Excitement builds for lead up to short film release

After a rigorous process of filming and editing, SEM;COLON, a group of Pell City High School students, are ready to release their film! Cailyn Hill, the main character in the film says “SEM;COLON is not just a film about suicide awareness, its a movement.” Since November of 2021, these students have been working tirelessly to raise awareness and let people know that they are not alone within their school and our community as a whole.

Director, Anna Claire Hathorn says, “Everyone involved is an advocate of the message, they wouldn’t be involved if they didn’t. They want to make a difference, this was hard on us all but it was worth it. If it got through to just one person, it would have all been worth it.”

These students work very hard to create resources that people their age can have access to, and the most effective way has been this film. They want to end the stigmas and judgement that comes along with mental health and show that it is nothing to be ashamed of.

“This film is what we have been working towards for so long, and we cannot wait to show you the rest of what we have in store.”

Cailyn Hill

“SEM;COLON has come a long way in such a short amount of time, from our silent film in November of 2021, to widely releasing our short film and having an informative Youtube show in the works!” said Cailyn Hill, who stars in the film. “Through that entire time, our goal and purpose has stayed consistent, raising awareness and ending the stigma.”

Hill said the young organization has had great successes along its path of producing a podcast, creating a short film, and being screened in an international film festival. They are now creating a YouTube talk show to continue the conversation about mental health and the severity of the issue.

“This film is what we have been working towards for so long, and we cannot wait to show you the rest of what we have in store,” she said.

Director Anna Claire Hathorn, stars Cailyn Hill and Mykah Lee at the premiere of their short film in August 2022.

“Whenever I started, I didn’t realize how deep of a subject it was,” Anna Claire said. “But as I got more into the script, I realized how big this is. How deep and how emotional it can be for someone to go into a deep spiral and decide to end it all.

“When I was writing the ending, I was literally sobbing, and I realized this was something a lot of people could relate to on a personal level.”

The podcast episode is available now wherever you get your podcasts, and Spotlight Studio worked with Anna Claire in producing a short film in summer 2022. This week, the short film “SEM;COLON’ was accepted into the Sidewalk International Film Festival in Birmingham and will be screened for an audience on Saturday, August 27 at 12:45 p.m.

The first full table read with cast and crew in March of 2022.

The process of scripting and recording an audio performance and converting that script to film included several students from Pell City High School and beyond. The significant work involved creates a hands-on educational process that results in learning new skills for artistic content creation including writing, directing, filming and editing.

For Anna Claire Hathorn, a freshman at Pell City High School, SEM;COLON first began as a silent film shot on a cell phone. When she presented it to her peers, they were moved by the subject matter – a teen, struggling with depression, was torn by thoughts of taking her own life.

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic dramatically increased the required daily screen time for students, they were suffering from the isolation that comes from adapting to an increasingly digital world. According to Anna Claire, her intent behind the film was to shine a light on the current state of student mental health, and to make others aware of the internal issues she and her friends regularly face.

“I had a gut feeling that I wanted to do something that affected the real world,” Anna Claire said. “Something that affects my age group is depression and suicide.”

CEPA’s Spotlight Studio program encouraged Anna Claire to convert her idea for a silent film into an episode for The Black Box by Spotlight Studio Podcast. 

“The first time I saw it, I was appreciative of the skill it took these students to create the film,” said Jeff Thompson, executive director at the Center for Education and Performing Arts. “But more than that, I was stunned by the bravery they’d exhibited in facing the subject directly.”

Pell City High students record “SEM;COLON” a dramatic audio performance that will appear in The Black Box by Spotlight Studio Season 2

“At CEPA, our goal is to provide new, educational opportunities in the performing arts, and we are honored that Anna Claire is working with us to produce SEM;COLON,” Thompson said. “But personally, I salute the bravery of these students, and I sincerely hope that their work on this project is able to reach people in need of an empathetic voice in the fight against teen suicide.”

CEPA is supported through partnerships with Pell City Schools and the City of Pell City. Spotlight is supported annually by St. Clair County Schools, the Alabama State Council on the Arts. Local program sponsors include Hargray Communications, Trussell Funderburg Rea Bell and Furgerson and Goodgame Co

This year, CEPA also received additional funding to support the growth of Spotlight Studio through a State Council on the Arts Recovery Grant and from a South Arts Sustainability Grant. South Arts is an Atlanta-based nonprofit regional arts organization empowering artists, organizations, and communities, and increasing access to arts and culture.




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