When George Luo (I) wrote his first screenplay at the end of his freshman year at Milton, he rounded up about 20 people who said they’d be interested in helping him make the film. Over that summer, interest fizzled, and George never made the movie, which is OK, he jokes, because, “It was probably the worst screenplay of all time.”
A few more attempts failed; it was hard to manage the process alone. So, during sophomore year, George and some friends founded the Hollywood Filmmaking Club, which has lent structure to film projects, he says.
Last year, the club, which is made up of actors and students interested in directing and writing, worked together to make George’s film, “Under the Wound,” which was accepted in several film festivals. Over that Columbus Day weekend, six members of the club went to New York City, where the 20-minute-long drama was an official selection of the All American High School Film Festival, an event that honors the best of high-school films from all over the country.
“It’s a really big festival,” says performing arts faculty member Shane Fuller, who advises the club. “It was really cool to see the students taking on the project as their own and doing all the work. They did all the scheduling, filming, casting, lighting and editing. The film itself turned out really nice. The attention to detail is really great.”
“Under the Wound” explores the damage that unfurls from a single lie. George wrote and directed it. He was inspired by a critically acclaimed Danish film called “The Hunt.”
After early missteps in making movies, George felt motivated to learn everything he could in film classes. Shane’s advanced filmmaking class created a film called “Abstraction,” which was accepted into several festivals; George, Conor Greene (I) and Joey Leung ’17 won the best cinematography award at the Hotchkiss Film Festival in the spring for “Abstraction.”
George has always loved watching movies, but didn’t grasp the filmmaking process until his second day at Milton, when he saw a film crew shooting on campus. “I don’t remember if they were making a TV show, a commercial or a film, but they were out in front of Forbes. And I saw the giant camera, and those lights and thought, that’s what I want to do,” he says.
Taking what he learned from film classes, studying lighting and sound tips on the internet, George’s first film at Milton was a short horror movie. For “Under the Wound,” he wanted to create something longer, which was possible because every member of the club got involved.
“They put a lot of time in and sacrificed several weekends for a project I started, which is incredible,” George says. Because the club was fully involved, George says he was able to focus on small details, a focus that his favorite directors, Stanley Kubrick and Christopher Nolan, are known for. George’s goal is to continue making movies with social messages, and to be conscious of improving gender and racial diversity in film.
The All American High School Film Festival is an opportunity to hear from established filmmakers, visit a college fair with a focus on film programs, and absorb the work of other student artists.
In works that explore the intersection of ubiquitous moments in history and intimate, personal narrative, poet Ron Smith asks, “What is my place and what keeps me in it?”
On campus as the Bingham Visiting Writer, Mr. Smith read selections spanning his career as a poet, and later visited students for a smaller Q&A. In between his poems at the reading, Mr. Smith provided context and described his writing process.
The first poem he read, “At the Vietnam Memorial, 1983,” came from Mr. Smith’s first visit to the memorial in Washington, D.C., where he felt incredible anger and sadness upon seeing the black marble wall.
[…] I was there. It’s black, but
I had seen the pictures. I walked
beside a wall of small names
to find Wells and Strobo,
who never knew each other.
But they both loved fast cars
and hated school more than I did.
Which is why they are carved
in black and I can drive to see them…
Poetry comes from the subconscious, Mr. Smith said. Great poetry can’t be created by simply adhering to form and style.
“The number-one job of any writer, in any genre, is to tell the truth,” he said. Even though poetry is fiction, it must be authentic, rather than simply providing an historical account. Mr. Smith spoke about the craft without sentimentality—he described filling notebook after notebook with drafts of poems during his first visit to Italy, but only producing one complete poem. He had to first get over his feelings of wonderment about Italy.
Mr. Smith urged students to hold on to the poetry they write at this point in their lives. He found some of his early poems as an adult and destroyed them out of embarrassment, something he regrets now.
“Hold on to that stuff. It might embarrass you next year, or in two years, or in ten years,” he said. “But then it takes on a form of nostalgia. You might be able to use it. You can give your worst poem to a character in your novel.”
Established in 1987 by the Bingham family, the Visiting Writer Series brings esteemed writers, historians and journalists to campus, to speak and work with students and faculty. Recent Bingham Visiting Writers include authors Jamaica Kincaid and Francine Prose; novelists Jeffrey Eugenides, Zadie Smith and Edwidge Danticat; and poets Terrance Hayes, Mark Doty, Li-Young Lee, Martin Espada and Kevin Young.
A native of Savannah, Georgia, Mr. Smith is the author of Running Again in Hollywood Cemetery, Moon Road, Its Ghostly Workshop and The Humility of the Brutes. A distinguished poet and critic, his work has appeared in many periodicals, including The Nation, Kenyon Review, New England Review and The Georgia Review, as well as several anthologies. He holds degrees from the University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University, and has studied at Bennington College, Worcester College at Oxford University and the Ezra Pound Center for Literature in Merano, Italy. Mr. Smith was selected as an inaugural winner of the Carole Weinstein Poetry Prize in 2005, and now serves as a curator for the prize, and he was Poet Laureate of Virginia from 2014–2016. He teaches at St. Christopher’s School in Richmond, Virginia and as an adjunct professor at the University of Richmond.
Watch the Assembly
Young people have the power to stem the tide of anti-Semitism and other hateful incidents, said Robert Trestan, executive director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Boston Office.
“The most powerful thing you have is your voice,” Mr. Trestan told students. “Speak out. If you do it collectively, you can make a huge difference.”
Speaking to Class II students, Mr. Trestan described what the ADL has logged as significant increases in bias incidents and hate, both in person and online. According to the ADL, the first quarter of 2017 saw an 86 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents over the same time period in 2016.
Anti-Semitism and incidents of white supremacy are intrinsically related in the United States, Mr. Trestan said, citing August’s violent rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, where people carried signs with Nazi insignia and shouted anti-Jewish slogans while protesting the removal of a Confederate statue. The ADL has logged incidents closer to home, he said, noting two acts of vandalism at Boston’s Holocaust Memorial and anti-Semitic graffiti across public spaces in Massachusetts.
Mr. Trestan said many of the incidents were met with a strong community response by people who decry anti-Semitism, racism and bias, indicating that such views are not welcome. He encouraged young people to continue the work of rejecting hate whenever they encounter it and said the ADL’s website provides a page where the public can report bias incidents.
“None of us wants to live in a country or community where this is common,” he said. Mr. Trestan’s visit to Milton was sponsored by the Jewish Student Union.
Founded at the turn of the last century in response to widespread anti-Semitism in the United States, the ADL responds to bias and discrimination against all marginalized groups with advocacy and education.
Centre Connection, Milton's online newsletter for parents, is published five times each year through the efforts of the Milton Academy Communication Office and Parents' Association volunteers.