by David Miller
On Tuesday, November 28, 2016, Loveland High School graduate Dean Parker released his most recent film: Together. Based on a short story written by Mackenzie Powell, Together follows a college student’s (Haley McCrory) fading relationship with her boyfriend (Palmer Bowen) as he transitions into university. Together is Parker’s first experimental film, breaking narrative conventions with visual metaphors and a loose non-chronological storyline.
“I was inspired to make this film back in 2014 when I read the short story by my friend Mackenzie Powell who studies at The Ohio State University and went to Kings High School (Kings Mills, Ohio).
It was such a well-written story and I thought to myself that this would make a good short film,” said Parker. He didn’t make the film right away, as Parker intended to first shoot other films and did not feel he was ready to make it yet. “I wanted to make sure I would do the story justice,” he said. Then in 2016, during post-production of Parker’s film Images, he decided he was ready. (Read Together by Mackenzie Powell)
Together was filmed in Loveland through last August with an array of current Loveland High School students and graduates, helping on Parker’s crew. Among them, cinematographer Sam Smith, location recordist Stone Taul, and production assistant/actor Sam Sauer. The trio founded the Loveland Film Club with Jon Parker and Dean Parker, and plan to continue their film careers into college and the professional world.
Parker’s latest film features an original score by Ohio University student Danny De Leonardis.
Dean Parker, a sophomore studying media and film at the Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University, has already found success in his film work. His film, Images, won a Golden Eagle Cine Award, best editing winner and best overall/cinematography/drama finalist at the All American High School Film Festival, an official selection at Nashville Film Festival, among an array of other awards.
Together will travel to festivals and contests and is available for viewing on Vimeo.
“To be honest, I’m not sure what’s next. I’ve had some ideas for new short films but nothing that I want to go into production yet. I’m still learning a lot in school and I’m set to be the script supervisor for a big short film next semester for one of my classes. I’m planning on doing some writing over winter break, but for now, nothing is in the works for me… yet,” said Parker.
Parker said he doesn’t necessarily see himself just doing experimental films from now on. “When I wrote the film I perceived it as a regular narrative film. However, when I was editing and showing people early cuts there was some stuff that wasn’t working.” He said that as Sam Smith would give him his thoughts on rough edits. Smith suggested that the film should be experimental rather than narrative. Parker added, “I had never thought that. I didn’t realize that I had written an experimental film. From that point on, everything was so much more clear.” After cutting some scenes and lines and playing around with some editing tricks, Parker found the experimental film that he had written. “I’m very thankful to Sam and my friends at OU for their feedback. They helped me uncover what the film is,” said Parker.
The visual metaphors
Parker said that the sequences in the sunflower field are basically the woman’s thought process as she is going through this relationship. “The important thing to take away from this is that they are holding hands. They are together. That was the visual way I wanted to express that state of being.” In the beginning of the film, you’ll notice that when the woman closes her eyes it fades into a shot of the two holding hands and the shot is positioned so that it lines up with the woman’s head in the previous shot. Parker’s description is, “It’s like we are pulling back the curtain to see her thoughts. And of course, when the relationship goes bad she’s all alone and we see that she’s no longer holding hands with the guy. It’s a vast contrast from earlier in the film. “There are more metaphors I could describe but I’ll leave it up to the viewers to figure out the rest. But the most important visual metaphor is the hands,” said Parker.
“Dean is a great collaborator and we communicate visual ideas well,” said cinematographer Smith. The pair talked through plans from early on the process and spent days looking for locations. “I was there to serve his vision as best I could and collaborated to help him realize the film from writing to editing. Dean was also willing to let me try some more out-there and experimental techniques that I’d been wanting to try, like the unnaturally harsh lighting at the end that I think ultimately helped the film find its soul and represent the story better.”
Parker said he felt like he was breaking the convention of how to show what a character is feeling in a situation. “A lot of times, narrative films express this by having a character
actually say what they’re feeling or write a situation where the character can express that. With the way the short story was written, though, we couldn’t do those things.” The short story examines the thought process of the woman, according to Parker, “So we had to visually show that, which is where the sunflower field scenes come from. There are some narrative films that break some narrative conventions, but what makes this film different than those is that we did it to a much higher degree.”
