By Andrew Foley, grade 8
The warm air of the auditorium surrounded me. I could feel the sweat creeping down my back as I tensed in my small seat. Act after act, I watched, just waiting for my turn to go on stage. This was my first time participating in the annual elementary school talent show. I had attended past shows and had wanted so much to be a part of them. So this year, I decided to do it. However, I wasn’t doing the usual dancing or singing performance: I was doing something new. I made a movie.
It was a short, one-and-a-half-minute, stop-motion, animated film made using LEGO. The basic storyline was about what my LEGO figures do when I go to sleep at night. It featured Batman, Harry Potter, and even some aliens all getting into their cars and planes to go to a small set called “Club Lego.” They all danced until I woke up. The movie was set to the song “Let’s Go” by Calvin Harris. I had spent the past month working on it with a little help from my mom. Finally, I finished it, and I was so happy with how it turned out. Yet I was worried that the audience might not be. After all, this was the first time anyone had ever done a movie for the talent show, so I didn’t know what to expect.
Time passed slowly; the minutes felt like hours. Eventually, I was called up with a small group of other kids. We were led up a small staircase to wait backstage. A faint scent of timber was in the air, and I could already feel the stage lights beaming onto the stage. Wires, props, and play backdrops encompassed the area. We were lined up in a group in order of our act number. I was only two acts away from going up. It was hard to stay still; nervousness consumed me. Thousands of “what if’s” swarmed through my head: What if everyone hates it and no one claps? What if the audio doesn’t play loud enough? What if no one laughs or they laugh at the wrong spots? What if the projector or computer breaks and I’m left alone on stage? What if I mess up my lines? What if something horrible happens and I never want to make a movie again? I felt vulnerable; so much time and so much of myself were about to be on display in front of a full auditorium. I dismissed those thoughts. You’ll do great; just make sure you get the lines right. I pulled out a small notecard with some thoughts I had written on it. I would introduce myself and tell people a bit about my film. There were some jokes here and there, thanks to my dad.
Soon my time came. Slowly, I walked onstage. The sea of people all focused on me, their eyes all expectant and eager. My feet moved, placing one foot in front of the other, till I reached the middle of the stage. All my nerves tingled. I was so scared. The mic shook in my hand. I began my introduction, trying my best to remember what I needed to say. I felt the words come out of my mouth, each falling into place. Then, suddenly, I was finished. The screen came down, the lights on stage were dimmed, and I walked to the side of the stage, feeling like I just woke up from a dream. I took a deep breath and waited. I still had a movie to show. The projector flashed up onto the screen, presenting my film. Then the audio blared in, providing sound. It was all going according to plan. My movie played, and I watched and listened to the audience’s reaction. They were laughing, they were smiling, and I was doing the same with them. Finally, the movie was finished, and I got a long and thunderous applause.
Later that night, I went to get a drink, and a lady whom I’d never met before came up to me. She said that she loved my movie and it was her favorite part of the night. At that moment, I knew that I wanted to make movies for the rest of my life. There is something really magical for me about creating a story and bringing it to life for others to enjoy. I have always had a desire to entertain others and knew if I could do it at age 10, with just a short film, it was something I could do forever. Getting that first taste of validation from a stranger was just the beginning for me; knowing that people loved my work only fueled my desire to create more. I thanked the lady and left to finish watching the rest of the show in the audience.
The rest of the night went as normal as expected. Everyone else performed acts, some group numbers and some solo. At the end of the night, so many others came up to me, both parents and students, telling me they were blown away by my film. The response was better than anything I could have imagined or hoped for, and I left school that evening with something new inside of me: I left with passion and courage. I gained the courage to be myself, to feel proud of having a talent and passion that was unique from everyone else, and to feel confident about my dreams of being a filmmaker.
I continued to make a movie for the talent show for the next two years, and I loved it more each year. I feel like I left a little legacy behind as I enter junior high. Other kids have approached me to help teach them stop-motion animation, and people still talk about the talent show performances. I went on to make many class films for projects; I’ve attended film camps and have made connections in the film industry that have led to exciting experiences and glimpses into what I have to look forward to in my future. I created a YouTube channel, where anyone can see my movies, so I don’t have to wait for a talent show to showcase my work. Maybe one day I’ll become a professional filmmaker and make a big movie. The first time I get to see my work on the big screen, I’ll think back to the one talent show where it all started.