New York-based filmmakers on a journey to show lives of VMT students

The Magnet Tribune: Eva Montiel
New York filmmaker Miguel Drake-McLaughlin shoots video in Gerardo Flores’s English class. At left is former VMT student Johnathan Moncada who is recording audio.

Irene Alegria, Staff Writer

On February 22 and 23, Vidal M. Treviño School of Communications and Fine Arts held its 5th annual Laredo Media and Film Festival.

In attendance as speakers were Jillian Schlesinger and Miguel Drake-McLaughlin, two New York-based filmmakers who spoke of a new project they hoped on starting which would focus on the lives of people in Laredo.

“We hope that the film will tell a story of growing up in Laredo from the point of view of the students we’ve met here,” Schlesinger stated.  

When asked about their first expectations when coming to Laredo Schlesinger said, “At least for me, I don’t think I came with any expectations except for that we knew about VMT. VMT was our entry to Laredo so we knew that there were a lot of really talented, creative students here and then that expectation was really met and like exceeded by how amazing all of the classes and students here were.”

We really wanted to find students who were not just subjects of our film but who were collaborators in making it.”

— Jillian Schlesinger

“We really wanted to find students who were not just subjects of our film but who were collaborators in making it and so finding a high school that focuses on the arts seemed like a really ideal partner for the project and on top of that when we reached out to teachers and administration at VMT we got really enthusiastic responses so we had a feeling that it would be a really positive relationship,” Schlesinger added.

VMT students involved are Kayla Gonzales, a junior in print journalism, and Julie Martinez, a junior flute player.

This new project is very different from their previous work.  

“The structure and style of the project are new for us. The idea of creating a film that has both documentary and fiction elements I think sort of pushes boundaries of things we’ve done before, and is also just in some way is an uncharted space in general. I think it will be a very unique project, both in terms of the level of collaboration with young people to tell their own stories and in terms of the style of film-making,“ Schlesinger explained. 

Once completed with production Schlesinger and Drake-McLaughlin both expressed their hopes that viewers will receive as a message from their new film.  

“I think that we hope the film will reach really wide audiences, that it will be interesting to people who knew something about Laredo before and also people who have never heard of Laredo. We hope that some of the stories will feel really specific to Laredo and some will feel very universal that everyone can connect to,” Schlesinger said.  

“One of the reasons we wanted to find young people to work with both as actors and storytellers is that everyone all around the world everywhere has the experience of being a teenager. And so, we felt that by connecting with young people here and talking about some of the universal experiences of growing up that it would be a story that anyone could watch and understand and relate to,” McLaughlin added.

When asked when the film would be released or when the completion of the filming would happen Schlesinger stated, “We hope to finish filming this year.” 

“This school year, the 2018-2019 school year will be the main time that we will be focusing on filming,” McLaughlin added.

Having officially started filming in August both filmmakers are very excited about the final project.

“We have been so impressed with the community of VMT, the talent of the students here and the care that the teachers and the administration have put into everything,” McLaughlin said. “We really love Laredo, and we love the students that we’ve met here.”