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Hollywood Heart Helps Teens Take the Spotlight

Students gain hands-on industry insight at workshop, produce pics to preem at red-carpet screening

A Boeing 747 crash-lands on a deserted island. The survivors who stumble out of the wreckage are bleary-eyed and disoriented. Many are badly injured. They band together to search for a way back to civilization.

Sound familiar? Well, this “Lost” weekend was actually an exercise. And the “survivors” were at-risk teens and chronically ill young adults participating in a workshop held by the nonprofit org Hollywood Heart, which teamed up with electronics maker Rohde & Schwarz DVS to teach the ins and outs of filmmaking, courtesy of those inside the biz, helping them to create their own short films.

The workshop, titled Shooting Stars, was held last month, and the shorts will be screened June 6 in red-carpet, Hollywood fashion at the Technicolor Burbank Theater, where the youngsters’ accomplishments will be celebrated.

Kara Mondino, Hollywood Heart’s exec director, noted that the volunteers, such as f/x makeup maven Jill Galsterer and scribe David Aslan, played key roles in the two-day extravaganza. “They really shined,” Mondino said. “Everyone was smiling from ear to ear, and the kids really felt like the stars of the show.”

The first day of the workshop featured a seemingly endless barrage of biz-related activities. The 17 youngsters from across Los Angeles who participated, rotated through workshops on commercials, editing, art, screenwriting, makeup and stunt work, including a lesson from stuntwoman America Young, an improv session with the Groundlings’ Mike Truesdale and some hands-on training with “Glee’s” Will Pellegrini.

“Each of us who are in the business has some sort of relationship, whether it’s with a crew member or a showrunner or another actor,” said Kristina Apgar, a working thesp who volunteered her time in the wardrobe department. At the same time, the teens were balancing shooting sessions, as Joe Russell, the acting workshop helmer, penned six two- to three-page scripts for multiple groups of youngsters. In conjunction with the other workshops, the result, from time to time, would lead to zombies dancing and singing to “Glee” tunes.

“I hope they gained confidence and a trust in their own abilities,” Russell said.

On the workshop’s second day, attendees wrapped their sketches with Russell and cycled through additional sessions. Samir Gawad, a 16-year-old confined to a wheelchair, was intent on networking. He also went all-out as an actor in a solo scene in which a demonic possession occurs. In the sketch, Gawad transforms from human to ungodly creature, thanks to the makeup magic of Galsterer. It was, by all accounts, terrifying — but Gawad is all about horror and scaring people.

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