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Volume 26, Number 5 — May 2018

Arts for Youth Spotlight

Kelsey Tweed loves visual storytelling

By Leslie Grace | A! Magazine for the Arts | September 26, 2016

Kelsey Tweed has been interested in filmmaking since she was 9. "I would beg my father to film family gatherings with his camcorder, and I have a large stack of notebooks filled with stories I swore I would one day make into real productions. When I was in middle school I got a webcam for my birthday, and I remember I could not wait for school to let out so I could go home and "shoot' something. Even if it was just me singing to a song, I loved creating videos and eventually used action figures and even my family to perform skits I created. Eventually, I started my own YouTube channel, and I created lots of stuff with my friends. After changing majors three times, I decided that there isn't anything else I wanted to do, and I wanted to take this hobby of mine and go as far as I could with it.

"To me, having a compelling story is the most important part of filmmaking. Anyone can be taught the technical aspects of filming, how to light or what shutter speed to use but being able to tell a story is what to me makes the difference between an okay movie and a fantastic one. Visually compelling stories are fun and entertaining, but I've always remembered the films that I could relate to or ones that had a powerful story line," Kelsey says.

The film she submitted for PUSH! Film Festival is titled "Welcome to the Testing Center for Educational Success." It is about a girl who is forced into a school building with only her emotions as allies. These emotions include Confidence, Depression and Anxiety. Once thrown in, she is told that as long as she does what she is told, studies and minds her business that she will get through the school's four levels and "graduate" with no problem. However, even though she tries staying to herself and focuses only on exiting she ends up being harassed by other students, and isn't prepared for any of it since she wasn't told to prepare for it.

"This film focuses on what my view of high school was, as far as adults saying that studying is important and minding your own business is the best way to get through. However, no one prepared me for things such as bullying, peer pressure and harassment. Each character in the story represents a real person once in my life, and their actions are all based on true events, from having trash thrown at me to unwanted sexual advances to kids making fun of my clothes. The main character is followed by her three emotions where Anxiety takes over with the aid of Depression, and Confidence is still there but is no longer a part of her life like he once was.

She entered her film into PUSH, because it is a story she cares deeply about. She says it is very abstract and may not make sense to some people, but it is a story she's always wanted to tell.

"I think we've all had bullying stories to some extent, so to just say "Hey, I had bullies,' can make people automatically say, "Well, we've all had bullies, so what?" So maybe presenting the same, terrifying atmosphere I experienced it in will at least give a new spin on how people perceive harassment at schools."

Kelsey is a student at East Tennessee State University, and hopes to pursue filmmaking as a career.

"I've tried becoming a kindergarten teacher, an animator and even at one point a social worker since I felt I needed a "big girl job,' but in the end I've realized that pursuing something you have no interest in is just silly. Life is too short to not go after something that makes you want to get out of bed every morning and start your work early, since you love it that much."

Two bullies harass a student in Kelsey's "Welcome to the Testing Center for Educational Success.