This short film begins the way a lot of films do, with music playing in the background as the camera pans to several artistic shots that mesh to create a setting. The film quality seems to give each frame a dimension and a precision that homemade movies can never quite accomplish, while the sound of the actors’ voices are clear in a way that can only be achieved with professional equipment. The only sign that it is a short film made by Winona Senior High School (WSHS) students is the Winhawk name and colors that appear throughout.
“The movie they made was ‘A Lesson in Possession,’” recalled Valerie Williams, “It’s a scary ghost movie, which they filmed and edited mostly at the high school.”
Williams, the grant writer for Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS), secured a $6,000 grant from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council for a filmmaking residency at the high school in mid-January. This will be the second time WSHS students have participated in the extra-curricular filmmaking program.
“Ann Wistrcill, the art teacher at WSHS, had two filmmakers, her son John included, come in and talk about filmmaking,” Williams explained. “The students wrote and worked online with the two filmmakers, who then came out in May and spent three days filming and three days editing with them.”
John Gebhart, who is originally from Winona, and his business partner, Andrew Waffenschmidt, own A Stori A Film, a filmmaking company based in Astoria, New York, a neighborhood of Queens. At A Stori A Film, Gebhart and Waffenschmidt have produced several short films together including "4 Loves," "Tuesday," and "Worst Zombie Ever."
“They bring the equipment they own, so the students get to use professional equipment,” Williams said.
Along with the responsibility of operating professional filmmaking materials, the students will also write a script, hold auditions, and act in the film. For students who might not have accessibility to filmmaking equipment — let alone professional filmmaking equipment — the residency is a great way to introduce them to the art and test their interest.
“It’s good for students to explore the arts,” Williams explained. “A lot of them are interested in acting and filmmaking, so this is a good opportunity to let them try it out before college and see if they want to pursue it.”