In April 2018, 20 students, led by director Dan Phakos ’06, with funds from the Grum Project, filmed a public service announcement about the dangers of texting and driving, a message that was personal to one Williston Northampton School student. Dan and a lighting technician brought their equipment up from NYC to shoot scenes in locations around the campus.
Aidan Bourbonnais ’20 initiated the concept of the PSA. Several years ago, Aidan lost her cousin to a distracted driver. “I constantly think about her,” Aidan said. “Her smile was contagious. Only a few days before her 21st birthday and only a few days before receiving her diploma, we had to receive that phone call, the phone call that every family would dread. I don’t want any family to go through this. The more aware people are of this issue, the more the accident rates will decrease.”
“The final product was amazing to see,” said Bourbonnais. “Being the writer and seeing everything come to life was the coolest part. I wanted it to be persuasive and effective and the ending really hits those who watch it. I couldn’t be happier to be a part of it.”
The resulting public service announcement makes a very important point in a relatable way: Texting while driving has serious consequences.
“It was a pretty amazing experience for all involved,” said photography teacher Edward Hing ’77, who shepherded the project.
“Dan Phakos ’06 and his gaffer Guillaume were fantastic.” Hing continued. “They explained all aspects of the process and were approachable and real. The students were treated as if they were on a professional set and they worked at the highest level of intensity throughout (and without complaints!) We spent two 12 hour days in production on three different locations, utilizing a truck full of gear. It was exhausting, but the results were worth the effort. The collaboration, the team work, it was impressive. Actors, crew, staff all worked together to make it happen. I think everyone had a great experience, and we’re hoping we might be able to repeat the event next year.”
Film Club leader Kira Bixby ’19, who was a producer/casting head on this film, said working on a project of this magnitude was new to her. “I would be emailing Dan, Mr. Hing, and the student crew all in one night about scheduling, while also corresponding with the 10 to 15 actors who were up for roles in the PSA. Time management and communication are crucial on projects like these, especially when you’re working on such a short timeframe. It was also really cool to see all the tech stuff happening on-set—in my own projects, I’m usually in charge of the non-technological aspects of filmmaking (writing, producing, directing, etc.) Dan and Guillaume gave us practical lessons on camera work, lighting, and much more, which was really interesting to see.”
Many thanks to the Grum Project for making this possible!
See the final video here.