Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Interview with the Film Makers

First there was Red Dawn. Now there is The Battle for Lake Highlands.

Fans of so-bad-they’re-good movies know the former film, Red Dawn, as the 1984 war-on-our-turf classic starring Patrick Swayze as the leader of teenage commandos bent on beating back Soviets invading their small American town.

Fans of Lake Highlands will soon get a chance to see the latter effort, a just-finished, homegrown video in the vein of Red Dawn, at a fund-raising screening to benefit the Lake Highlands High School (LHHS) senior class.

LHHS Principal Dr. Bob Iden has given the Class of 2006 two big thumbs-up to show The Battle on Saturday, December 3rd, at 8 p.m. in the auditorium of the high school at 9449 Church Road, Dallas. Tickets, $5 per person, will be available at the door, and proceeds will help seniors pay for some of the activities that culminate their last year at LHHS. The public is welcome to attend the screening.

Seniors James Daniel and Justin Hamilton, filmmaking partners since about fourth grade, teamed up to write, produce, direct —and even act in—the approximately hour-long Battle.

Justin said the idea blossomed one night several years ago when wailing sirens that he, James, and fellow classmate and one of the video’s stars, Drew Hawkins, heard while sitting in Hawkins’ backyard made them think, “What if the Russians were invading Lake Highlands?”

Within a few months, they were, at least in the two-scene video the trio and their friends made in the fall of 2003.

But then the project went on hiatus. When it revved up again in January of this year, the young filmmakers decided they had to scrap their original footage, “because everybody had grown, and gotten haircuts, and stuff,” Justin says.

Filming got serious again in April, about the time James Daniel was elected senior class vice president and had a brainstorm about using Battle as a class fundraising vehicle.

Interest flourished, and, as Justin says, “The rebellion grew.”

Maybe, but it didn’t go far. “It’s completely a Lake Highlands production,” James Daniel says. Not only are Lake Highlands residents likely to recognize such familiar neighborhood shooting sites as Flag Pole Hill, trails at White Rock Lake and the soccer fields across from the high school, they’re also likely to understand the significance of otherwise unexplained plot twists, like the Battle for the LHHS Bell.

In all, about 50 LHHS students from the Classes of 2005 to 2008 became cast members. Many, including the school’s cheerleaders and well-known four-member boys’ pep squad, the Bell Boys, appear as themselves.

Starring seniors are Bryan Goad, cast as the gung-ho equivalent to Patrick Swayze’s character in Red Dawn; Drew Hawkins, a more-reluctant hero; and their fellow teen commanders Lawson Short and Jeff Timmons.

James Daniel plays the head Russian. His older brother was supposed to take that role, James says, but he “slept in the first time we were supposed to film him, and we couldn’t shoot that scene any other time.”

Justin Hamilton has a role in the first scene, “but I don’t last, “ he says. “It’s my Alfred Hitchcock cameo.”

The video opens in Saturday School, the high school’s mandatory detention hall for students who were tardy during the regular school week. Proctor Jason Mazzella—an LHHS English teacher in real life—is making stars Bryan Goad and Drew Hawkins read an essay on liberty by Thomas Paine when gunshots ring out. The invasion has begun.

Mr. Mazzella is the only adult in the video. That’s because the Russians have rounded up all the dads, Justin Hamilton explains.

And where are the moms? “Plot hole,” Justin answers.

Which seems to be the same place this question landed: Why would the Russians want to invade Lake Highlands?

“We never really thought about why they would,” Justin Hamilton acknowledges.

He, James Daniel, and their cohorts did seriously ponder a lot of other details, though. For instance, all the video’s music is original, provided by either LHHS 2005 grads Cary Daniels and Chris Jacobie, or FTTR, a band that includes Justin Hamilton and several other LHHS students.

There’s a Web page for Battle, too, http://bflh.blogspot.com/, which features a poster. And on it, the teaser, “Where were you when they saved Lake Highlands?” tells where the story is ultimately headed.

After all, “it’s a complete farce,” says Justin Hamilton.

First, and foremost, they made The Battle for Lake Highlands for fun, he and James Daniel agree.

“We made it almost in homage to all the terrible action films of the ’70’s and ’80’s,” James says. “It’s action just for the sake of action.”

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Coming December 3, 2005

The Battle for Lake Highlands will be shown in the Lake Highlands High School Auditorium at 8:00 p.m.
Cost will be a $5.00 donation to the Senior Class.