Conceiving, creating, and completing a film is tough enough for anyone, but imagine doing it all at 17. Director Nicholas Terry has done just that with Senior Prom, a “mockumentary” about the drama and the Drama of high school relationships filmed with a cast made up of his Mountlake Terrace High School classmates.
What inspired you to want to make a movie?
NT: Probably mostly it was my dad. He made a full-length independent film a couple summers ago and it really showed me that it is possible on a small budget to make a full-length film. It really showed me it was possible so then it was just figuring out what I wanted to make.
Did your dad help you with your movie?
NT: Definitely he helped me with some of the preliminary, making sure I knew about story arc and characters and how all of it should interact and then once we got the basic thing done he pretty much let me go to do what I needed to do.
How much of the movie was scripted in advance and how much of it was improv from your actors?
NT: Probably 95 percent was improvised. I wrote a couple lines and the speech that someone reads at the end and that was basically it. Having a spectacular cast was great, the improvisation really helped.
How did you get your cast together?
NT: They were all friends I had in the drama department and most of them were from the Theatre Sports group. I didn’t have auditions or anything, once I created the characters I just the cast the people that were good for the role.
How long did it take to put the whole movie together?
NT: About five and a half months. Started in the middle of summer and ended in December.
What was the longest part of the process?
NT: Probably editing. Because I could film for maybe two hours and then I would edit that footage for six hours. The ratio of filming to editing – editing was definitely a lot more time spent.
What do you think was the most challenging part of putting the movie together?
NT: Probably making sure that all the scenes were going to flow and that the story really makes sense and continues through the plot. Especially with not having a script, I couldn’t just look at the script and be like “Okay, well, I filmed this scene, so we need to get this scene so that the scenes will go together.” I had the storylines written out but I didn’t have specific scenes written down until pretty late in the process. It all flowed together in the end.
Was there a particular reason that you decided to make the film about prom and not some other big event?
NT: Mostly it just seemed like a good idea. There is a lot of drama and a lot of things that happen around prom, like who is going to get asked, who has already been asked, who is dating who, so that led to a lot of really good opportunities to spoof that.
Do you think that prom is something that’s universally understandable to young people?
NT: Definitely. What I wanted to do with the film, especially with the characters, is I wanted to create realistic characters that were somewhat exaggerated but I wanted people of all ages to be able to see the film and either be like, “Oh, I know someone like that now” or “I knew someone like that in high school” or “I was that person in high school” so I’m hoping that people can really connect to the characters and the situations that go on in the film.
Do you have distribution?
NT: Not yet, I’m hoping that something will come up soon. I plan once SIFF’s done to start submitting to other film festivals, hopefully others will see the hopefully good buzz from my movie and offer to have it shown there. That would be awesome. Now that the premiere’s happened I might have another showing at my school or various places that would just let me show it, like the Crest Theater if they would let me show it that would be great because I filmed part of it there. I’ll be looking for opportunities to show it.
For at least the next several years, every time your name comes up people are going to talk about your age. Does that bother you?
NT: It’s a good selling point. I’m 17 years old and made a feature film. If that gets it shown places then, it sounds good to me, I just want people to be able to see it.