Behind the Scenes of IHS Film Club 

Avery Chien, Staff Writers

For students interested in movies and filmmaking, Issaquah High’s very own Film Club welcomes them to join their production of a new short film. From writing to acting to costuming, students showcase their skills and interests in this completely student-filmed short titled “Church of Pepo.” “Church of Pepo” is a comedy following a boy named Thomas who writes a story about a pumpkin cult. However, things get out of hand when a girl named Joan and her boyfriend Jeremy steal the story and form an actual cult, and Thomas must find a way to stop them. “Church of Pepo” stars senior Andrew del Toro, junior Nisa Maggiore, and junior Viktor Guevara.   

Guevara’s role as the boyfriend, Jeremy, is his first time acting; Guevara says, “I wanted to try something out of my comfort zone. I also really like to watch movies and I thought it would be cool to act in one.” Meanwhile, Maggiore and del Toro are acting alumni, having appeared in several productions before “Church of Pepo,” including IHS Drama productions. Del Toro, who has been acting since he was five, plays the passive but well-meaning Thomas. “I’d say that I am a lot more extroverted than Thomas, but I can relate a lot to his wacky ideas,” he laughs. Maggiore also started young, saying, “I got into acting in fifth grade when I joined Studio East’s acting summer camp. From there it was spring musicals in sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth grade. I’m currently working on Grease now in 11th grade!” Maggiore portrays Joan, the feisty girl who starts the cult. Maggiore describes her character as “the definition of gaslight, gatekeep, girlboss.” She says, “I always feel so bad for the other actors because Joan can be pretty mean and trying to play her role leads me to do and say some very intense things to them.”

Film Club President, junior Isa Jennings, is the director for the project, as well as one of the cinematographers and writers. Maggiore says, “I love Isa. She’s truly got an eye for all things artistic and is extremely talented behind a camera!” Jennings has worked on Film Club’s short film last year, titled “Scavengers,” the end-of-year movie for iVision, as well as her own independent summer project titled “Henry’s Nouveau.” Jennings got into filmmaking after watching legendary director Stanley Kubrick’s filmography. She says, “I really enjoyed his movies and wanted to try making my own.” Talent also runs in the family: her older brother, Giovanni, was the previous Film Club President and was director of photography for several projects. 

Also part of the “Church of Pepo” film crew are sophomores Tiara Aguilar and Heechan Lim. Aguilar helps with area scouting and writing scripts. She hopes to also contribute to directing in the future. Regarding their role of finding filming locations, she says, “I really enjoy adventuring around to discover hidden spots and I’m glad that I can put it to good use.” As head of cinematography, Lim is tasked with providing artistic insight and establishing the various compositions and lighting of each shot. He says, “I like trying to put meaning behind the camera.” Both Aguilar and Lim are active Film Club members. Aguilar says, “I love the meetings/filming days! The community is so tight knit and we always find a way to have fun, as well as being resourceful. It is always a chaotic time.” Lim agrees that the other members are what makes Film Club so enjoyable, and adds that the club has also given him and many others opportunities to build their filmmaking skills and share their own screenplays.

Typical Film Club meetings are filled with chatter between friends, interesting lessons about the history of film, planning for filming days, and a “Nisa minute,” as junior member Brooke Knost puts it. Film Club board member and junior Gabe Ginta laughs, “Every meeting concludes with Nisa doing some ranting.” He says, “My favorite part of Film Club is the sense of community that we build throughout the process of creating a film together. Not only does it help us build connections with each other but it creates a supportive environment in which we can hone our skills.” Del Toro adds, “I think that everyone should join Film Club. There is no requirement to do something — you could just show up, talk about movies you like for an hour, and go home.” Every Thursday in the iVision room (2412), Film Club is buzzing with students laughing, discussing their favorite movies, and practicing their passions. “Whether it’s writing, cinematography, costuming, set design, or even acting, Film Club has room for everyone,” del Toro says. Film Club’s advisor, Buddy Bland, adds he does not have much of an active role in the club other than providing a space for students to work and plan. “Isa Jennings is wonderful. She handles everything,” Bland says. 

Still, filming “Church of Pepo” as a club is not a task without its roadblocks. Many of the members agree that scheduling is the biggest issue with the project, as it is shot entirely outside of club meetings. Jennings says, “I hate scheduling. It’s definitely something I have to work on.” While it has been hard to get through filming due to actors’ availability, they are over halfway done and aim to be finished filming within the next few months. Shooting days can take up to a few hours, depending on the scene. Knost, who is another actress in the film, says, “Usually once I arrive we run lines two to three times, get into place and make sure lighting is good, and then shoot.” Guevara adds, “In between filming scenes, the actors memorize their lines and practice with each other.” Filming can take extra long because single scenes often require several different shots and takes. Additionally, weather, location, and lighting are all integral factors that can make coordination even more difficult.

The release date for “Church of Pepo” has not been finalized yet; however, it is expected to premier at a local, small movie theater and will be uploaded to YouTube. Film Club will also be starting another short film for the second semester and is currently in the process of selecting a new screenplay. Lim says, “If you are passionate about film and want a platform to share your ideas and interests, you should join Film Club.” Film Club meets on Thursdays after school in the iVision room, room 2412.