In the beginning, there is story.
The director cannot yell action, the camera cannot roll, and the actors cannot strut across the stage before pen touches paper and transports viewers into the writer’s brain.
Luckily, Hailey Copeland’s brain contains multitudes of stories just waiting to escape onto the page.
“I’ve always enjoyed writing,” Copeland said. “I have an entire fantasy novel universe planned out in my head, and that’s just one idea I have. I have so many ideas rolling around in my head just waiting to get out.”
One of those stories is making its way from the page to the screen as Copeland, a sophomore, and fellow Buffalo High School students participate in the English department’s annual January Jubilee. The jubilee, which started in mid-January and will continue through mid-March, requires students to study an aspect of fiction for a month and create their own film using those themes. In mid-March, the department will hold an “Oscars” ceremony honoring the top student-crafted films.
This year’s theme focuses on heroes and villains, Copeland said. While that may conjure images of epic battles between Batman and the Joker or Peter Pan and Captain Hook, Copeland said she went for more subtlety with her script this year.
“Last year, I wrote a mystery script, which had a clear villain and hero,” Copeland said. “This year, I wanted to focus on the gray areas in between. Because anybody can be a hero or a villain. And it’s not always clear who is who on first glance.”
Copeland’s script involves a bus crash victim who wakes up disoriented and trying to discover the truth of what happened to her – all while encountering mysterious strangers clothed in red.
While Copeland wants to keep the end of her story under wraps for now, she said it was safe to say that nothing is as it seems as first. Copeland said she was inspired by classic science-fiction stories like “The Matrix” and “Ender’s Game” while working on her script.
“I love books and films that have plot twists that are so good that you have to sit and think about them for a while,” Copeland said. “I love twists that are so good that you ask yourself, ‘How did I not see that coming?’ That’s what I was trying to do with this story.”
Copeland said she wrote her script in about two and a half days. Filming is underway, but her contributions aren’t over just yet.
“I’ve been talking to the camera crew about how certain shots should look and to the actors about how my characters would act in a certain situation,” Copeland said. “It’s a lot of fun to have people ask questions about the universe you created.”
Copeland’s project will premiere during the “Oscars” ceremony on March 18, but she is already thinking of new story ideas and anticipates putting pen to paper again next year.
“I really love January Jubilee because it’s a chance to try something new and to work together with a group of people that you don’t work with very often,” Copeland said. “Even when you have group projects, you usually just work together with your friends. But this is an opportunity to come together with a large group of people, share ideas and create something amazing. It’s a pretty cool experience.”