Harstrick receives national award for short film

National YoungArts Foundation awards creator of ‘Song for Anna’

Greta Rainbow, Copy Editor
Originally published December 20, 2013

Taylor Richardson, a Nathan Hale alumnus, acting in the award-winning music video "Song for Anna."

Taylor Richardson, a Nathan Hale alumnus, acting in the award-winning music video “Song for Anna.”

A girl glances into the mirror as she opens the door, wondering if leaving him is the right decision. Or no– she is searching for reassurance that choosing to be with him is not irrational. Perhaps she is looking back on a flood of memories, captured in one shot.

Viewers of video production’s music video “Song for Anna” don’t know which is the correct answer. And they aren’t meant to, says senior Lucy Harstick, conceptualist and one of the producers of the short film.

“My goal was to have people create their own ending for how they envisioned it, so everyone has a different story,” Harstrick said. “The [Wolfy Bauer] song was kind of ambiguous and I wanted to keep the movie open-ended in the same way.”

As for the mirror shot, Harstrick saw the girl’s glance as symbolization of her preparation to leave him: “I took the more cynical, lost love route,” Harstrick said. But there’s no right or wrong, something Harstick is particularly proud of.

Lucy Harstrick

Lucy Harstrick

Once the film was finished, video production teacher Matt Lawrence asked the production group– Harstrick, Isaiah Hoban-Halvorsen (since graduated), and seniors Josh Vredevoogd and Kiana Wyld– their perception of the video’s meaning.

“Everyone in the group had a different idea of how it ended. I love that. I hadn’t been able to achieve that before, and a lot of times open-ended movies like that don’t make sense at all.”

But “Song for Anna” did make sense. The successful open ending wasn’t the only difficult technique accomplished by the producers.

“You don’t often have a music video that’s also a narrative, tells a story. And [“Song for Anna”] does tell a story,” Lawrence said. “I think it does it in a really canny way, because if you’re someone who’s had an experience maybe recently with a breakup, then the story you see is people breaking up. If you’re someone that’s beginning a relationship, the story you’ll see is people trying to be together. It’s tricky to do that and I think the short succeeds at telling both those stories at the same time.”

Simultaneous storytelling is an art also utilized by one of Harstrick’s favorite directors, Quentin Tarantino, in Pulp Fiction. Lawrence sees that in “Song for Anna” his students have excelled in something that some professionals have been unable to achieve.

“There are a lot of professional filmmakers that don’t do screen within screen or split-screen work very well,” Lawrence said. He had his doubts when the students announced the idea of using this technique, “but then they showed me what they were doing, and I was like, ‘No that’s great, you guys should go for it.’ It just shows that you can never be absolute about something.”

This includes the absolute that with age brings wisdom, as video production students are obviously refuting such a statement. “I advise them on the creative development … I don’t give them solutions, I just point out the potential problems,” Lawrence said.

“Song for Anna” is a truly original creation, and agreement was easy with this particular group, according to Harstrick. “Everyone had one thing they were really good at and it just came together really well. We all had something we were really passionate about in the film process.” Hoban-Halvorsen and Vredevoogd did much of the camera work while Wyld and Harstrick contributed most to the editing.

Harstrick then submitted the video to the National YoungArts Foundation, not knowing what would come of it. The video was evaluated against more than 11,000 other nationwide submissions. After the video was viewed by a reputable panel of judges, teachers, and artists, Harstrick was given the Merit Award in Cinematic Arts for “exceptional artistic achievement.”

The filmmaker plans to graduate in January with her Running Start credit and has applied early to some of the top film programs in the country. “I think she’ll have some good choices, especially with this award,” Lawrence said of Harstrick’s possibilities.

Harstrick wants to study cinematography, editing, and general camera work. “I want to tell stories that people can relate to on a personal level, because I think those are the most emotional movies to watch … I think the most important part about storytelling is identifying with people.”

Part of Harstrick’s success may be her passion, leading to a prestigious award and recognition so early into her career. Part of it may also be that she is willing to leave things open-ended.

“Song for Anna” will be premiering at 7 p.m. on Feb. 8 and Feb. 13 at “The Showing” in the Earl Kelly Performing Arts Center. It’s also available to watch on the Video Production website: http://bhsvideo.blogspot.com/2007/09/some-of-ballards-best.html.