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Teen Scene

By Lori Draz and Andie Kershner

Each month our young authors write, in their own voice, stories that will educate and inform fellow students and parents. If you are a teen who would like to write your story, contact The Journal. We’ll help you polish it up, so don’t worry, let’s just get to sharing.

This month’s author is Andie Kershner, a 16-year-old junior at Middletown High School South. Every kid gets asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It really is a tough question. As children grow into adults, that answer may change. Our author knows a lot about that. Andie thought she had it all figured out – many times until she eventually found her passion in film. Now, her first documentary was selected in the Garden State Film Festival and will screen Saturday, March 23. Trying new things can open your world to new friends, confidence and maybe even your passion. Here is Andie’s story.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been drawn to the arts as a means of self-expression and therapy. I started dancing when I was about 2 years old, and I thought that form of art would be my life. When I was about 7, I would have told you, “I am going to go to Rutgers University, join the dance team and then become a Rockette.” It was so clear in my head that I thought I had the rest of my life in dance mapped out. As I entered middle school, I didn’t feel the same passion for dance. In sixth and seventh grade, I started to get more involved with field hockey. Even though I liked it, I thought of field hockey as more of a hobby, not as something I would pursue as an artistic endeavor. By eighth grade, I was really struggling with finding my “thing.”

What is my passion? What will fulfill me? As I entered high school, I was trying to find my path, so I decided to take a stagecraft class with our drama teacher, Mr. Alexis Kozak. I was aware of our school’s theater program, and I loved Broadway. I also knew I wasn’t a great actor, but taking that stagecraft class showed me there was a lot more to theater and something beyond acting.

As I learned more in stagecraft class, I started to feel like I was finding my niche. Mr. Kozak saw my interest and asked me if I would like to be involved with the tech crew. I agreed, and from then on, something clicked. I realized what my “thing” was. I worked on designing the lights for Mr. Kozak’s original play, “Then One Foggy Christmas Eve,” and I did the spotlighting for our musical, “Chicago.” I was drawn to lighting design like a moth to light. The idea that I could use light to convey a message and give a scene more meaning really seemed special and helped me express my talents. My confidence grew in theater lighting, and I believed that I truly knew what I wanted to do in college. Lighting would bring joy into my future. I had found my passion, my ultimate goal, right?

Nope. My passion project was about to take another turn. In September of this year, I entered room 178, the film room down a hallway where only 10 percent of students go down on any given school day. I felt that I didn’t have much in common with the other students which is hard because filmmaking is a collaborative art. I made my first film during the first marking period, and it wasn’t quite what I hoped it would be. I was determined though. I knew that film was something I enjoyed, so I continued. I’m incredibly grateful for my film teacher, Mr. Christopher Corey, for recognizing my growing love for filmmaking and realizing I had something to offer.

Mr. Corey said it wasn’t the best film, but he reminded me, “This is your first time making a film, so it’s not supposed to be great. What’s important is to keep going. Just learn from your mistakes and build on that.” This advice helped a lot. I was getting to know a few students in the class who I felt I could work with, so my second film (an animation) called “Alright, Alright, Alright,” was a big step in building my confidence as a visual communicator and artist.  

As the year progressed, I also took an interest in the school’s Film/TV Club. We were sitting in a meeting one day when Mr. Corey asked if we wanted to work on a documentary that had to do something with the arts in our hometown. My mind went right to a band called Exit 109. It’s a band made up of students from the school, and they’re pretty well known around the school. My friends and I were fans – as are most kids in our school – so we thought they would make a great subject of a documentary. 

That was the first project I had become passionate about since doing the lighting on “Chicago.” I won’t tell you the process was easy. There were moments when I thought, “I don’t know if I want to finish.” Thankfully, the group of people I was working with wanted to finish, which helped to move me along. After put on the finishing touches as suggested by Mr. Corey, we wanted to submit it to a festival. And so, the first documentary film I really had worked on, in the first year I had ever done film, was accepted into the Garden State Film Festival. I couldn’t believe it.

If you had told that 7-year-old me how much my life would change from what I thought I would be to what I am now, I would not have believed it. But here I am, and I genuinely could not be happier with the way things have turned out. Struggling to find my “thing” has been so difficult, and I’m sure that this won’t be the last time I struggle with that. But now if I’m in a rough spot, I can use my art form to make a film and get my feelings out there – one that I hope people will like.

Most people change as they grow. If you still haven’t found your “thing,” keep trying new things, and you’ll discover your passion too. 

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