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Students pick script close to the heart

Lindsay McClure, of the Record staff

Producing a film tribute was a "no-brainer" for friends and classmates of Christopher Yeates. A story that was originally written about a boy who lost his brother fighting a war has been recycled and taken on a more metaphorical tone. The film, "CHANNELED", is now being directed as a tribute to 2008 Park City High School (PCHS) graduate Yeates who died on a class field trip in Austria this June.

The plot was originally a short story written by Jonathan Draxton a 2008 PCHS graduate. "CHANNELED", according to director Jake Topkis, is a "thematic venture about a teen that loses his brother to war and his friend that helps him out of his bizarre television-fixated state of grief." The screenplay that the group is currently using was reworked to highlight the themes of death, friendship, and redemption that were already present in the original script.

The production staff is planning to premiere the film later this fall and will donate proceeds from the premiere to a scholarship in memory of Yeates. According to Topkis, the scholarship will be given awarded to a PCHS graduate working to make a career in filmmaking because that’s what Yeates was planning to do.

The film is being produced by a group of 2008 PCHS graduates and friends of Yeates who have been making films together since eighth-grade. They are at it again, producing a film they’ve described as their, "last bang" before scattering in separate directions, pursuing their after-high-school dreams.

Topkis explained that his interest in filmmaking was sparked by a project he was assigned by eighth-grade English teachers Iris Durfee and Danielle Clarke. The assignment was to make a short movie based on a well-known story they’d read. Topkis adapted Edgar Allan Poe’s, "The Tell-Tale Heart." During the process Topkis explained in an email that through that process he, "tapped into some really important things [he] was going through artistically," which lead to a realization that he had to tell stories through film for the rest of his life.

Topkis founded Heart-Beat Productions, his own production company, and named it after his first project "The Tell-Tale Heart." Topkis said that his parents provided initial support and his friends were willing to donate long hours to help with his early film ventures.

Topkis and the Heart-Beat Productions crew continued honing their filmmaking skills at PCHS in C.S. Maddux’s film department. One of the group’s projects filmed in 2006 was titled, "The Adventures of Lightning Lad," a "parody of the super-hero genre." The end result was a fundraiser which raised enough money to keep the PCHS debate team active for another year. The experience will be valuable to the group as they look to use "CHANNELED" as a fundraiser.

Heart-Beat Productions will finish filming "CHANNELED" this week before they split for college. Topkis is preparing for his freshman year at Emerson College in Boston where he plans to major in Film Production. Draxton will attend Williams College in Mass. to study English and Theatre. Justin Altman, Heart-Beat’s production assistant, will enroll in the University of Utah as a Music Major and Katy Pierce, actress, is moving to Los Angeles, Calif. to pursue acting. Topkis explained that many of their friends and classmates joined Heart-Beat Productions for a project or two.

"CHANNELED" is slated to premiere this November around Yeates’ birthday, when the crew comes home for Thanksgiving. Topkis thinks the Eccles Center at PCHS would be the ideal venue for the premiere. They plan to ask for a $10 suggested donation per ticket. At the premiere they plan to show a reel with clips from all of Heart-Beat Productions previous projects. They will then show "IN SEARCHING," a film that Yeates played a central role in developing. Finishing out the night will be the premiere of "CHANNELED."

More information about the premiere will be printed as it becomes available.


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