I showed up on an unseasonably hot afternoon to visit Glendale Adventist Academy, located in Glendale, California, and was greeted by the screams, “Let’s go Stallions!” by the students and other spectators in the stands as the crew filmed a trailer for an upcoming feature film “Seasons Change”. It was clear from the enthusiasm of the young adults in the stands that they were doing their job.
I had the pleasure of meeting Matthew Payne, who is playing one of the assistant coaches in the film. He is instantly likeable and he had a big smile on his face while the kids were doing the reaction shots. He looked like a proud father, which was great to see but a bit of a mystery to me. There were a lot of kids and I couldn’t help but wonder what his connection to them was.
In addition to being an actor, it turns out that Matthew is also the Drama teacher at the school. I should have known something was up – nothing on a movie set is ever quite what it seems! He told me that producer Suzanne De Laurentiis wanted to give the Drama students at the school a taste of what it was like to be part of a real life production and Matthew was grateful for the opportunity. Anthony Paschal, also a staff member at Glendale Adventist Academy and a part time actor as well, played one of the doctors in the film.
Indeed, this was a thoughtful gesture on the part of Ms. DeLaurentiis, but one that I wasn’t too surprised to hear, knowing about her work with charities and her mentorship program.
But it wasn’t just the actors that were taking advantage of this opportunity, case in point being a young man named Jameson Matsuda. I asked him if he was in the film too, and he told me he wasn’t. Rather, he was there to learn from director Dale Fabrigar by shadowing him throughout the day. Dale, who is an alumni of Glendale Adventist Academy, felt right at home filming in the hallways, football field and other locations around the school. Jameson told me that he was learning quite a bit about the terminology of directing as well as “the whole system” in terms of what goes in to making a film. How cool is that? How many juniors in high school can say that they got to have real life experience in the making of a film?
That seemed to be the focus of the day: learning.
You see, while the background and one of the main characters in the film is the game of football, the story is a lot more involved than just focusing on the game. Writer and producer Russell De Persia, who also plays the head coach in the film, was kind enough to share his thoughts on the story and what it really means to him in between filming his scenes and watching his dream be turned into a reality.
When I first saw Russell, my first thought was that they picked the right guy to play the head coach; he looks like a football player and carries himself with the confidence of somebody who has been in the game. Here’s a shocker: he used to be a player and even had a few workouts with the Dallas Cowboys at the peak of his playing career. In other words, he knows the game.
And he also knows that there is more to life than just the game.
“Sports is a vehicle for life,” he told me. “You take what you learn on the field and use that experience in other areas of your life. Sports or football aren’t the endgame. The endgame is life.” He’s got a really good point there, and he put an exclamation point on that when he told me, “There are a lot of professional athletes who aren’t set up for life after sports.”
You don’t have to look very hard to find proof of this. Whether it be an injury or age, most sports and especially the highly physical game of football aren’t something that you can do forever, so you’d better have something else going on in your life aside from the game.
That, in a nutshell, is what the film is about. Without giving too much away, the central character of the story is injured in high school game, and he really thinks that this is the end of his life. He eventually learns that there is so much more to it than that, but it is a harsh reality for him to learn and the road that he takes getting there is a long one.
It would be difficult to find a venue more suited to telling this tale than that of a high school, and Glendale Adventist Academy provided the perfect backdrop. From the looks on the faces of the students, it was evident that they were learning a great deal and most importantly, they were having fun in the process. And the pride that was on Ms. DeLaurentiis’ face was evidence enough that she was glad to provide the opportunity. Ms. DeLaurentiis also wanted to extend her appreciation to Denise Miller, (Chair of the Glendale Commission on the Status of Women), Ardashes Kassakhian and Judy Herwig for assisting them in getting the proper permits to film at the school. “We were treated to a wonderful lunch by Bartlett Food Services thanks to Patrick Campbell as well.” Exclusive interview as told by Chris Hlad.