Cody Bursch in "Hopkins High Movie"

By Randall - Posted on 25 August 2010

Cody Bursch was featured in a story in an article appearing in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on the Young Filmmakers Club at Hopkins High School (Minnesota). Cody appeared as the title character in "Knowing Aaron" and composed the score for the hour-long film.


Hopkins High movie: It's a wrap

Aspiring filmmakers from Hopkins High just finished making and premiering their first feature-length movie.

By ALLIE SHAH, Star Tribune


Look out, Coen brothers.

A plucky band of teen filmmakers in Hopkins may one day rival you and your hometown of St. Louis Park for bragging rights.

For more than a year, the members of Hopkins High's Young Filmmakers Club have been planning, writing, filming and editing a feature-length movie. Last week marked the culmination of their creative work when the club held a premiere for their 56-minute film at the Hopkins Center for the Arts.

The movie, "Knowing Aaron," tells the story of a gifted but troubled teenager who struggles with dark thoughts under the glare of his fellow small-town dwellers.

More than 200 people attended the premiere of the movie starring students, teachers and other staff members from the Hopkins School District.

"It felt really good that we created a piece of art and everyone appreciated it," said Jared Selcer, a YFC member. "It was pretty emotional."

For Katherine Fuguet, who plays Aaron's girlfriend, Megan, in the film, watching strangers react to the movie was special.

"I loved at the premiere seeing people laughing at times and crying," she said. "I heard someone in the audience ask [about Aaron]: 'Is he going to die?'"

She and the 15 YFC members working on the film spent months juggling the demands of school and project. At times, working on the film was all-consuming.

"You go to bed thinking YFC and you wake up thinking YFC," she said.

A club is born

It was a passion for movies that inspired a handful of students in Hopkins High video teacher Colin Slaby's class to start the club last year.

Having worked individually on smaller projects, they were eager to try something bigger.

"All of us dreamed of making a movie," said Adam Kroeger, cinematographer. "But it's seen as you have to go to film school to do it. We thought, 'Why not try it now?'"

They met weekly after school to begin work on the movie.

The idea for "Knowing Aaron" developed from the club's brainstorming sessions.


During those gatherings, the students would sit in a circle and toss out random one-sentence plot ideas, explained Samantha Lorentz, who wrote the screenplay.

They whittled down the ideas to one: A story about a teen artist who is haunted by visions of a murder he witnessed as a small child and of the voices he sometimes hears. During these episodes, he pours his thoughts out in his sketchbook, drawing furiously and creating elaborate pieces of art.

"My art is my thoughts," Aaron explains in the movie.

In writing the screenplay, Lorentz was inspired by one of her favorite directors, M. Night Shyamalan, perhaps best known for his movie "The Sixth Sense."

Like that groundbreaking film, the Hopkins YFC's movie keeps viewers guessing.

"We wanted something that challenged the audience," Lorentz said.

The crew shot the movie between February and this month in and around Hopkins. (Credits at the end of the film note, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that it was "Filmed on location in Hopkins.")

Biggest expense: time

In all, the movie cost just $100 to make. For the students, their biggest outlay was time.

The crew shot 24 hours of footage and edited heavily to pare it down to just under an hour.

Co-director Danielle Abraham admits she had doubts about whether they would ever finish the project.

"There were a couple times that production was halted because of drama or other things that were going on," she said. "We were full-time students and had so much going on outside the club. At times, it felt that what we were doing was too much."

They continued working all the way up to the date of the premiere.

At the showing, the long hours began to pay off.

Donations poured in to help the club copyright the movie, and the film is now getting some local buzz. The students plan to show it again at Hopkins High after school starts.

The teens are also getting recognition from parents and friends.

Selcer said his parents didn't grasp the magnitude of what he was working on until they saw the end result playing up on a big screen in front of a crowd.


"They really didn't understand. They said, 'Oh, you're making a movie. That's nice.' They didn't realize it was a movie until opening night."

One of the teens has even had a brush with being recognized as a result of the movie.

"Aaron," played by Hopkins High student Cody Bursch, went to Cold Stone Creamery with some friends after the screening, and a stranger recognized him.

"This old guy came up to me and said, 'Good job, Cody, good job.'"

Although the movie is done, club members say their work is not. They still want to do some more editing and devise a game plan for entering "Knowing Aaron" in a few select film festivals.

"From the get-go we said we're going to apply to Sundance. And we're still going to do that," director Jack Anderson said.

But first, he and Abraham are off to California to enroll at Chapman University, a small private college known for its film school. Both hope to make it in the film industry.

Back at Hopkins High, the remaining members of the YFC are already back at work, writing a script for their next movie.


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