“Connections” by Annandale High School can be viewed at https://youtu.be/dCU24XVaZwQ
McLean High School
The only thing that should be spreading in times of COVID is news of Annandale High School’s “Connections.”
Written and performed by students Hunter Duggan, Kayla Osipchak, Clara Billows, Mariam Sesay, Isaac Nebyu, Haleluya Worku, Hang Minh Nguyen, Nhi Nguyen, and Sammar Saini, “Connections” depicted very real, individual decisions which had domino effects. Originally about the chronicles of a dollar bill, the students decided that raising awareness for wearing masks can share an important message that the world needs. The short film follows a sequence of maskless people and how their interactions with each other and their environment contributed to the spread of the virus.
These talented students took on both the roles of writers and actors, and assembled to create a compelling power-ensemble that radiated on-screen. Their ability to effortlessly present today’s teens during the COVID-19 pandemic created yet another reminder that teenagers can be affected by the virus. Although the film portrays its actors without masks, they made sure to protect themselves off screen by taking many safety precautions while demonstrating on screen the dangers of not wearing one.
Despite COVID and the resulting filming constraints, the students explored more than one format to portray their film. In the instant each character became sick, they were all put on the same screen. This choice made the scene a memorable, powerful moment as each person’s coughing became increasingly intense. Another impactful choice was putting government officials' and news anchors' voices over a reverse effect at the very end. This simultaneously reversed the decision of not wearing a mask and described the United States’ and the world’s status of the virus, an inventive idea thought up by Han Le. The many ways the students illustrated the spread of the virus was creative, yet subtle; from petting a dog to touching an apple, this form of showing, not telling, revealed the severity that was hidden within these subtleties.
“Connections” did not only appear in the title; the scriptwriting masterfully tied the characters together, highlighting each individual’s relationships and interactions with minimized dialogue. This simple yet effective approach delivered an authentic feel as to what it’s like in a teenager’s everyday life. Along with the writing, the storyline was constructed seamlessly with stable camera shots and angles, an important contributor to continuity. Cuts and zooms were precise and specific, always adding to the story through subtle hints or passing of time. As the story moved along, it is worth mentioning that the camera’s movement matched the pacing of the actors, giving the film a fascinating, documentary-style feel. Audio issues were not a concern in this film, despite its infamous presence in video communication platforms. Whether recording took place indoors or outdoors, the audio was notable in its clear and consistent execution.
In a year in which we have seen more people as pixels than in real life and a novel virus that’s lurking in seemingly every corner of the world, Annandale High School’s “Connections” has certainly lived up to its name. It has prompted us to remember to take care of ourselves and others around us as we persevere through a modern-day dystopia.
St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School
Annandale High School’s original production of Connections did a wonderful job of mirroring the current climate of today’s world. With so much of our lives being taken over by COVID-19, the students of Annandale High School drew inspiration and decided to write and direct their own video production.
The video opens with Hunter Duggan scrolling through Tiktok, something that I am sure many teenagers can relate to. Audiences watch as they choose not to wear a mask and set off a chain of contact and exposure to many of the different characters portrayed by Kayla Osipchak, Clara Billows, Mariam Sesay, Isaac Nebyu, Haleluya Worku, Hang Minh Nguyen, Nhi Nguyen, and Sammar Saini. As the video starts to come to a close, the audience watches as the effects of all the poor decisions in the video culminate in a COVID outbreak. Through the form of a PSA, Annandale manages to show the effects of thoughtlessness on younger generations.
Throughout the video, the normalcy of routine made the actions of all the characters seem almost normal or harmless, like being transported back before COVID-19 in time. However, with the reality of today, the lack of masks and constant touching created a sort of subtle uneasiness. The choice to have minimal dialogue really allowed viewers to take in the actions of the characters. Whether it was Isaac Nebyu simply buying Starbucks or Haleluya Worku doing her part to be a good citizen as she picked up trash, the message was clear. COVID-19 has changed the way our world works and being mindful of that and doing the best to be conscious of our actions is important. As the chain ends, the screen goes black and one after the other, the characters pop up coughing. This is the moment everything clicks. The choice to use clips of news broadcasts, interviews, and even President Trump was altogether very powerful and compelling. The news brings us new information and opinions every day, and Connections really brought the feeling of being overwhelmed to the limelight. The sounds increase and overlap as the web of interactions is rewound. It takes audiences back to the initial moment where Duggan disregarded their mask. However, this time, they made the right choice. Their mask was a bright red color, which showed audiences that this one decision could keep countless other people healthy.
The world is a scary place right now, and teenagers are trying to navigate how to live a normal life while keeping their loved ones safe. Annandale High School’s ability to write and film a well-thought-out PSA, as well as open up a meaningful conversation, was impressive. Even with safety risks being a huge concern, this cast and crew made sure to wear masks, sanitize, and social distance. We are all tired of this pandemic, and it has affected many people in different ways. What is important is one deals with one's own pain and frustration. This film by Annandale High School’s cast and crew was commendable.