MHS Falls for Tennant’s Directing Debut

MHS Falls for Tennant’s Directing Debut

Youngjoo Ahn, Feature Editor

Students at Miramonte dedicate their time after school to everything from swim practice to Mock Trial to volunteering, but senior Chris Tennant is working hard on his movie, Before a Fall. Despite his commitments as a public speaking officer, his job at a horse ranch, and difficult classes, Tennant finds time to edit and re-film scenes.

Tennant started making YouTube videos sophomore year with friends.  He filmed everything from short skits to history and Spanish projects. When people liked his videos, Tennant wanted to produce something longer than three minutes.

Before a Fall was inspired by one of his YouTube videos. In his video, Kicking Out Weird Friends, Tennant’s character had a cooking show and wanted to continue it in a restaurant. However, Tennant ran into a problem: he wanted an empty restaurant without insulting the restaurant’s owner.

Before a Fall is a 15-20 minute film about four people who hide in a restaurant from pillaging pirates. The movie is set in downtown Orinda and parts are filmed in Barbacoa and Theatre Square. Although passing people did give strange stares, most people were interested in his project.

“People were really accommodating and excited about our project. Victor Ivry, the owner of Barbacoa, is the nicest person ever,” Tennant said. “Because so many people asked what we were doing and why, I told them that we were making a movie for the fame and glory.”

“For one of the scenes, we decided to switch plans but my brother Robbie hadn’t been informed. He ran into an elevator screaming and the woman in there had a terrified look on her face. Other than that, there weren’t any big mishaps.”

Before the Fall couldn’t have come to life without the help of Tennant’s dedicated friends, who spent eight days filming. Twelve people had speaking roles and many other friends worked in the background. Seniors Patrick Huston, Alyssa Henderson, Daniel Cook, and Daniel Estopinal were the four main actors aside from Tennant.

“Chris was a very patient director and I learned that I enjoy acting in films because I was encouraged to try out my lines in many different ways,” Cook said.

“For the most part it was an absolute blast. Most days started bright and early and we’d work through about six pages each day over a period of five hours. I learned a lot about the technical components of cinematography and the importance of lighting and sound, as well the difficulty of learning lines five minutes before shooting a scene,” Huston said.

Movie filming isn’t all about the technicalities; unforgettable memories were made on set.

“A memorable moment was when Chris jumped over the bar and hurt his butt. One day I showed up to a shoot one day after getting novacaine at the dentist. I couldn’t feel anything in my mouth, but I could feel the emotion of my scene with co-star Daniel Estopinal,” Cook said.

“The most memorable part of the experience was driving through the parking garage in downtown Orinda carrying guns. People gave us weird looks and one lady complained about Amrita Newton, ‘the young lady brandishing firearms in the parking garage,’” Huston said.

Seniors Jess DeLange and Erin Schoenfeld worked in the background as general assistants. Their jobs ranged from making sure the actors were happy to driving to Walnut Creek to pick up the right filming equipment.

“I had so much fun helping Chris with his movie. Chris put a lot of hard work into writing, casting, directing, producing, and starring in his own movie, and I was so happy to be able to help and be a part of that. I realized how amazing the work Chris does is and how knowledgeable he is about filming; for example, while making decisions about how to film certain scenes, he would talk about how when a character is in a certain section or quadrant of the screen, it would convey a certain mood,” Schoenfeld said.

“It was interesting for me, because when I just normally watch movies, that’s not something that I think about. I just found it fascinating to see all of the work that Chris did and that is put into every single movie we watch.”

“Making a movie was a whole lot of fun, but it was also a very cool experience because we got to see what it was like to put some solid time and effort into something that wasn’t school related, something we could eventually see the results of,” DeLange said.

“It was so cool to see everyone buy into my vision and show up cheerful and ready to work every morning. It’s a bit cliché, but my favorite part was seeing the words on the page come alive,” Tennant said.

Throughout the movie, Tennant was involved in all aspects of filmmaking from script writing to producing to acting. He is hoping for a mid-October release and wants to put his movie in local film festivals.

Before a Fall is only the start for Tennant. In the near future, Tennant wants to produce a full 90-minute movie based on the script he wrote for Public Speaking last year. He plans to write a script first semester and start filming in the spring.

“I’ve already written the first scene and it’s awesome,” Tennant said.