Twelve-year-old Carolann Plank has had a busy year. She published her book, As Far As You Know, in March and spent the whole summer turning it into a full-length film.
Carolann re-wrote her 245-page book into a movie script. As Far As You Know is a love triangle between three teenagers. The lead character is 15-year-old Selena Coleman who is forced to raise her younger sister after their parents abandon them. There is a hint of dark secrets that threaten Serena's new-found relationship.
The film features a cast of local area teens playing the main characters. Carolann directed the film, worked as its make-up director and acted in several extra roles. The entire movie was filmed by 14-year-old Collin Coon of Brighton on his Canon DSLR camera. The two are taking turns editing the film, which will turn out to be about 80 minutes long.
Carolann will enter the finished product into the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah next month. Filmmakers of all ages can enter, but there are not any separate categories or programs specifically related to young or student filmmakers. All submitted films will compete against each other for available slots in each program. About 110 feature films and 70 short films are selected to play in festival programs each year.
"I thought it would be a fun activity that would promote the book and help inspire people," she said. "I liked acting best. But I do enjoy killing people - make-up wise."
The movie was filmed almost every day during the past three months on a budget of $300, that Carolann said she had saved for the purpose.
A majority of the movie was filmed in Huron Meadows Metropark. Other filming locations included the Brighton Education Community Center, cast members houses as well as the homes of random people.
Carolann's mom, Brenda Plank, said she randomly knocked on people's doors and they were very receptive.
"This whole experience for me has given me faith in humankind," Plank said. "Everybody was very accommodating through the whole process. And the parents were phenomenal, driving their kids back and forth."
Kaira Mercer, 13, of Brighton dyed and straightened her curly blond hair to play the main role of Serena Coleman.
Kaira said she has previously acted in plays, but this was her first time in a film role.
"I read the book and the character was really cool - she's very strong," she said. "She does things that sometimes I don't understand, so she's unexpected. I just thought it would be an interesting role to play."
Kaira admitted it took 27 takes for her to finish a kissing scene with 13-year-old Nick Good from Fowlerville, who plays Serena's best friend Liam. She said she also had problems keeping a straight face while filming with Dawson Zanger, 13, who plays Serena's love interest Ash Parker. The three form sort of a love-triangle in the story.
"Dawson knows which side they're filming on, so when I'm filming he'll be making silly faces at me while I'm trying to be serious and do my lines," she said.
Morgan Perry, 12, played the role of Serena's younger sister.
The were a limited number of adult roles which included a teacher, doctor, a police officer who was played by a real Hamburg Township officer while she was off-duty and Serena's father, who was played by J. Gabriel Gates, author of The Tracks Book Series Dark Territory and Ghost Crown.
Gates, a Michigan native, agreed to play the role when approached by Carolann and her mom at the Green Oak Village Place Barnes & Noble during a book signing.
"I didn't see too much filming - I didn't want it to be a parent overseen project," Brenda Plank said. "But every time I looked over, I saw them all burst out laughing after scenes. I think a lot of lasting friendships have been formed."
Plank said she plans to wait and see if her film will be accepted into the prestigious film festival, then sell copies of the DVD to accompany the book.