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Getting the shot Teen spends summer making a film with friends
You may recently have picked up the phone recently to hear, "Hi. My name is Alex Goyette. I am producing a feature-length film over the summer. In the script there is a scene that takes place at aŠ" Fill in the blank with one of 15 to 20 different locations the film will need. Goyette polished his pitch for access to locations while making some 200 calls. The 16-year-old Mercer Island High School student is spending the summer making a movie. His ambition was a 90-minute feature-length film, but a tight budget has shortened it to about 45 minutes. The 10 people working on the project began shooting "The Safe" a few weeks ago. They include Mercer Island teens Tate Howard, Garret Bernal, Jeff Hitchcock and Andrew Nguyen. Goyette describes it as a "very dark story, sort of a supernatural thing" that deals with the obsession of a teenager trying to find out what is inside a safe discovered in a graveyard. His father, Marc Goyette, says while the story involves things that don't happen in everyday life, it is ultimately a journey of discovery. Typical of harried movie directors, Goyette arrived late for our interview. Perhaps not as typical, this director needed a ride from his sister since he doesn't yet have his license and apologized profusely for forgetting the appointment.
The project is not the only film Alex Goyette has worked on this summer. He was one of 11 area teens chosen to take part in the Doritos' Fresh Films project. Goyette says he almost missed the chance when, a week after submitting his application, he deleted the "Congratulations! You have been selected to participate" email assuming it was spam. Luckily, the Doritos' Fresh Films crew followed up with a phone call. The teens cast, shot and edited a short movie in seven days with guidance from an experienced film crew. The hectic week gave Goyette a sense of working on a tight schedule. The project began with an open casting call. The crew and the teens auditioned 500 people in one day at the Wal-Mart parking lot in Renton in order to cast four on-screen roles and a voice. Goyette suspects, "Half of the people were there for the free Doritos." On the last day of shooting, they had one hour to get five shots. That meant everyone was literally running from location to location. Goyette said he "learned about working with others, accepting ideas and staying focused." Those skills will be just as important for his own production. Though Goyette is writer, director and producer of "The Safe," he works closely with his friend Tate Howard. Goyette says collaborating is important, noting that it should be about half and half. The pair has collaborated on a number of projects already, including a short movie they submitted to the Washington State PTA Reflections Contest, a competition that Islander and filmmaker Christian Hansen won in 2004. Goyette has made nearly 20 films, beginning when he was 12. His first effort was a two- minute sixth-grade project for class. "The film was bad, but I liked doing it," he said. Most of his films run one to five minutes. He has also been the videographer at a wedding and filmed an instructional video. Margo Goyette says her son has always marched to his own drummer, and that he is artistic and very observant. She is excited to see the passion he brings to making movies, saying that though he can be scattered, he cares so much about movies that "he pulls it together and gets it done." She is impressed with the persistence and preplanning that has gone into "The Safe." The 100-page script took two years to finish. Goyette described securing locations by saying, "Nobody wants a 16-year-old kid and his friends running around inside a bank with a camera." Thus the polished pitch line and the 200 phone calls, but he has found a bank in Bellevue that is willing to let the crew shoot in the vault before business hours, as well as a cemetery in Seattle, and a hospital and mental-health facility in Tacoma, all willing to let the crew shoot.
Since Marc Goyette and his wife own a business, they recognized many of the challenges their son is facing. "The organizational complexities of any undertaking this big means you have to learn to make compromises," Goyette said. But he pointed out for most 16-year-olds that is new. "I don't think he had any idea what he was signing up for." That is understandable. A simple scene on a school bus doesn't mean taking a camera along on the ride home from school. Alex Goyette explained that "there are liability issues" so he needs to rent a school bus. Then, as Marc Goyette says, the teens realized "you can't just plug lights into the wall in a moving bus, and using ambient light doesn't match the rest of the film, so they have to figure out a work around." He adds, "(Alex) has a vision of what it will be like in the end that gets him over those roadblocks. He will get stopped by something, then come back a day or two later with another idea." It isn't always smooth. There are police permits to obtain, schedules to coordinate, and the tight budget. The budget comes from Goyette's savings from yard work plus some money coming from his college fund. His parents have agreed since the film can be part of the applications to film school it is an appropriate use.
The project is getting support -- from Goyette's family, the people working on the movie, businesses that let him use their locations, and Mercer Island High School teacher Judy Burnstin, who taught Goyette's videography classes and has been an advisor on the project. Goyette thinks he may need until next summer to finish the film completely. He then plans to enter it in film festivals as well as finding venues to show it in locally.
As a director Goyette likes two successful takes of every shot. With the Doritos' Fresh Films project, Goyette learned sometimes it is possible to make things work with one shot. It might be the difference between finishing the project or not.
"Getting a shot can be more important than getting the perfect shot," he explained. Goyette's determination to express his ideas on film continues the line of young Island filmmakers, including Aaron Levy, Hansen and Aaron Nathan.
He hopes to continue his film career at the University of Southern California film school after he graduates in 2007. And from there he dreams of being a feature film director. If he sticks to this path, his dreams don't seem too far off.