Friends create film, enter into Atlanta Film Festival


Sophia Maxim

(Left to right) Alumni Zane McKinney and Spencer Cody and senior Malori Switzer stand proudly in front of the Plaza Theatre after their showing of their short film “Kaleidoscope.”

Greta Gustafson

With only two days left to film and a budget funded independently, senior Sophia Maxim and Georgia State film major Spencer Cody directed their own film “Kaleidoscope,” and entered it into the Atlanta Film Society’s “100 Feet of Film Contest,” along with Midtown alumnus Zane Mckinney, seniors Malori Switzer, Langston Hogan, Della Goines and friend Fyodor Fogle. The submissions were shown at the 2022 Atlanta Film Festival at the Plaza Theatre.

The film, which centers around the character, the “Perceiver,” focuses on a loss of innocence and longing for childhood, as the main character wanders through several areas she frequented as a child.

Film major Spencer Cody and senior Della Goines film a scene of Malori Switzer riding a bike in their film “Kaleidoscope.” (Sophia Maxim)

“It served as a kind of allegory for loss of innocence from childhood as a whole, from addiction or negative influences,” Maxim said. “We used a lot of symbolism from a cake, candle, bicycle and playground — all symbolizing things that the character had connections to as a child.”

Inspiration for the film came from wanting to do something abstract that could be interpreted through symbolism. 

“We wanted to do something that was portrayed as some sort of psychological experience,” Maxim said. “We started off by wanting to do something about synesthesia, and then somehow, we decided to make it this colorful sensory experience.”

It is a silent film. So, visually showing what they were trying to portray was something the crew worked hard on.

“I really didn’t think that there needed to be words,” Switzer said. “I think in one scene where there are a lot of people interacting, we had a lot of symbolism because there were a lot of little things, which were really representative of whatever the viewer wants it to mean.”

Switzer starred in the film, and though they did not have much acting or filmmaking experience prior to the shoot, they said the process went smoothly. 

“It was pretty wacky,” Switzer said. “I’m not much of an actor, but it was a really good time; everyone was super nice and the directors told me what to do and where to go, and I just sort of went with that.”

Freshman year, Switzer participated in a film with theater teacher Jacob Dreiling, and though they enjoyed that experience, making a film with their friends was much more gratifying and exciting, even under a tight time crunch. 

“It was a lot more free-flowing, even though we only had a weekend to sort of film everything and get everything together,” Switzer said. “It was a lot more fun just doing it with my friends than doing it at school.”

Instead of using regular movie cameras, which allow for multiple takes and more accuracy in shots, Cody had to use a film camera with a limited length of film to meet contest requirements. Since it was not his first time shooting with a film camera, he had learned from past experiences what to do in order for the film to develop correctly. 

“With the film, we only had 100 feet, and even if we were able to buy more film, it’s not cheap,” Cody said. “So, we basically had to compose every shot perfectly and think very hard because there were no redos. One of my favorite things about film though is the thought process of it, getting the perfect shot.”

Maxim and Cody had made a film together previously and used their knowledge from that to help smooth out the process the second time around. While working with Zane Mckinney, a professional film grip with access to film equipment, knowledge and experience, they were able to expand and execute their ideas more seamlessly. 

“It was nice to do the experience again because last time I did it, I only had a few friends, but this time, to actually have a crew of people working with me was really cool,” Cody said. 

Since the majority of the crew were friends prior to the project, their bond made creating the film more lighthearted and less serious, while still producing quality content. 

“As a friend group, we’re just really close, and we have similar creative visions, as well as different creative visions that came together really nicely,” Maxim said. “But I think the trust we already had with one another definitely contributed to the project efficiency and made it a really enjoyable process.”

Though they filmed primarily outdoors, at night and in the cold, the crew still found a way to make the experience enjoyable.

“Everyone was such a good sport, especially Malori,” Maxim said. “It was really fun, despite the circumstances, because we all had a common goal.  We were able to be productive and have fun at the same time.”

Maxim, who had never directed a film before, was excited to have her directorial debut at the film festival and to showcase her creative vision. 

“Since it was my first time directing, it was really fun to be able to have creative leadership and very fulfilling once we saw it at the actual festival,” Maxim said.

The film premiered at the Plaza Theater, along with over 20 other submissions to the contest. Maxim and her crew were the youngest there and received overwhelming support from many of the other participants, which Maxim saw as inspiration to continue working in film.

“The people there were incredible,” Maxim said. “We were definitely the youngest people there, but everyone was so supportive and just excited to be there. It was really motivating because I was one of the only female directors, and someone came up to Malori and I and told us how much she liked it, and that really encouraged me to further pursue my passion in an industry and role that is pretty male-dominated.”

Switzer agreed and saw it as an exciting and inspiring experience, as well as an enjoyable event, in which they were able to see many of the other films submitted. 

“It was pretty bizarre,” Switzer said. “It was really not what I was expecting at all, but in a good way. There were so many submissions, so it was really cool to see what everyone did with the same prompt.”