A Look Behind the Lights, Camera and Action in Carmel
Writer // Janelle Morrison Photography // Laura Arick
*Thanks to the Indiana Design Center for shoot location
Editor’s Note: The Audience Choice Award at Indy Shorts International Film Festival was announced on July 30, post-deadline. We are pleased to announce that “Grateful: The Jenni Berebitsky Story” has won this distinguished honor. Congratulations to Paul W. Nethercott, Amy Pauszek, and Justin Park on this most impressive achievement and congratulations to Justin Park and his entire cast and crew for winning the award for Indiana Spotlight High School Narrative Winner for their film “You’ve Been on My Mind”!
Heartland Film, Inc. announced an all-new film festival in support of its annual Heartland International Film Festival that takes place in October. Indy Shorts International Film Fest (Indy Shorts) exclusively showcased short films (under 40 minutes in length) this past July at the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields. A few familiar faces about Carmel and their remarkable talents were featured at Indy Shorts, putting Carmel on the map, once again, in the arts and film scenes.
Grateful: The Jenni Berebitsky Story
The story of “Grateful” is a documentary on the exceptional life of Jenni Berebitsky who has been fighting Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease) since 2009. Directed by Paul W. Nethercott and produced by Amy Pauszek, executive producer of the film, “Grateful” debuted at Indy Shorts last month, moving its audience and raising awareness to the effects of ALS. Justin Park, Carmel High School (CHS) graduate and filmmaker, worked with Nethercott and Pauszek on this film as the Director of Photography. Park also submitted the film, “You’ve Been on My Mind,” in the Indy Shorts’ High School category.
We sat down with Nethercott and Pauszek to discuss the process of creating a documentary alongside someone digressing from the debilitating effects of ALS as well as the emotional roller coaster ride that comes with witnessing some of the most intimate moments of someone’s suffering and surviving.
Nethercott, Pauszek and Park all came together after having met at Heartland where the three had their respective submissions. “I had a film in Heartland last October called “Abstraction.” It was a short documentary finalist, and I met Amy and Justin,” Nethercott said. “All of this happened because of meeting filmmakers at Heartland.”
Nethercott was approached at Heartland to do a documentary on Berebitsky, and after meeting with her and her family and upon compiling a team that included Pauszek and Park, the film was under production.
“This is my first film in Indiana,” Nethercott said. “I’m working on getting established as a filmmaker here and am grateful that this film, and this story created the opportunity to work with Amy and Justin, his high school friends and a lot of other great people.”
Pauszek has deep roots within the Heartland Film Festival and over 15 years of experience with the festival, both as a filmmaker and as a volunteer. She has covered and photographed countless events related to the festival and sits on the Truly Moving Picture Award jury where she originally met Berebitsky who also sat on the jury.
“I have a love for film and having attended Heartland and volunteered for as long as I have, I’ve met so many filmmakers,” Pauszek shared. “It’s been a phenomenal opportunity for me not only as a producer but as an actress in films to have exclusive interviews and photo shoots with some of the major stars. I’ve been able to forge friendships with directors and filmmakers from all over the world.”
Pauszek praised Nethercott for his ability to capture Berebitsky’s life in a meaningful 17-minute short.
“I give kudos to Paul because he took the lifelong journey of somebody and condensed it into a 17-minute short. And yet it flows so well and beautifully, and I’m very proud of it,” Pauszek stated. “Once I got involved with the film, I really realized how hard it must be to live with ALS, which was something that I was unfamiliar with. It [producing the film] has been such an eye opener, and I don’t think people realize that people with ALS are very intelligent people. They have it all in their mind, but they can’t express their thoughts and needs physically. At the end of this documentary, you’ll leave the theater feeling courageous and inspired. I think people will have a new perspective on their lives and will feel grateful for their lives. Paul captures Jenni’s life so well, Jenni’s eyes lit up when she watched the film for the first time. This superhero of a woman has made it so wonderful for us as filmmakers, and I think her story will resonate with everyone who sees it.”
Nethercott added, “Amy brought to this film fantastic networking and her promotional ability and her input on the film itself in terms of content and flow. One of the realities of this film was that Jenni has a short period of time left in her life, which she is fully aware of, and she discusses it in the film. She has been on hospice care for over two years. When I met Jenni at the end of last October and discussed the film, I knew that we had to move fast. I asked Justin to work with me, and he pulled together his high school friends. And we got it done with good results, good audio and good camera work.”
Two of Nethercott and Pauszek’s favorite quotes from Berebitsky within the documentary are at the beginning of the film when she says, “ALS is a tricky, tricky disease.” When she reflected back upon her life, she said, “To live a normal life is ordinary. I live an extraordinary life. There is beauty and humor everywhere.”
