Upper School Filmmaker James W. ’25 Receives Film Festival Love for “Love on Hope Street”

November 8, 2023

Congratulations to James W. ’25 (pictured left), whose short film, “Love on Hope St.,” won for Best Original Score at the 2023 All-American High School Film Festival (AAHSFF)! In addition to James, who wrote, produced, and directed the short film, there were several other Wheeler connections to the project. “I’ve been at Wheeler for 14 years now and have realized that Wheeler has so many great resources that are what you can make of them,” James shares. “When [Performing Arts Teacher] Mr. [Colin] Nagle [’07] mentioned that he had scored movies in college, the gears started turning and I knew I wanted to work with him on something. I’ve also started an Aerie independent study for filmmaking with Kuba Soltysiak [who is based in California]. We meet over Zoom three times a week and pitch each other ideas, like how a writers’ room would. Through Kuba’s class I wrote the script for the film, and he was great with giving me notes and helping me fully realize the idea. The film has many moving parts, and I knew I would need another set of hands to help, so I asked Izzy R. [’25] to help me co-produce the film. She is great at helping me talk through ideas and giving me a needed reality check when scheduling gets tight. [Music and Drama] Teacher Nicole Jennings [’99, P’28] helped me cast the younger role in the film with Alec C. [’29], who is a super-talented young actor and really helped us to figure out how to open and close the film. And finally, the main character’s role went to recent alum Myles J. ’23 (pictured far right), who has been a pleasure to work with. We rehearsed many times over Zoom and in person, and Myles has a real level-headedness that the character needed. He was keen to collaborate, and his performance holds the movie together.”

James describes “Love on Hope St.” as a romantic comedy that follows a couple’s date night that takes them on a tour of Providence. “It feels like an older-era Hollywood,” he says. “I really love the movie ‘Singin’ in the Rain.’ My grandmother showed it to me at a really young age and I feel like it has become ingrained very deeply in me. The older Hollywood movies that came out of the studio system where everything was shot on California backlots with theatrical scores has always interested me, and it was definitely a key inspiration to the film’s cinematography and feel.”

James’ film was one of only 40 AAHSFF nominees from over 3,000 submissions. He received the award for Best Original Score from award-winning documentary filmmaker and AAHSFF founder Andrew Jenks at the festival last month in New York City.

“The AAHSFF experience is like no other,” James says. “The chance to have my movie shown on the big screen at the AMC Empire 25 theater in Times Square was spectacular. My film played in the same theater, on the same weekend, as Martin Scorsese’s latest film, which I can’t say many directors ever get the chance to do. That said, movies are subjective to taste, and awards definitely don’t define the success of a film, but it does feel nice to get some recognition for the eight-plus years of writing, directing, and studying great movies. There were tons of talented filmmakers at the festival, and it was an honor to even be in the same room as them. The All-American High School Film Festival is the greatest resource to young filmmakers like myself, and I can’t recommend it enough.”

James says he has spent much of his free time throughout childhood watching movies and studying his favorite directors. “I am learning something new every day and am really passionate about it. My favorite part of filmmaking is how personal you can make your films. I keep a long list of jokes and ideas to try to work into my movies. I pick up things from conversations I’ve had, things I hear other people say, or lines from other movies I like, and I’m always trying to find a way to incorporate them into my work.”

James says he is grateful to have discovered his passion for filmmaking at such a young age, and just as grateful to his family for supporting it. “I owe much of my success as a filmmaker to their relentless love, support, and respect for my passion,” he says. “I would also like to shout out the Aerie [Wheeler’s Enrichment] Program for helping me facilitate my ideas into a major credited course. It really is the best thing The Wheeler School offers, and I just wish that it didn’t take me so long to take advantage of it. Whatever interests kids at Wheeler have, there is a place for it in Aerie, and [Aerie Director] Mr. [Mark] Harris [P’08, P’24], and [Aerie Program Coordinator] Mr. [Trevor] O’Driscoll [P’27, P’29] are superheroes for helping our community become more deeply skilled and interested learners!”

Congratulations again to James – we hope you enjoy the trailer to his award-winning film and these images from the festival.

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