I think young filmmakers should break narrative conventions and experiment. That doesn’t mean they have to make experimental films but I would encourage young filmmakers to find unique ways to tell their stories. There’s nothing wrong with not breaking narrative conventions but it is a lot of fun and can add something special to your film. – Dean Parker
Low light conversations
Read Together by
Danny De Leonardis music
“First and foremost I’d like to say that it not only was a great honor to work on Dean’s newest short film, but I also had a great deal of fun working on this project, said Danny De Leonardis who’s soundtrack fills the length of Together. “Yes, there was a great deal of editing done to this film. I accredit all of these cool sound effects to Ableton live’s amazing instrument, operator.” The intro squeal you hear is a recent synth theory De Leonardis said he has been working on in his own work. “Typically it is played in a lower octave, but I found a very cool sharp sound effect when I raised some parameters.” Most of the FX you hear in the film along with some of the synths in the music we’re made by De Leonardis.
This project presented its challenges, however, there was never a time I didn’t enjoy working on it. Dean was a fantastic collaborator for this work, I feel his style in this film and my style of music meshed well. Some of the best memories of college thus far have been creating this film in our dorm room. – Danny De Leonardis
Together has constant mood changes… what was the overall artistic expression you wanted to convey? How did you go about expressing different moods?
Smith said, “We relied on lighting a lot. Everything is on a tripod except the party scene and the ending scene which creates a jarring mood change.”
Beyond storytelling and interpretation of Parker’s vision, this is a mystery film. Cinematographer Smith was asked, “How do you feel you helped maintain the mystery of the story?
Really, editing created the mystery. Dean is a talented editor and cutting the film in a non-standard way helped create tension. On my end, I like to show only what the viewer needs to see. The film’s compositions are pretty minimal, which I think helps keep the audience on their toes in a subtle way. The dramatic visual changes dropped throughout the film – that increases towards the end also play a role.
Dean Parker is enrolled at the Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University. See more of his films HERE at his Vimeo Channel. Parker graduated from Loveland High School in Ohio and was a former staff writer for Loveland Magazine.
In 2017 Dean Parker won the CINE Golden Eagle Film and Video Competition in the Youth – Narrative category for his film Images. The film was also selected as a finalist in the Nashville Film Festival in 2017 “Best Young Filmmaker”.
No Love In Loveland was accepted as a finalist in the All American High School Film Festival – the largest high school film festival in the country. The 12-minute long film was screened at the AMC in Times Square, New York City, in 2015.
Parker won 1st place in the Short Film category and Best of Show for his film, Regret at The seventh Annual Golden Lion Awards Film Festival in 2016. He won two Golden Lion Awards.
Sam Smith, a Senior at Loveland High School was recently accepted to attend the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. The students undergo the most rigorous admissions process of any school at NYU. Notable alumni of the Tisch School are Martin Scorsese, Alex Baldwin, Oliver Stone, and Spike Lee.
Smith is currently a staff writer, videographer, and photographer for Loveland Magazine. He was one of the staff writers of the Loveland High School (LHS) student newspaper The Roar which the Quill & Scroll Honorary Society for High School Journalists awarded the 2016-17 staff International First Place award.
Smith was director of photography on four out of five films from Cincinnati in the All American High School Film Festival in 2016.
Sam Smith’s film, STRING was screened at the the All American High School Film Festival in New York City in 2016.
Other Sam Smith Kudos:
Best Cinematography at the Blue Ridge Young Filmmakers Festival. Best Cinematography at Premiere Film Festival. Best Editing and Cinematography and second overall in 2016 72 Hour Teen Film Challenge. Best Cinematography and third overall in 2017 Teen Film Challenge, Best of Show at Exposure: Montgomery Photo Show 2017. Best of Category at Golden Lions Film Festival. Student winner at Exposure: Montgomery Photo Show in 2016 student.
Smith was the videographer for the music video, Delusion, released in 2017.
At the 60th CINE Golden Eagle Awards Dean Parker won first place in the YOUTH MEDIA / NARRATIVE category for his film Images. He joined the ranks of past winners, Steven Spielberg, Ken Burns, Robert Zemeckis, Mel Brooks, Ron Howard, Jim Henson, Oprah Winfrey, Robert Altman, John Frankenheimer, Mike Nichols, and Spike Lee.