“Jenni’s quote gives the film an evocative start,” Nethercott said. “The ending is really delightful, and it reflects Jenni’s fun personality and her ability to smile and find humor in life in spite of the incredible challenges that she faces having ALS. The entire story, her story and the film are a hero’s journey.”
Follow Paul Nethercott and Amy Pauszek on Facebook for upcoming screenings and news as they take “Grateful” beyond Heartland Film Festival. With the donations received by supporters/backers, the two are working to feature the film with a brand new score in various locations across the globe.
“You’ve Been on My Mind”
Park’s film, “Kara Deady: The Pole Vaulter” was the Indiana Documentary Winner in last year’s Heartland Film Festival’s High School Competition. Using that experience, Park, along with his dedicated cast and crew, entered the film, “You’ve Been on My Mind,” in last month’s Indy Shorts.
Park is from Seoul, Korea, and moved to Carmel his freshman year of high school after studying at the British School of Guangzhou in China. Acclimating wasn’t incredibly difficult for Park as he was immersed in Western culture as well as the arts at the British School.
“My parents have an art background, and art has always been around me,” Park said. “We’ve always gone to shows and visited art museums. What is funny is that I thought that I was going to be an actor for a while, and after I moved to Carmel, I realized that I am not the best actor. But I was into photography and theater, and I also joined Carmel’s CHTV. All of those formed an interest in filmmaking.”
After his freshman year, Park attended a film camp in Los Angeles and said that is where his interest matured into a full-on passion once he had hands-on experience with the craft of making films.
“I really enjoyed it [camp], and after I came back, I just kept making films,” he said. “I’ve been meeting new people, working on new projects and have just kept going on from there.”
Park’s latest complete film and submission to Indy Shorts, “You’ve Been on My Mind,” is about a high school screenwriter “Tom” who struggles to finish his script about loneliness until he meets “Amelia.” The film’s script is unique and intriguing while the scene transitions are seamless and captivate the audience throughout the dance sequences.
Park had set a goal to submit the film his junior year, but as production schedules most often go, he and his cast and crew found themselves in an artistic purgatory and had to work around the pitfalls and obstacles that arise in producing films and coordinating a myriad of schedules.
“We [the cast and crew] were lucky to finish it [the film] before graduating,” Park said. “When I was at Heartland last year, something that really hurt me was that while I was honored to be part of the film festival and had a great time, I knew that the entire cast and crew of ‘You’ve Been on My Mind’ had been working extremely hard and were frustrated at many times and were beginning to lose faith in the film. Because they had worked so hard, I have wanted these guys to be able to feel the same excitement and joy of seeing their accomplishments come to fruition. I was really sad that it couldn’t happen last year, but I was so happy when the moment finally came to submit our film. I felt like I could repay all of these people with a little bit of joy and hopefully pride because they worked so hard, and I am so grateful that they believed in the film.”
Park and his crew filmed several scenes throughout Carmel, including the Carmel Clay Public Library, Carmel High School, Keystone Landmark Theater, Hoosier Salon, Donatello’s, Zing Café in the Village of WestClay and his own backyard.
Two members of the film’s cast and crew, Ayden Stewart and Emma Hedrick, shared some of the challenges and what this experience has been like for each of them.
Stewart, a senior at CHS, played “Tom.” “The biggest challenge for Madeline [Hatfield], who plays the female lead, and I was that we started this in the winter around December,” Stewart said. “Madeline and I are both heavily involved in the winter production shows, and show choir gets extremely busy at the end of January through the beginning of March. Prior to that time period, we were filming three to four times a week. So we had to find time to shoot and practice and also work with the businesses’ hours at the different locations that we filmed at.”
Stewart said that his role of “Tom” and being part of the film has been a confidence boost for him. “It’s hard to do something while in high school and have people look at it like it’s a real accomplishment,” he said. “I’m excited for people to see our film and see that it’s not just a ‘high school’ film, but it is a good film.”
Hedrick, whose band “Main Street Jazz Band” has been performing around Carmel for the last four years, performed the film’s score that she composed. She just graduated from CHS.
“Justin asked me if I’d be interested in composing for the film, and I was taken aback because I’ve not spent a lot of time composing; just mostly arranging. But it turned out to be really fun, and I’ve learned a lot about how to make arrangements for film. I’m happy with the work that everyone has put into this and am excited that it made it into the festival. This was my first attempt at composing, so from a music standpoint, I’m just happy that I tried something new and that it worked out. I think that it’s been an important learning step as I’m seeing where my music can take me.”
Park added, “One of the things that makes our film unique is that the whole score is composed entirely by high school students. Emma and her team are very talented jazz musicians. They had not done anything film-related before, and I had never worked with non-composing musicians, so figuring it out together and completing those first steps was a bit of a challenge, but we worked through it.”
“You’ve Been on My Mind” Cast and Crew:
Tom – Ayden Stewart