Teen films address challenges

Photo provided by CHARLEY VANCE -- Austin McDaniel and Kirstie Newman begin a loving relationship in the film 'Rumor Has It,' one of three movies created by Talented Theatre students at Sumner and Amite high schools. In this scene, the couple gets along well but their relationship quickly deteriorates because of rumors spread by fellow classmates. The movies deal with the numerous problems teenagers face.
Photo provided by CHARLEY VANCE -- Austin McDaniel and Kirstie Newman begin a loving relationship in the film 'Rumor Has It,' one of three movies created by Talented Theatre students at Sumner and Amite high schools. In this scene, the couple gets along well but their relationship quickly deteriorates because of rumors spread by fellow classmates. The movies deal with the numerous problems teenagers face.

Theater students from Amite and Sumner High Schools are preparing to walk the “red carpet” prior to the premiere of three movies they created to address issues facing teenagers.

Teenage suicide, prescription drug abuse and a comedy about which gender has it tougher socially are the subjects of the three movies, project director and theater teacher Charley Vance said.

“Each story was developed by the students through screen treatment sessions,” Vance said. “It is amazing to me that each year these students sit in a room, generate ideas and craft those ideas into meaningful, worthy stories.”

Austin McDaniel, a senior at Sumner High School, said viewers can expect to learn more about the challenges teenagers face.

“Hopefully, people will feel moved” and learn from the films, he said.

McDaniel, who spent a semester working on the project and was heavily involved in the movie about teen suicide, said the most challenging part of making the movie was realizing teen suicides really happen.

“It hit me hard after the movie and made me grateful for my own life,” McDaniel said.

Students in the Talented Theatre program at Amite and Sumner high schools have been creating movies for 14 years. They have received four national awards and have been nominated for a fifth, Vance said.

Finding funding for the past couple of years for the project has been difficult, he said. State funding for the program has declined dramatically, he added.

“We have worked diligently to find other funding to keep this project alive,” he said.

Funding has been made available through a decentralized block grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts and the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge, the Every Kid a King Foundation from the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, AT&T Louisiana, Entergy, First Guaranty Bank, Florida Parishes Bank, First Bank and Trust, the Bradken foundry, Washington/St. Tammany Electrical Co-op and Dave and Barb Latner.

Sumner Middle, Sumner High, Chesbrough Elementary, Spring Creek Elementary, West Side Middle and Amite High schools held fundraisers.

“The best part about being involved in this movie is being able to show people these life lessons and also spending time with my girlfriend, who is also in the movie with me,” McDaniel said.

Although he doesn’t plan to make television or film his career, McDaniel said he believes that having to concentrate on learning his lines and being responsible for his role in the film will help better prepare him for college.

The free world premiere of the movies will be at 7 p.m. on Jan. 24 at the Tangipahoa Parish school system office building, 59656 Puleston Road, Amite.

Each movie is about 30 minutes, Vance said.