By Kate Bunster
NISKAYUNA — In the filmmaking industry, notoriety doesn’t come easily — or quickly.
This wasn’t the case for Larissa Vassolas, a Niskayuna High School student who recently placed as a finalist at the 15 Minutes Max Student Film Festival with her short “After Image.” She was the only independent high school filmmaker who was chosen as a finalist.
“It made me feel very proud,” said Vassolas. She made the video in her Studio and Video 1 class at Niskayuna, under the direction of Stephen Honicki, media arts educator at Niskayuna.
The film is a psychological thriller, focused around a young girl, played by Vassolas, who is suffering from schizophrenia. While seeking treatment for her perceived hallucinations, she keeps hearing voices and thinks she is being followed by another girl.
In the opening scene, Vassolas is sitting down talking to a psychologist and tells him of the hallucinations. His solution to her concerns is to “up her medication by 40 milligrams.”
She grudgingly takes the pills and goes home.
At the end of the film, the audience finds out that she was actually the hallucination.
“I love a good twist,” said Vassolas.
Her film was chosen out of about 100 submissions to the contest and screened Oct. 2 at the Madison Theater in Albany.
Larissa has been overwhelmed by the support she has received from her peers, especially her family members and teachers.
“After receiving notification that Larissa’s short film, ‘After Image,’ was the only film from my filmmaking classes to be accepted in the 15 Min Max Film Festival brought on a feeling of wonderment,” said Honicki. “Larissa’s passion for the art form as well as being a visual storyteller continues to grow as she begins to produce films this school year.”
The young filmmaker wanted the audience to walk away with the realization that reality is not always what you think it is. One of the smaller themes is mental illness, she said.
“By incorporating that into my film, it forces people to look at someone who is living with a mental illness and see and understand their situation.”
Vassolas, now in her junior year at Niskayuna High, is taking an advanced video class.
“I’m not sure if film will be in my future one way or the other. But it’s definitely something I love to do.”
A creative “right brained” thinker, Vassolas participates in Niskayuna High School’s honors and jazz choirs, which is something she is considering as a career as well. She has grown to love choral music since coming to Niskayuna. “It was the first time I experienced professionalism in a choir.” Vassolas’ singing classes are the highlight of her day. She also plays guitar.
She lives at home with her parents, George and Gloria, and has an older brother, Mike.