For some, high school was a time in their life they hoped would go by as fast as possible. The repetitive classes, the annoying popular girls and the big-headed jocks made the experience less than ideal.
Unless you’re Hazel. Like many swooning teenage girls, she wants nothing more than to have her first kiss with her crush and to dance the night away at homecoming. However, Hazel is different from other girls—she’s blind.
Hazel, an APU student film, is a coming-of-age story about young teenage romance and overcoming the obstacles that come with being different.
“I want people to see the film and know that it’s okay to be different. You’re still loved,” senior BA film major and co-producer of Hazel Anna Wiskerchen said.
Junior BFA film major and director of the film Courtney Amis explained that the vision for Hazel was actually brought about by her interactions with children.
“I’m an acting coach’s assistant for little kids, and he was having them write a script. Each kid was coming up with a line, and when they all put it together I thought it was cute,” Amis said. “I took that idea and ran with it. I always liked to write things about people that have a different lifestyle like a blind person or someone with a disability, so I combined a quirky coming of age story with a romance.”
Though she is passionate about the idea behind Hazel, Amis can attest to the fact that there are still many obstacles that go into creating a movie.
“My least favorite part is not having all of the creative control. The story has changed a lot because of that and has become something I wasn’t trying to make [initially],” Amis said.
Despite the creative differences and learning to work with others on their creative vision, Amis has learned to work with the changes and through that has been able to embrace a new vision for the film.
“I think it’s gone more of a commercial direction than what I was going for, but I think that’s okay and I think that the general structure and appeal of it is going to be a lot wider and have an impact in different ways,” Amis said.
Along with the creative energy, the casting process is a vital part of the pre-production in filmmaking. Many times, it is necessary to hold auditions and call backs to make sure that the perfect actors are cast for the right roles, but Amis noted that this process is not always smooth.
“The girl that I ended up wanting to cast [as Hazel] needed to be paid, and we didn’t have that in our budget, so we had to hold some last minute auditions for all of the lead roles. We ended up casting three days before we started shooting, even though we started casting a month before production,” Amis said.
As a student who previously studied theater, Wiskerchen shared that it was an interesting experience being on the other side of the casting scale.
“It’s so cool reading the script in July, then in September casting the person you’ve read so much about and you feel like you’re best friends with. It’s a really cool experience seeing that come to life,” Wiskerchen said.
Senior double major in business management and BFA acting Andrew Bliek plays Hazel’s love interest, Foster Harrison. Bliek attributes much of his character development to watching a fair amount of Glee in high school.
“Finn in Glee is pretty much Foster. Whenever I was preparing, I found myself seeing Finn do these things. [He’s] just honest and humble, has his moments of being kind of conceited and in his own little jock world, but doesn’t really understand how much pull he has with people,” Bliek said.
Bliek explains Foster as having his share of insecurities, and he wants to play the character as accurately as possible.
“I knew I had to play him honestly. I brought myself to the role a lot. I brought some of my own insecurities into that and let that feeling drive me when I’m acting,” Bliek said.
Bliek said he hopes the film evokes a sense of nostalgia about high school years.
“I would love to see this film touch people, just show the simplicity of high school, the complexity of human emotion,” Bliek said. “When I watch it, I hope to feel sentimental about high school, about some of my past relationships and really happy and joyful because the film is that.”
Hazel is currently in the editing stage, and will premier later this year alongside other APU student-led films at a festival in Hollywood.