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Putting Their ‘Hearts’ Into It

  • While her father Alan Haehnel, of Hartford Village, Vt., is filming, Omega Haehnel, of White River Junction, Vt., who is playing Cecelia, is hit with a pickle thrown by her stepsister Pam on the dock at the public beach on Lake Morey in Fairlee, Vt., on Sept. 9, 2017. The production is part of the eighth-annual Film Slam sponsored by the Cohase Chamber of Commerce. The seven-minute melodrama film, "Hearts Ajar," was awarded first place by the judges, who also gave it the Best Direction and Best Use of Genre awards. The audience at Sunday's screening also gave it the People's Choice award. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • With Peanut the family dog keeping watch, Alan Haehnel, of Hartford Village, Vt., starts writing the script to be used by his team as part of the eighth-annual Film Slam sponsored by the Cohase Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 8, 2017. Haehnel, his daughter and her best friend wrote, shot, edited and presented "Hearts Ajar," their seven-minute film in 48 hours. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • As Pearl MacLeod, of White River Junction, Vt., shoots close-ups of actor Omega Haehnel, also of White River Junction, her mother Heidi Haehnel pokes her head into her bedroom in Hartford Village, Vt., to ask a question during the filming for the eighth-annual Film Slam sponsored by the Cohase Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 9, 2017. The seven-minute melodrama film, "Hearts Ajar," starred the two best friends in a tale of jealously and revenge between stepsisters and a jar of pickles. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Because a dead camera battery puts a halt to their shooting for the the eighth-annual Film Slam sponsored by the Cohase Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 9, 2017, Heidi Haehnel, of Hartford Village, Vt., makes calls to see if she can find a store that stocks a replacement as Alan Haehnel calls their son to see if one of his friends has the same battery. They resolved the problem by using a simpler camera Alan Haehnel borrowed from Hanover High School, where he works. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • In character as Pam, Pearl MacLeod, of White River Junction, Vt., cradles a jar of pickles while making the film "Hearts Ajar" in Hartford Village, Vt., for the eighth-annual Film Slam sponsored by the Cohase Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 9, 2017. As part of the competition, each of the six teams had to include a jar of pickles in their film, which was written, shot, edited and presented in 48 hours. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Pam, at right, played by Pearl MacLeod, of White River Junction, Vt., reacts as her stepsister Cecelia, played by Omega Haehnel, also of White River Junction, throws Pam's cherished jar of pickles during the filming of "Hearts Ajar" in Hartford Village, Vt., for the eighth-annual Film Slam sponsored by the Cohase Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 9, 2017. Along with five other teams, the best friends and Haehnel's father, Alan Haehnel, wrote, shot, edited and presented their seven-minute film in 48 hours. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Omega Haehnel, of White River Junction, Vt., left, and Pearl MacLeod, also of White River Junction, work on editing their film, "Hearts Ajar," first thing in the morning at Haehnel's parents' home in Hartford Village, Vt., on Sept. 10, 2017. Along with five other teams, the best friends and Haehnel's father, Alan Haehnel, wrote, shot, edited and presented their seven-minute film in 48 hours as part of the eighth-annual Film Slam sponsored by the Cohase Chamber of Commerce. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Cohase Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Erik Volk leans over to get reaction from Film Slam first place winners Omega Haehnel, of White River Junction, Vt., Pearl MacLeod, also of White River Junction, and Alan Haehnel, of Hartford Village, Vt., after six teams presented their seven-minute films as part of the eighth-annual Film Slam sponsored by the chamber in Bradford, Vt., on Sept. 10, 2017. "Hearts Ajar," was also awarded Best Direction and Best Use of Genre awards by the judges. The audience at Sunday's screening also gave it the People's Choice award. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



STORY BY LIZ SAUCHELLI
Saturday, September 16, 2017

Bradford, Vt. — The three members of Team Film Flam agree: One of the biggest challenges they faced during the annual Cohase 48 Hour Film Slam was getting a shot of a single pickle flying through the air.

It was one of many comical scenes that made up Hearts Ajar, which went on to win first place at the eighth annual film slam. The trio — made up of father-and-daughter team Alan and Omega Haehnel and Omega’s best friend, Pearl MacLeod — also earned best direction and best use of genre awards by the judges and were winners of the audience-given people’s choice award.

“It was really fun,” said MacLeod, who was able to participate after her freshman move-in day at Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia was delayed by Hurricane Irma. “It was definitely a good experience and something that would be fun to do again.”

At the start of the festival on a Friday night, each of the seven teams drew a film genre from a bag. Team Film Flam’s selection: melodrama.

The teams had to incorporate into their film the line, “You know, if you keep doing that, you’re going to go blind.” They also had to include a bit of product placement (a Wells River Savings Bank piggy bank cube) along with the Fairlee town beach at Lake Morey and — wait for it — a jar of pickles.

The time limit for each movie: seven minutes.

The 48-hour clock was ticking.

“As we were driving home, we started spitballing ideas around,” MacLeod said. They also stopped at the beach, where they came to a decision. “We really want to get someone in the lake.”

They also had another goal: to make things as funny and entertaining as possible, MacLeod said.

When they arrived back at the Haehnels’ White River Junction home, Alan Haehnel, who teaches English and theater at Hanover High School, worked on the script with input from the others. The plot focuses on the competition between two stepsisters, played by Omega Haehnel and MacLeod. The two best friends then worked on pulling together a “shot list.”

Among the challenges, Alan Haehnel said in an email, was trying to make sure the story was clear to the audience and that they weren’t adding or leaving in “distractions” that they enjoyed but could end up being confusing.

“Oh, and trying to get a good shot of a pickle flying through the air.”

Omega Haehnel, who is pursuing acting opportunities, said the visual elements were her favorite part.

“I am a big fan of getting interesting angles,” she said.

The pickle moment, in particular, took a lot of work. “It was a lot of us tossing this pickle back and forth and seeing what works,” MacLeod said. It is one of the shots she is most proud of. “It serendipitously looked amazing.”

The three also had to deal with dueling personalities, with so much work to do in such a compressed period of time.

“Overall, it was great fun,” Alan Haehnel said about working with his daughter. “I did learn that she and I have different approaches to the work. I did a lot of hovering and worrying and nagging while she did a lot of telling me to calm down, that she and Pearl had things under control, especially during the editing process.”

There’s a great moment at the end of the film (which will not be disclosed here), something that could be done only once.

Forty-eight hours after it began, on a Sunday night, the films were viewed and winners were announced. “It was a surprise,” Omega Haehnel said of Team Film Flam’s win, “but it was awesome.”

“I felt just a strong sense of gratitude that I could celebrate this achievement with my daughter — gratitude that our work paid off and pride in knowing that Omega and Pearl’s talents were recognized,” Alan Haehnel said.

Editor’s note: See Hearts Ajar and others from the Film Slam at www.vnews.com. CATV and WRIF are having a three-week Halloween film slam and registration is open until Oct. 2 at http://catv8.org/halloween-o-thon-2017. Geoff Hansen contributed to this report and can be reached at ghansen@vnews.com or 603-727-3247. Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.



The winning film. Continue reading after the video.
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Click here to watch all six entries in this year's Film Slam, plus a few from 2016.