At the Santa Clarita Skate Park one afternoon, someone lost the keys to their Jaguar. And thus began a filmmaking journey for two CalArts graduates and three Santa Clarita high schoolers, Garrison Saenz, Kevin Conway and Skye Elmore.
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Jason Tippet graduated from CalArts in 2009 and Elizabeth Mims in 2010. “Only the Young,” originally released in 2012 and aired on PBS on July 15 of this year, is a coming-of-age story about the everyday lives of teenagers in the Santa Clarita Valley–an unscripted documentary that records them simply being themselves, navigating relationships and responsibility and wrestling with the idea of becoming an adult.
All three subjects were 17 years old or younger when filming began.
Saenz and Conway had been skating when they came across some Jaguar car keys. They started asking people if they knew who the keys belonged to. Two of those people were Mims and Tippet.
While they didn’t own the Jaguar, the filmmakers asked if they could interview Saenz and Conway.
“A couple questions turned into an interview, to let’s go somewhere else and shoot,” Conway said.
They started by shooting a few scenes, and before long the project turned into an full-length feature.
“A story kind of came into it after a while,” Saenz said.
The movie chronicles the lives of the three friends: Saenz and Elmore’s uncertain romantic relationship and their experiences dating other people; Saenz and Conway’s involvement in Grace Baptist Church’s skating ministry Ignition; and all the small triumphs and failures that come with being a teenager.
Clips from the movie show the teens turning a foreclosed house on the outskirts of town into their clubhouse, hanging out at the lake and exploring the overgrown golf course that used to be the Greens at Valencia.
Conway said that “the film is as real as it gets,” describing the setting as “the wasteland that’s outside of Atlantis.”
“You get to see the world for what it really is,” he said. “You don’t see cookie cutter houses and the shopping mall. You don’t see that artificial stuff.”
Mims and Tippet tried to keep the actors from being artificial by not showing them any raw footage before “Only the Young” was complete.
“They didn’t want us to see the film until it was finished,” Saenz said, “because that would most likely make us act differently–make us self-conscious.”
Conway said that he was used to being on camera and that acting natural wasn’t an issue for him.
“I don’t see it as being on camera or being filmed,” he said. “I see it has hanging out with the person holding a camera.”
Saenz and Conway can now reflect on the whole experience.
“Only the Young” was originally released in May 2012 and is making a name for itself in the world of independent film. It won the Sterling Silver Award at the 2012 AFI Film Festival. And it was awarded the Emerging Cinematic Vision Award at the 2012 Camden International Film Festival.
“I keep getting all these friend requests on Facebook. I thought they were all spam,” Saenz said.
When he and Conway both started accepting the friend requests from fans of their film, they realized the effect it had on people.
“I just want to make people happy for a living,” Conway said. “I think the film really helped people reminisce.”
“Only the Young” remains an interesting commentary on what it means to be a kid and what it means to grow up.
“When you’re in highschool, you don’t have any real big plans,” Conway said. “You don’t have any major obligations besides school. You live in the mentality of day to day. It’s based on your social life. You don’t plan too far ahead.”
Conway and Saenz also felt it gave them a better understanding of themselves.
“It was interesting looking at myself and seeing how I act,” Saenz said.
“I saw my life as a story, almost,” Conway said, “even though, as I was doing it, I was just doing the same things I do every day.”
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Source: Santa Clarita News