‘Chalk’ marks teen’s second film


Ladue High School senior Joe Weil is on a fast track to his chosen career as a movie director. On Sunday, Aug. 9, the 17-year-old will screen his second feature-length film, Chalk, at the Tivoli Theatre. He began making short films in middle school at Solomon Schechter Day School. His first feature-length film, Frame By Frame, was shown at the Tivoli Theatre in May 2008.

“Basically, Chalk is set in 1995 and it follows four students — a freshman, sophomore, junior and senior — through one year in high school, from the first day of school through the last day of school,” said Joe, the film’s writer and director. “It focuses on the theme of change, both positive and the negative, and how basically little decisions can affect the outcome of the rest of your life.”

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Musician Josh Friedman of Tritone, who lives in St. Louis, provided the original score for the film.

Joe wrote, directed and edited both Chalk and Frame By Frame. He also has written, directed and edited a number of short films and formed his own movie production company, Psycho Films, a name that reflects his quirky view of the world.

Ethan Heller, the film’s co-producer and publicist, said Chalk is set in 1995, “a year of much teenage angst, emphasized when [the era’s] spokesperson Kurt Cobain, took his own life.”

Both Joe and Ethan, who will be a senior at Marquette High School this fall, are members of the B’nai Amoona Congregation.

“(We) have been working together for a couple of years,” Ethan said. “We were just friends through summer camp, and then he started his film company and I helped him out. We did a short film for the 48 Hour film contest and then this is the second time I worked with him. I was an actor in Chalk and I also was a producer and I did some of the PR work.”

Joe explained he chose the title Chalk to reflect the time period in which the film is set because in 1995, teachers still wrote on chalkboards. “Obviously, now when you go to a typical classroom, teachers are writing on whiteboard but in the ’90s it was still very much a chalky world,” he said. “Also the slogan of the film is: ‘In high school, everything is erasable.’ I don’t think the film is saying whether it is true or not, but is posing the question, ‘Are the decisions you make and the youthful personality and lifestyle you develop, are they erasable, can you change them or do they change you?'”

Joe attended Solomon Schechter along with two members of his production company, Elan Krojanker and Lee Mirowitz. In 2005, the middle school students made a film called The Election after Joe was disqualified from running for student council for what he considered “kind of dumb, shady reasons.” However, the 20-minute mockumentary about his truncated campaign met with success.

“(In the film), it all gets blown out of proportion. I become a war hero and at the end, I get assassinated. Just a jest about the whole situation,” Joe said. “We ended up showing it to the entire school because it is not a huge school. We had the school in my backyard and set up a sheet and got a friend’s Dad to lend us a projector and just screened it. So that is when we got our first taste of premieres.”

Psycho Films includes both high school and college students, some of whom met during the “48 Hour Film Project” challenge, which the team has competed in twice. The international filmmaking competition gives teams two days to make a short film from start to finish. The St. Louis competition is one of the largest in the country. Work on finishing Chalk kept the team from entering this year’s contest.

“St. Louis really has a great filmmaking community, especially with the St. Louis Filmmaker’s Showcase,” Joe said. Chalk was not ready in time for the annual festival of local films held in July and presented by Cinema St. Louis, which also presents the St. Louis International Film Festival. Joe said they may try to enter it next year but are hoping to submit it to other festivals.

“I always was a storyteller,” Joe said in explaining how he got interested in filmmaking. “One of my earliest memories was down in Florida with my cousins when we rented the Robin Williams’ film Jumanji. After we watched the movie, I took all my cousins outside and I made them re-enact the movie.”

Joe has taken summer classes in filmmaking through COCA, worked in TV broadcasting at KDHX and at his high school. He has read numerous books on the filmmaking besides watching films. Among his favorite directors are Stanley Kubrick and Darren Aronofsky. After graduation next year, he plans to study filmmaking at college.


WHAT: Local teen’s second feature film

WHEN: 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 9

WHERE: Tivoli Theatre, 6350 Delmar Boulevard


MORE INFO: Email [email protected] for information on tickets. Visit http://psychofilms.110mb.com for more information on the film. Tickets can also be purchased at the Tivoli box office.