primarily from a hotel in Brookline. They worked from one of nine scripts that had previously won teen writing contests.

"The Long Way Out," the Boston entry, explores a teenage girl’s strained relationship with her stepmother amid the chaos of a hurricane.

Days one and two were dominated by casting the parts of the girl, the stepmother and the father. Day three involved working with the script and prepping for filming.

The young filmmakers shot the movie on a glorious day at Camp Edwards on Cape Cod.

“It was supposed to be during a hurricane, but the day of the shoot it was gorgeous,” Russo said. “There had never been a day so clear in Massachusetts before.”

To simulate the natural disaster, a 600-gallon National Guard fire truck sprayed load after load of water on the action. “We ran out of water so quickly. We had to stop shooting and fill up the truck at least 10 to 15 times,” Russo said.

Each of the 11 teens involved in the film got to take turns at different jobs while filming the 11 different scenes. Russo got to show off his camera work skills in the close confines of a car, just before it flips in the storm.

The end product is eight minutes of action film that ends with the heroine earning a fresh appreciation for the adults in her life.

People can view the movie as well as the eight other entries from around the country by visiting the project’s Web site – www.fresh-films.com.

Viewers can vote for their favorite movies online or by texting the word “Boston” to 95615. The initial round of voting started Thursday and ends next Wednesday.

Visitors to the Web site can also view a daily video blog made by the teen filmmakers.

Like the heroine of the film, Russo came away with a renewed appreciation.

“I learned that the film industry is a very hard industry, and you have to work together with people to get the job done,” Russo said. “It was a lot of fun meeting people with the same interests. Everyone was good-natured. It was really a lot of fun.”