SVS award-winning film screened at White House South by South Lawn Festival

President Barack Obama participates in a group photo with student filmmakers in the State Dining Room during the South by South Lawn (SXSL) event at the White House, Oct 3, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

The Shepaug film titled “The World I Want To Live In”, by Sierra Wilson, Lydia Hagen, Kayleigh Hendy, Roxanne Edel, Eliza Slastushinskaya and Jaxen Griggs, was named The White House Student Film Festival’s “Official Selection”. The film brought four lucky Shepaug students to the nation’s capital for several days of celebrity encounters, panel discussions, and sightseeing.

Day 1:

Four eighth grade students woke up early on Sunday, October 2nd, to go on the trip of a lifetime. The girls, Sierra Wilson, Lydia Hagen, Kayleigh Hendy, and Roxanne Edel, began their trip with a car full of singing, dancing, and being typical, crazy teenage girls. Once they got to their hotel, their makeup and accessories were soon strewn about on the counter as they prepared for the event, which was to be held at the Eisenhower Executive Building in Washington D.C.

Once at the event, the girls walked the red carpet, entertained interviews, and waited fervently for their film to be screened. During the festival, the girls were caught silently freaking out after it was announced their video was an “Official Selection of the White House Student Film Festival”. Shepaug, however, was even more excited when they got to meet celebrities like Ty Burrell and the cast and creators of the Netflix original series Stranger Things. One lucky girl, Sierra Wilson, even snagged hugs from Ross Duffer and Ty Burrell.

After viewing student films, dining with the celebrities and trying out new technologies, the girls did some sight seeing. They visited the Lincoln, World War II, and the Vietnam Memorials, and finally rounded out the night with a delicious dinner and a night of rest.

Day 2:

The following day, the girls prepared for what they would soon call the best day of their lives. After waiting in line, facetiming classes, and going through security, Shepaug got to walk through the White House in order to enter the South Lawn. Once on the lawn, the girls split up and enjoyed food, music, and panel discussions. Lydia Hagen gushed, “I got to see a lot of different people presenting their ideas, just a lot of different creative people coming together to show what they have worked so hard on or have learned. It was really eye opening and just amazing to see.”

Sierra Wilson was randomly selected to have a professional portrait photographer take her picture in the White House, and while waiting her turn, she received a private tour of the first floor and got a one-on-one conversation with Duncan Wolfe, the President’s videographer. She stated, “This whole experience has helped me realize that there are so many opportunities in this world.”

Mid-event, Shepaug’s film was screened on the White House South Lawn. Their video was played on a screen the size of a small basketball court for over 2,000 people to see. Following the screening, the girls were called to the top of the lawn and entered the White House. There, they got to meet the President of the United States.

At the end of the night, the girls got specially reserved seats for Leonardo Dicaprio and President Obama discussion of climate change, which was followed by the world screening of “Before the Flood”, DiCaprio’s new documentary. As the SXSL event drew to a close, the girls went back to the hotel and were asleep before their heads even hit the pillow.

Day 3:

The following day, Shepaug got a private tour of the Capitol building, courtesy of Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty and her staff before heading home. They visited both the Senate and House Of Representative galleries, and even got to take a picture in the congresswoman’s office. After three days of fun-packed events, it was finally time to embark on the six-hour journey home.

Happily Ever After:

Once home, the adventure was not yet over. The video club soon found themselves giving interviews, taking pictures, and even making the Channel 8 news. Eliza Slastushinskaya commented, “Video club inspired me because I love acting and I love to do directing. Since we won the White House Film Festival I feel like anything is possible, and that we can go anywhere now.”  For four middle school students, this was the best trip of their lives, and they can only begin to understand how much their lives have changed.