Photo by Danny Fulgencio

By Katie Pohlman

Hockaday senior Alexa May is only 18, but her films have already been screened at six festivals. 

The storyteller has produced 20 short films of various genres — a few earning her awards.

“What’s amazing is that you are creating something from nothing that has the power to change someone else’s life,” May says. “Isn’t that what storytelling is all about?”

Glenys Quick, who teaches May advanced film at The Hockaday School says May’s screenplays and cinematography combine to make her work unique. 

“It is (May’s) insight into character and small domestic dramas that makes her films different,” Quick says. “She also is able to write profound but believable dialogue.”

May has been a storyteller since childhood. She wrote novels on her family computer and filled notebooks with stories. She searched baby name lists to find the perfect character names and directed short skits using her stuffed animals as actors. 

In sixth grade May discovered video. Then, she dove in: binge-watching camera tutorials, teaching herself how to format screenplays and recruiting friends to perform in various projects. 

“I remember it feeling so surreal watching my once 2D stories come to life on screen,” May says. “I caught the filmmaking bug.” 

Since July 2015, May has created narratives, documentaries, experimental films and a musical. Her worked has been screened at six festivals, including the All American High School Film Festival and the Newark International Youth Film Festival. 

Her 2017 short “Phonies,” which stars her grandmother and looks at the effects of technology on society, received “Best Documentary” at the Texas-wide Pegasus Film Festival and “Best Experimental” at the national Elkhorn Valley BEA D7 Film and Media Conference. 

“I would write stories and make films even if screenings and awards weren’t available,” she says. “It’s that feeling of creating something of your own with hopes that in some shape or form you touch or inspire others. That’s the ultimate goal.”

May says the process of writing, directing and editing her projects differs from project to project. She spent five months writing her 2018 film “All Grown Up,” which follows a girl named Lola as she realizes the responsibilities and consequences of growing up. After casting the film, May and crew spent 15 hours shooting in multiple locations. Editing the 13-minute video took two months. Another 2018 film, “When He Came Home,” about how a woman changes during a divorce, required two days of filming and a month of editing. 

Directing is the most challenging for May. She’s still learning how to work with different actors and manage a large production crew. “In the end, after tiring, restless, beautiful work, it (is) all worth it,” she says, “and I take so much from the experience.” 

Phonies from Hockaday Film Studio on Vimeo.

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