02/26/2013 11:54 am ET Updated Apr 28, 2013

The Massaponax Ultimate Film Project

Filmmaking is not an activity that can be done alone. A dedicated team is needed behind the project in order for it to come to fruition. I discovered this the hard way last year when I combed through my high school for students to act in a video for a competition I was entering. That, and procuring the equipment, is the most challenging part of creating a film in Fredericksburg, Virginia due to the lack of resources for cinematic fanatics. Even finding people interested in film and video production while living in this city, a Civil War buff's dream, can be difficult. It isn't a bad thing that the area is historically oriented, but it does become frustrating when you want to create a film project. This school year, as a senior, I decided to do something about it.

My plan was to create a student run organization that would be in charge of creating a short film that would be about 10-30 minutes long. A couple of weeks before school began, I created a Facebook group for the Massaponax High School Ultimate Film Project (a bit of a corny title, but I wanted to make it sound exciting). I invited everyone that I could think of who might be interested and eventually our group grew to about 23 students. I decided to divide everyone into departments based on their interests -- executive, camera, writing, production design, marketing, editing, music, and acting -- and I inquired if anyone had a script in the works, which is where our film production, A Day in the Life of Waldo, was born.

After a few months of working on the screenplay, a story that was originally a comedy loosely based on the Where's Waldo? children's book series developed into a tale about a teenager searching for his place within his high school's social hierarchy while figuring out whether it was worth it to fight peer pressure or give into it. The writers took examples of what they noticed in their high school circles and embedded it into the screenplay. The story still has a comedic edge, but there's definitely more drama now that it has been revised. Also, my original plan of creating a film with a maximum running time of 30 minutes grew until it reached about 80 minutes which, although it may seem ambitious, made everyone more excited to work on the project because it feels like we're working on a movie that could actually premier in a theatre. This is somewhat true. We plan on selling tickets for $3 a person and premiering it in our school's auditorium (digital copies would be available online for those who do not live near Fredericksburg).

As the script was in its final stages, I had to make sure that all the other pre-production matters were taken care of -- mainly the marketing campaign, the equipment, and the budget. I and the marketing department built a website to spread awareness of our efforts online and also to provide a way for people who are interested in donating an alternative to writing a check. After discussing ways to avoid going over budget while gaining the most equipment, we decided that the best way to go about this would be to create our own equipment for the camera -- a camera dolly and two camera stabilizing mounts. We've tracked down great blueprints online and planned to modify them to meet our needs. The production design department decided that they could cut costs by asking the actors what they already had in their closets and modifying those outfits. This allows us to purchase articles of clothing and cosmetics that our actors may not have without overdrawing our account.

As for the budget itself, because many students can't participate in several school activities unless their debts are paid and not everyone can afford mandatory class dues, we decided that we would donate three-fourths of the total amount of money that we raise to that cause. The other fourth will go back to the Massaponax Ultimate Film Project for next year's project. All of the equipment will be donated to the high school and all contributors will receive benefits for their donations according to this chart.

Although we faced many challenges as a group this year as the majority of the students working on this project are juniors and seniors in high school who take multiple AP courses, we continue on because we're looking forward to how this project will affect future generations in the Fredericksburg area. We look forward to next year when students will no longer have to scramble around to find film equipment for a project. We think of the endless possibilities of what students will be able to do with this equipment. They could decide to record school events like concerts, sports games, and charity events, create artistic music videos, experiment different aspects of cinematography -- the list goes on! Hopefully, a fraction of the many generations of students that shuffle through the halls of Massaponax High will continue to write screenplays, film them and raise money for worthy causes. Knowing that students won't have to go through what I had to in order to create a film -- as well as helping those who cannot afford to pay off students fees and uniting a group of students who, otherwise, would not have been exposed to the cinematic arts or other people within their own high school interested in film -- would definitely be the ultimate senior legacy.