Seventh grader Luke Jacobs is hard at work behind the camera, directing actors and trying to get the perfect shot.
Even though he’s just in Middle School, he’s already handling expensive filming equipment and trying out sophisticated movie-making techniques.
All throughout his summer film class, Jacobs, who comes off as a charming and polite kid, drops references to graphic R-rated horror films, shocking his teacher, Greenhill film instructor Corbin Doyle, and showing off his vast movie knowledge.
Now Jacobs has his own horror/comedy film, Gifted, and it has grabbed the attention of the judges at the Austin Film Festival, earning a spot as one of six finalists in the festival’s Young Filmmakers Program.
“I’ve been doing this class for about eight years,” Doyle said. “It goes for two or three weeks during the summer, and it’s been Greenhill people forever. I think our success the last few years has opened it up to people from other schools.”
This summer Jacobs worked with Greenhill students Emily Budarapu, Grace Doyle, Anusha Rao and Jennie Ross and immediately showed his enthusiasm for filmmaking.
“Luke came in not only wanting to make a horror movie, but also having a script already written,” Corbin Doyle said. “We ended up not using his script because the group built something on their own, but that sensibility and that initiative was great.”
Jacobs worked mainly on the cinematography of the film, which involved shooting the scenes and overcoming challenges such as lighting in order to get the most visually appealing movie possible.
“The whole experience was really fun,” Jacobs said, “but my favorite part was filming the very last scene because we had to make a lot of fake blood and it was kind of fun learning where specifically to put it and what kind of mixture we were going to use.”
Jacobs’s work paid off, and his film received good comments from the festival’s judges.
“The judges said Luke’s film was great comedy and great comedic timing,” Doyle said. “The vision of the story it told was so clear that they kept watching it over and over and kept laughing at how funny and well done it was, especially for a bunch of young kids.”
The Austin Film Festival is one of the best-known film festivals in the U.S., and this year it features panelists such as Dave Andron, the executive producer of Justified, and Cary Fukunaga, the director of True Detective.
“Austin Film Festival is a great film festival in the U.S., and part of it is that it focuses on writing and screenwriting,” Doyle said. “It’s right before people come back to school, so the kids have to be on their game.”
Jacobs enjoys all forms of storytelling and hopes to pursue filmmaking throughout high school.
“I guess filmmaking is just an interesting way of storytelling,” Jacobs said. “I think it’s really interesting how much you can convey in under four hours and how much you can get attached to characters.”
Jacobs’s passion for filmmaking stems from his lifelong hobby of watching movies and his immense knowledge of films and filmmakers.
“My favorite movie right now is Mysterious Skin by Gregg Araki,” Jacobs said. “I think it’s really deep and complex. The night after I watched it I watched it again. I was really held by the movie.”
Doyle agrees that watching movies is a great way to get better at making movies.
“I tell people in my class all the time that you can teach yourself how to be a really good filmmaker from watching films,” Doyle said. “It’s the thing [Quentin] Tarantino always teaches people which is you watch the film the first time, you have a story told to you, you watch it the second time to see how they told the story. Luke is a testament to that.”
Jacobs’s eye for the cinema and his motivation during filming helped create a film worthy of being represented in a major film festival.
“He was having a blast every second and he made something really darn good,” Doyle said. “I love when people who work hard make something good and then are recognized for that. He’s in a major film festival at the beginning of seventh grade, and that’s pretty good.”