MILLBURN, NJ - In the competitive and stressful first semester of Senior year when college applications are sent out and decisions are anticipated, an underlying fear is shared between each applicant: “What if I don’t get into college?”.
Millburn High School Seniors Miriam Harrow and Ariel Riseman assembled to co-create a film commenting on the issue.
“It’s everyone’s worst nightmare” said Riseman, who directed the film. “We wanted to make a movie about what would happen if everything went wrong, and how everyone would react.”
The film, entitled Unexpected Gap Year, is a coming of age film about a girl (Harrow) and the unanticipated path she takes after being rejected from each of the schools she applied to. Harrow’s character struggles with the fact that she is seemingly the only one who will not be attending college, something that has become a foregone conclusion for nearly every MHS student. However, Riseman believes that not everyone must take the same path of higher education.
“A lot of people have a very specific idea of how the process should be” she said. “First you go to high school. Then college. Not everyone has the opportunity to go to college. So it’s just important to see other things you could do besides going to college if that’s not a possibility. A gap year could be a good thing.”
Though neither Harrow nor Riseman can personally relate to the struggling character, they do understand the agony of uncertainty.
“We actually filmed the first few scenes before I heard back from my early decision school, so I was genuinely very stressed having to play this fictitious part when it was not an unrealistic possibility for my life” Harrow said.
Riseman is not new to the klieg lights or the red carpet. Just last year, she accepted into the South Orange Maplewood Film Fest for her inspirational documentary known as Heba’s Story, which told the story of a Syrian refugee and her family’s frightening escape from the war. However, Riseman ran into some welcomed challenges this time around.
“I had never directed actors before” Riseman said. It was new to start with a script and finish with a full film. But I really enjoyed it.”
This cinematic transition for Riseman was probably made easier by her stars of the screen. Alongside Harrow is fellow Senior and real-life friend Emily Fried, who plays Harrow’s ignorant best friend in the film. Neither of the two are actors by trade.
“I feel like Miriam and Emily had that chemistry. I didn't’t think acting experience was as important because if they had real chemistry it would come off as more realistic.”
Riseman and Harrow’s work can be viewed at the Millburn Bow Tie Cinema on Thursday, April 26 for the encore presentation.