FORT WALTON BEACH — Brooklyn Shaw, 16, is on a mission to show people what kids can accomplish — most recently through the short film “Winston & Windside.” Shaw co-wrote the script with Legend Saylor, 15, and filmed the 27-minute movie in July with more than 40 cast and crew members ages 20 and younger.
“This town needs more creativity — especially with the kids,” Shaw said. “The kids are very creative and talented. I wanted to get the kids involved and make something huge. I want to leave this town whenever I move out with memories of, ‘Yeah, I was there when I was a kid and I did all of these things.’ I can leave that with the future generations.”
The movie had a red carpet premiere on Aug. 9 at Suds n Cinema in Fort Walton Beach. Proceeds will go toward entry costs for various film festivals across the U.S.
Many high school students spend their summers working short-term jobs, playing sports, traveling or relaxing. When Shaw and Saylor started toying with the idea for their short film in March, the two knew a few components they wanted it to have.
“I don’t like the feeling of sitting back and not doing anything,” Shaw said. “We are all very ambitious people — kids. We all want to be doing something bigger instead of sitting around doing what everyone else is doing. Even if we have to make it ourselves, we will.”
They weren’t sure what story would unfold, but they did have a few ideas.
“We just said, ‘OK, we want fast cars, cash money, guns,’” Shaw said. “We wanted the cool, over-the-top production. Then we were like, ‘If we’re going to make a project, we might as well make it so at the very end people can walk away with something they learned.’"
“Winston & Windside” follows the story of people in the entertainment industry who were once successful, but now face a financial downfall.
“They go and take drastic measures to get their money back, because that’s all they knew before,” Shaw said. “At the very end, it’s like, ‘Was it even worth it?’”
The youths filmed the movie at various places in Northwest Florida, such as Best Western Fort Walton Beach, Enlightened Studios in Fort Walton Beach and Deep Sea Gypsy at the Destin Commons Shopping Center. They started filming July 1 and wrapped July 10.
Saylor’s favorite scene featured the fast cars portion of their original vision. One of his friends lent a Mustang with a V8 engine and another brought a GTR r32.
“Dude, it’s so fast,” Saylor said. “It’s one of my dream cars, and he was like, ‘We can ride in it.’ It was so cool.”
Some of their dramatic ideas for the scenes made acting intense. One scene involved a cast member holding a gun to Shaw’s head as her lead role, Stella.
“It’s good, because it’s real fear in the scene,” Shaw said. “The actors were doing so good. It was so believable. I was shook the whole time.”
School wasn’t in session, but the students involved in “Winston & Windside” were learning. Before the short film, Saylor had taken only one year of digital media at Niceville High School. He mostly did small freelance photography and videography projects.
“This was big for me,” Saylor said. “At points, I was like, ‘Did I bite off more than I could chew?’ It gets to you. It’s a lot. It’s so worth it.”
Keno Manuel, a graduate of Niceville High School, took all four years of digital media classes. The professional videographer mentored Saylor and lent his time and equipment to the project.
“People don’t realize how hard it is,” Manuel said. “From the outside perspective, all you have to do is point the camera and record. There’s a lot of moving parts. It’s repetitive. It’s tedious ... I wanted to get on this project to get more experience I can use for my career in the future.”
Manuel joked his favorite part about the summer was yelling at the cast and crew.
“The most challenging part was getting the actors and everyone to do what’s really needed to get the scene done and move on to the next one,” Manuel said. “There’s always a case where everyone doesn’t really follow instructions. This is more of we’re doing this for fun ... We tend to forget we’re also trying to get the project done at the same time. We get carried away, which is fine, but we have to do a good job.”
Shaw learned people can do anything if they set their minds to it: “I learned how I communicate with people, how I get jobs done and how ambitious I really, really am. ... With stuff like this, you cannot care what people think or else, you’re gonna be like, ‘I don’t want people to see this. It’s cringe-y.’ If you love it, do it.”