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Meet the High School Filmmakers Representing SA at SXSW Film Fest 

click to enlarge A scene from Split Ends - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • A scene from Split Ends

Three local high school students will be screening their short films at the 2017 South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin during the Texas High School Shorts Competition. Making it to SXSW was a goal they had each set for themselves since they started studying cinema as underclassmen.

Pierson Hawkins, 18, a senior at North East School of the Arts, isn’t very interested in becoming the next big Hollywood director making blockbuster movies. He’d rather join the indie film scene like some of his favorite filmmakers, including Mark and Jay Duplass (Cyrus) and Richard Linklater (Boyhood).

“Mark Duplass has said being restricted by budget and locations and actors actually drives the creative process,” said Hawkins. “I’d rather do that than having millions of dollars to spend on whatever you need.”

In his short experimental film Limbo, Hawkins explores the idea of “insanity through isolation” and “how loneliness … can drive people crazy.” During the short, a young man contemplates his existence as original music in the vein of composer Thomas Newman (Revolutionary Road), written and performed by Hawkins’ schoolmate Victoria Acuña, veils the film in sorrow.

click to enlarge Limbo
  • Limbo
“It was really important for me to exercise visual storytelling rather than rely on exposition or dialogue,” said Hawkins. “I’ve always been intrigued by film and how it can make someone feel.”

After graduating, Hawkins hopes to continue filmmaking at a college like the University of Texas at Austin or the University of Southern California and collaborate with musicians on music videos.

Also premiering her experimental short film this year at SXSW is Miranda Potter, 17, a junior at Saint Mary’s Hall. She considers herself a natural-born storyteller.

“Both my parents have said that I’ve always been telling stories since I was little,” said Potter, who also identifies Linklater as one of her favorite directors. “I think film is a really personal thing and a very relatable medium.”

In Split Ends, Potter wanted to find a way to “destigmatize female body hair” and show how beautiful a female body can be in its natural form. Potter does this through the use of stop motion animation techniques and transparent images.

“I’m not trying to tell women not to shave at all, but it’s their choice,” said Potter. “You can choose how you want to present yourself.”

In the future, Potter looks forward to making more animated films, somewhere in the range of Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly and Waking Life.

Saint Mary’s Hall will also be represented by senior Demar Gunter, 17. She will be screening her mostly-black-and-white short film Chroma. The narrative follows a young girl, living under the rule of a totalitarian government, who is told she might be the answer to obtaining an anecdote to cure the world’s colorblindness.

click to enlarge Chroma
  • Chroma

Although she admits she fell into filmmaking by accident her freshman year when classes for other arts electives filled up, she quickly recognized cinema was something that brought the best out of her.

“I never really thought I could be creative until I started making films,” said Gunter. “You can do a lot of different art when you make films — photography, storytelling, visual art and music. When I realized how encompassing it was, I really wanted to stay with it.”

In the fall, Gunter plans to double major or minor in film at one of the eight colleges she’s been accepted to, which include the University of Texas at Austin, Baylor and Texas A&M.

“I think film is a medium that can have the most impact on someone,” said Gunter. “It’s a great way to express yourself in a really radical way.”

Limbo, Split Ends and Chroma will screen Saturday, March 11 at 5:30pm at the Vimeo Theater inside the Austin Convention Center (500 César Chávez) and Saturday, March 18 at 2pm at the Alamo Drafthouse Lamar (1120 S. Lamar Blvd). For details, visit

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