Filming wraps on local teens’ second movie
They hope to premiere the still-untitled feature Oct. 22 in Hackensack.
A team of homeschooled teens from Park Rapids wrapped photography Sept. 1 on their latest feature-length film.
Caleb Hawn, 18, wrote, directed and is now editing the still-untitled movie. His team, Ztake Studios, has also made several short films and has a blog, podcast, Instagram and Facebook pages, YouTube channel, and their own website, ztakestudios.com. Their previous feature, “Intellectual Property,” played last October at the Park Theatre.
Lead actors Abby Kopkie, 17, and Tucker Keysor, 16, and sound tech/videographer Ronia Larson, 17 joined Hawn in an interview Thursday to discuss their latest project.
Halfway through the editing process, Hawn said, “It’s looking to be around 90 minutes, which is a lot longer than our last one. It’s looking gorgeous – completely, off-the-charts good.”
He said they hope to premiere the film Oct. 22 at Bear Pause Theater in Hackensack.
In the movie, Keysor plays Warren, a spoiled rich kid who is kidnapped and held hostage. The experience challenges his worldview. Meanwhile, Kopkie plays Sophie, whose father turns out to be a bad guy.
“It’s this clash of people,” said Keysor. “Friends, enemies, trying to figure out who they can trust, while I’m … trying to figure out what I’m gonna do.”
Other principal cast members include Zachary Johnson, Joshua Hawn, Jake Jones, Paul Murrell and John VanGelderen. Joining Larson on the crew side were Lily Kennedy, Evelyn Hawn, Allisann Kreger, Cassandra Bachman and Dana Larson.
“We love all of the cast and crew members,” said Hawn. “They’ve been amazing.”
Labor of love
Love is clearly a force in the group’s project, since the shoot included long days, travel to Menahga and Detroit Lakes, and a certain financial outlay.
A KickStarter campaign to fund the project went nowhere, but Hawn said they kept costs down and used money from their last movie to pay for equipment, plane tickets and location rental.
“The week we drove to DL, we put in 16-hour days,” said Keysor. “We all woke up super early and met at a church at 7 a.m. and drove up to DL and didn’t get back till 1 a.m.”
Nevertheless, he described the team as a tight-knit friend group and added, “We’ve created something cool.”
Kopkie admits her parents didn’t love hearing her sneak in at 2 a.m., though they were supportive overall. Meantime, Hawn has been known to stay up until 4 a.m. editing.
“It’s just been amazing to have such a serious hobby,” said Larson. “We’re all really committed to it. It’s a hobby, but it’s not something we mess around with.”
“You tell your kids stories about things you did as a teenager,” Keysor said. “It’s not very often you’re like, ‘Yeah, we started a film team and put a movie into a theater. And then did it again.’”
Learning by doing
“As soon as we finished the last one, we decided we needed better equipment for sound, better video stuff, better acting, better writing,” said Hawn. “We started pulling together an actual, serious plot, which opens us up to more serious criticism.”
He said they learned a lot while working on three short films between “Intellectual Property” and their current feature – like improving their sound design and using more creative camera shots. And though their films are all teen-made, they accepted feedback from adults.
“We’d hear that the lighting didn’t work here, the acting didn’t work here, or the writing didn’t work here,” said Hawn, “and that kind of prepped us for doing a more serious thing.”
“It’s a much bigger process than you’d think,” said Larson. Besides holding the boom mike, she also did some videography and enjoyed watching Hawn editing.
“That process is crazy,” she said. “It takes so much longer than I would have guessed.”
Kopkie has always enjoyed acting, but her previous experience was all onstage. Acting in a movie was quite different, she said, and moved her out of her comfort zone.
“I’ve learned a lot,” she said, like “not to overthink what I’m doing and just get into the character.”
Her role also stretched her acting range, with “a lot more emotional scenes, and some angry scenes, things that I haven’t done as much in other productions.”
Agreeing that it was a lot more emotional than his previous roles, Keysor, said crying on cue was the hardest part. In “Intellectual Property,” he said, “I basically played myself. I just said lines.
“This one, there’s a learning curve. Like, I’m this person, but at the end of the movie I’m this person. I need to change by scene, and because you don’t film chronologically, you have to remember where you’re at.”
“I’m really impressed by the acting in this movie,” said Larson. “Everybody stepped it up.
“I was blown away by how good it’s gonna be.”