Indianapolis High School Students Debut Original Film with Support from The Mind Trust
Macey Davis is a senior at Herron-Riverside High School. She is also the writer, director, and editor of an original short film produced by Weatherhouse Co., a black-woman-owned production company in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Weatherhouse describes itself as “A safe space for women and people of color” and was founded by Deonna Weatherly in 2021. Tiera Hollanquest is the Executive Director of the production company. They aim to provide opportunities to people of color in the entertainment industry and are committed to amplifying work from underrepresented creators.
Nowhere is the intersection of underrepresentation more prominent than among students of color like Davis. As writer, director, and editor of the film, Davis led a team of women of color high school students from Herron High School, Herron-Riverside High School, KIPP Indy Legacy High, and Purdue Polytechnic High School.
Earlier this year, The Mind Trust awarded Weatherhouse a School-Community Partnership Investment (SCPI) to provide funding and resources to produce a student-led film. Lauren I. Peterson, The Mind Trust’s Senior Director of Community Engagement, spoke to the importance of SCPIs in saying, “We really believe it takes a village to educate students and provide the opportunities they deserve. We are incredibly proud to provide financial support to help organizations like Weatherhouse execute their goals and inspire student creativity and success.”
When The Mind Trust first awarded Weatherhouse a SCPI, Davis was doing an internship at the Harrison Center. Staff there knew about Davis’ love of film and mentioned the Heartland Film Festival to her. Then Weatherhouse contacted her about an opportunity: the chance to write and produce an original film with secured funding. Davis jumped right in.
It was so important for me to get this chance now while I’m in high school because it solidified my passion and made me realize that I can do this.Macey Davis, Herron-Riverside High School Senior
Davis has had to push through a perception that there isn’t a future in film for students like her. Looking to the careers of her inspirations, Spike Lee and Issa Rae, keeps her anchored in her pursuit alongside opportunities like this one to create an original film with support from Weatherhouse. “It was so important for me to get this chance now while I’m in high school because it solidified my passion and made me realize that I can do this,” Davis said.
Her film is titled 365 and revolves around the daily life of a young woman with an emphasis on exploring mental health. “I wanted the film to be relatable,” Davis said, “To the point where it would connect with a lot of people without much dialogue being involved.”
Asia, the main character, wakes up to a series of days that all seem to blend together. Davis described it as similar to Groundhog’s Day in flavor for how Asia feels stuck in a rut. Eventually, Asia reaches a breaking point spurred by meeting someone who shakes up her world and perspective.
“My favorite part was seeing the words and scenes I wrote being acted out in front of my face,” Davis mentioned. “It was an exciting challenge to direct people so that how I envisioned it in my head is what ended up on film.” The experience refined the passion and skills already present for Davis. She plans to attend Ball State University this fall and major in film. “I thought I wouldn’t like being in charge, I’m typically shy in group situations. But everyone was so cooperative and the mentorship from Weatherhouse helped me push myself to be bold and take charge as the director.”
Weatherhouse supported Macey and the other students working on the film throughout the project. They provided early script critiques and feedback but largely let Macey and her team lead the production. They leveraged The Mind Trust’s SCPI to rent an AirBnB to film the movie and rent the equipment necessary to make it a high-quality production.
“It takes money to do a quality film. That’s what separates great films from amateur films,” Hollanquest said. “Lack of production quality takes away from the experience. We didn’t want to submit this film to a festival and have it be obvious it was created by high schoolers.”
Hollanquest emphasized the fact that there are more students like Davis out there, ready and eager for the opportunity to make their own films and get firsthand experience in what it’s like to go from writing a script to filming the scenes to cutting the film into a final product.
“We met every week for a couple of months,” Hollanquest noted. “The students were super committed, always showed up, were in this all the way. I really learned that these students already had it in them. It’s really about providing the resources. They brought the skills they already had. The missing pieces were resources and mentorship.”
Davis and Weatherhouse premiered the film at KIPP Indy Legacy High on May 20. They have also submitted the film for the Heartland Film Festival and are exploring entries for other film festivals locally and nationally. “I hope people like the film and understand it,” Davis shared. “The take away I hope people have is that nobody is alone.”