As an independent film festival that actively solicits edgy material and "off the grid" type movies, we can get our share of weird no-budget stuff and borderline home movies calling themselves "art". But that's ok...we still watch them, promise!
Sometimes...very rarely...we get a no-budget movie that we start watching and kind of take a deep breath within about 30 seconds - it is shot with nothing, clearly an amateur effort...but then...we keep watching...and we realize that we are caring about what we are watching. How in the world did we get here emotionally?
That was the experience when 18 year old Ryan Jamison submitted his 27-minute film Facade directed by his (then) 16-year old high school self. Jamison shot it at his high school as an assignment and instead of simply pointing a camera and throwing something together to just "get it done" for a grade, he decided to actually strive for something insightful and put in the work to tell a real story with real people...and it worked.
Most young and excited filmmakers take all of that enthusiasm and make the same mistake right off the bat - attempting to make a movie FAR beyond their means and skills. Nothing really wrong with that of course - I certainly did the same thing when I was in high school shooting on VHS camcorders and we had a blast - but if I could go back in time, I'd advise my 17-year old self to tell the stories that were currently in my 1980's heart instead of just trying to copy John Carpenter.
I still probably would have balked because most of us hide that deep emotional stuff when in high school - I was way too busy just trying to figure out life shit to actually express it coherently in a creative way (and this was before social media made things 100 times more complex).
But Ryan Jamison said screw it and made a film that reflected what he saw through those 16 year-old eyes as clear-eyed as he could and struck gold. This is high school from his perspective - The Good, The Bad and The Fake so to speak.
There isn't one shot in Facade that looks as if he just plopped down the camera and hit record. It may be cheap looking but it didn't matter because it was composed with care. He also, somehow, got his classmates to be comfortable in front of that camera as the characters and dialogue have an undeniable ring of truth to it as relationships are formed, friendships are tested and the intense social petri dish that is high school is put under Jamison's microscope.
Jamison found a way to capture his high school experience authentically and with confidence that his storytelling, characters and insights - young as they may have been - would be enough to get an audience involved in his movie. Nothing in Facade feels as if it is there to "impress" or "dazzle" (incredibly refreshing). It's just brave, moving and totally honest. He truly worked with "what he had" in terms of video equipment but even more crucially with what he had in his soul. Because of that it's gotten our attention.