“Midwest” short film gains recognition through film awards

Samantha+%28Tamara+Brown%29+stands+in+front+of+UFO+lights.+%281%3A50%29
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“Midwest” short film gains recognition through film awards

Samantha (Tamara Brown) stands in front of UFO lights. (1:50)

Samantha (Tamara Brown) stands in front of UFO lights. (1:50)

Samantha (Tamara Brown) stands in front of UFO lights. (1:50)

Samantha (Tamara Brown) stands in front of UFO lights. (1:50)

Maddie Roberts, Staff Writer

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As South graduate Robbie Gonyea laid in bed one day, the idea for a film, “’young high schoolers come in close contact with aliens in their hometown,’ struck [him] like a lightning bolt, and [he] was on fire.”

His short film, “Midwest” took him almost a year and half to make from the beginning creative processes to the final edits. Gonyea worked closely with fellow South graduate Lucas Coniaris, who served as the film’s cinematographer.

“Midwest” has earned significant praise, winning the Los Angeles Film Awards Best Student Film for the month of December and finishing as a finalist in the Washington D.C. Independent Film Festival.

Taking inspiration from “Stranger Things,” “E.T.,” “Stand By Me” and “Close Encounter of the Third Kind,” viewers should have a pretty good idea of what to expect.

The story centers around two teenagers living in a small Indiana town, which allows the audience to be able to connect with main characters Zane and Dom.

Zane is played by junior Alex Coniaris, and Dom is played by senior Calvin Prenkert. Another prominent character is Samantha, played by North graduate Tamara Brown.

“I’m a giant, energetic, bouncing-off-the-walls person. I have trouble containing my energy especially when I’m talking which is similar to Zane,” Alex Coniaris said. “I was able to connect a lot with him because his personality is very similar to mine.”

We decided that Tamara could pull off this sort of fierce, oddball adventurer kind of person,” Gonyea said.

“Sam is a strong, determined and imaginative young woman and I wanted to make sure that I portrayed the confidence and intrigue Robbie wrote about,” Brown said. “It was a challenge at some points trying to convey that energy, but it was always fun.”

Since Zane and Dom are both portrayed by white males, it was refreshing to see Samantha pull up in her pickup truck as a woman of color.

“I do believe there’s importance in my character being a woman of color. Jordan Peele discussed that for his upcoming film ‘Us,’ it was important to cast black people in lead roles on the basis that black people are capable of playing something other than the slave and should be given the opportunity to do so,” Brown said.

This was both Brown and Alex Coniaris’ first time acting in front of a camera like this.

“I’ve been in theater for a while, and on stage, you have to be a lot bigger with your emotions so you can convey the message to someone sitting [far away]. [I]n film, you need to be so subtle, literally a single twitch of your eyebrow will change how a scene works, and I got to learn that over the course of working,” Alex Coniaris said.

“Midwest” was also a new experience for Gonyea, as it was his first scripted narrative film.

“This movie has a lot of different themes for a short film. It was a long and tedious process trying to find a way for all the themes to speak to one another. I am also still learning how to be a screenwriter, so I made a lot of mistakes along the way that probably slowed me down, but looking back I really gained a lot of knowledge and techniques,” Gonyea said.

The link to “Midwest” is here if you would like to support the cast and crew’s hard work.

“Lucas Coniaris and I couldn’t have made this film without the support of [mass media teacher Dan] Kennedy and the hours of hard work that our actors Alex, Calvin and Tamara gave us,” Gonyea said. “We owe so much to all of them.”

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  • Samantha (Tamara Brown) stands in front of UFO lights. (1:50)

  • Zane (Alex Coniaris - left) and Dom (Calvin Prenkert - right) walk along railroad tracks. (8:16)

  • Samantha, Zane (left) and Dom (right) converse at Samantha's pickup truck. (14:43)

  • Zane (right) and Dom (left) stop in their tracks. (10:18)

  • Samantha looks suspiciously into the woods. (1:40)

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