Short film by Aspen teens gains global recognition

May 26, 2022

Short film by Aspen teens gains global recognition

On a school night in November, a small group of Aspen High School students were up until three in the morning surrounded by empty coffee cups and glowing laptop screens, writing the first drafts of what would become an internationally recognized short film.

Titled “Faces of the Future,” the 17-minute short film was selected and featured in Aspen Film’s Shortsfest programming in April and has since been accepted into 21 different film festivals worldwide. The young filmmakers have received numerous awards, including Best Student Film, Best Actor, Best First Time Director and more.

Written and directed by Micah Sanders Silva and Moritz Johnson, both juniors at AHS, “Faces of the Future” follows a teenage bully as his actions are confronted head on by the face of his future self. Through compelling visual storytelling, the short film explores the origin and nature of bullying and the internal conflict of changing one’s ways — a message the young filmmakers strove to express from the start.

Silva — the lead actor in the film on top of his writing and directing roles — recalls the first late-night writing session this past fall where he, Johnson and a couple of friends sat around his room ­brainstorming the story they wanted to tell.

Rather than drawing inspiration directly from their own lives, Silva said they were formulating ideas around things going on in the world that they felt really mattered.

“We were thinking of a message we wanted to push and the way to articulate it,” Silva said. “We drew from what we knew and from things going on in the world — we ended up with ‘Faces of the Future.’”

Last month, the students watched their story come to life on the big screen during the Shortsfest Young Emerging Voices in Film event at the Isis Theatre. The inaugural showcase, presented as part of Aspen Film’s FilmEducates program, featured “Faces of the Future,” as well as a 5Point Voices Youth Film Project created by a group of high school seniors from Bridges High School.

The Aspen Film special showcase came about for the first time this year after Silva and his team submitted “Faces of the Future” to Shortsfest, making them the youngest filmmakers to be accepted into the renowned film festival.

Silva explained that they originally set out to make a short film with the intention of submitting it to Shortsfest — writing, filming and editing the project in the short span of three weeks. The actual filming process was completed in three days, and all of the scenes were shot in Aspen.

“We made it to establish credibility — to make a name for ourselves — and we knew the Aspen film festival would be a great opportunity,” he said. “As far as seeing your own movie on a big screen in a movie theater, it was awesome.”

Following the Shortsfest premiere of “Faces of the Future,” the talented teens have been acknowledged for their work at IMDb-qualifying film festivals across the globe.

Cinematographer Luke Tornare said he didn’t expect such a high level of recognition, and the response has inspired him to tackle more projects in the narrative nature of short film storytelling. Having started two production companies in the valley at 19 years old, Tornare typically works with clients on creating commercial content, specializing in drone footage — which he said “added great value” in capturing this short film.

“When directing your own commercial, you don’t always know where the story is yet, so you’re forming it as you go,” Tornare said. “As far as short films, it’s a lot more about collaboration; you’re there to create someone else’s story or contribute to someone else’s story.”

While the writers had their ideas for the film going into the filming process, Tornare explained that the story evolved as they shot and edited scenes.

In the early writing stages for “Faces of the Future,” Silva said their team focused heavily on developing the main character: a high school boy named Cole Dunn who lives with his abusive uncle and acts violent toward others in response to the aggression he bears at home.

Taking on Cole Dunn’s character was Silva himself, and like many of the short film’s elements, his acting performance has been met with praise. He’s won Best Actor awards at the Madrid Art Film Festival and the Halo International Film Festival. Silva also received an offer to be cast in a film that will shoot in Vancouver this summer.

As an aspiring actor since the seventh grade, Silva said this short film was a great opportunity to broadcast his acting.

After graduating from AHS next spring, Silva currently plans to move to Los Angeles and pursue the next chapter in his acting career. In the meantime, he looks forward to a senior year of making more films and bringing more of his peers to the creative process. Silva said they’re already working on a new movie with a bigger group of kids.

For Silva,“Faces of the Future” hopefully marks the first of many film endeavors in his own future, and he considers it to have been a great learning and collaborative experience when it comes to the movie-making process.

“It makes me feel good about the future, but I’m trying not to think about it too much because I always want to go for more,” Silva said. “I try not to be too invested in what I just did, so I can focus on what I’m doing next — but this film for sure gives me confidence and hope.”

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