Film Club members shooting an original flick

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    Jackson Barber-Just on camera.
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    Zach Mitrowski directing actors Brendon Tolles and Ruby Cain.

When the 2021-2022 school year began, sophomore Zach Mitrowski hadn’t seen his friends from school since the eighth grade. “My first thought was, ‘Will my friends remember me?’ My next was ‘Would they want to make a movie with me?’”

Over the summer, he had developed a passion for movie making. “How To Help Your Cousin Swim With the Fishies,” “Revenge of the Hillbillies,” and “The Walking Dead 2” were his first films. 

Mitrowski showed a couple of them to his friends, sophomore Jackson Barber-Just and junior Jackson Eisenhauer. They were immediately on board with his idea to create a movie with him. As word got out about Mitrowski’s ambitions, more and more underclassmen wanted to join in, “so the Film Club was born.”

With a dozen students ready to start working on a movie, Mitrowski took the club idea to technology teacher Lee Larcheveque, who teaches all the video production classes at ARHS and has access to high-tech cameras and microphones. 

Larcheveque declined to be their faculty advisor but recommended that they connect with people at Amherst Media, a “communication and technology center in Amherst, MA,” that is also the “oldest, continuously-operating nonprofit, Cable Access Center in the country,” according to its website. 

Consistent with Amherst Media’s charitable nature, when the Film Club reached out for their support, guidance, and access to their equipment, they were more than happy to help. For just around $25 per person, the members of the Film Club can borrow Amherst Media’s cameras, microphones, editing software, and more in order to create their projects.  “[They are] fantastic people,” Mitrowski said.

The film club was founded by Mitrowski, and his dad, Robert Mitrowski—who is an ARPS school bus driver—is their advisor. Mitrowski is proud of the diverse range of skill sets in the crew of Film Club.

One of the club’s first members was sophomore Jackson Barber-Just, who is a passionate videographer with an affinity for the “long take,” a film style involving one long-lasting shot as opposed to switching back and forth between angles throughout the scene. He also wishes to emulate the “handheld shot” to get a shaky feel for the audience. 

The club’s casting director is Eisenhauer, who has been in two school musicals and is set to star in the ARHS upcoming production of “Hair.” Even with his busy schedule, he’s always made time for Film Club. 

One of Film Club’s scriptwriters is Callum McDonald, who is credited with story development in their current project. “Actors, singers, musicians, sound experts, lighting experts, and technologically gifted people all have the opportunity to be an intricate part of Film Club,” Mitrowski said.

The club’s current project, a film, “Fortune Favors the Guilty” is a modern downfall crime thriller. The story follows a burdened gang leader who struggles to keep a family with split views together. One faction is greedy and cruel while the other is focused on being Robin Hoods for the less fortunate of society.

Production began with meetings at Amherst Media to write and drill their script. Now that filming has begun, their work and conversation is all script and storyboard-based. Their meetings are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays wherever they are shooting, which could be in or just outside of town. “We shoot wherever we’re allowed to,” Mitrowski said, including the Town Common, a meadow near Mitrowski’s house, Johnny’s Tavern, the Cushman Store, and the train tracks nearby. 

The major issue currently facing the club is time management. Tuesdays and Thursdays are shoot days, and Wednesdays Mitrowski and Barber-Just meet to go over the script. “We have done the math; [we have to shoot] 35 scenes in four months, and if we can shoot two scenes every week, we will get it done by the end of the school year,” Mitrowski said. 

While Film Club is grateful for Amherst Media’s equipment, setting up the high-tech cameras, lights, and microphones takes up a lot of time in order to shoot a five-minute scene. “Shorter scenes take anywhere from one and a half to two hours while longer scenes take upwards of three to four hours,” Barber-Just said. 

The Film Club’s current goal is to finish filming and editing “Fortune Favors the Guilty” by the last day of school (June 17) and to present it in the school auditorium. Another exciting development is that junior member Eisenhauer’s mother, Yasmin Chin Eisenhauer, is the executive director of Amherst Cinema. 

Ms. Eisenhauer has given the Film Club permission to screen their movie in a theater at Amherst Cinema. 

Looking forward to next school year, Mitrowski and Barber-Just are hoping to get other students in the director’s chair to make shorter films.

“The real magic is on set when everyone is prepped and the pressure just melts away,” Mitrowski said.