Carmel High School Senior Enjoys Success as Filmmaker
Social distancing in recent months has required many people and businesses to reimagine the way they handle events. For example, the Indy Shorts International Film Festival showcased 128 short films virtually, and the films were streamed 10,000 times. The festival leaders also showed 41 short films in July the old-fashioned way – at a drive-in theater.
Carmel High School incoming senior Raymond Mo was one of the 800-plus filmgoers who trekked to the Tibbs Drive-In Theatre on the west side of Indianapolis for the event, but he was there for a personal reason.
Not only was Mo, 17, the co-writer and co-director of one of the short films shown, but his project also won two awards at the Heartland Film Festival. His six-minute film “Whipped Cream Cake” won the Indiana Spotlight Award, one of four categories specifically for high school students.
His project went on to the next level, and “Whipped Cream Cake,” won the grand prize at the Heartland High School Film Competition Summer White Lynch Memorial Award. Mo competed not only against local and national competition, but also international entries. The Heartland International Film Festival will be held in October.
The memorial award was named for Carmel High School alumnus Summer White Lynch, a strong proponent of random acts of kindness to inspire others to give selflessly. She was married with two young sons when she lost her battle with breast cancer in 2014.
This theme of giving is an underlying element in Mo’s film. The six-minute piece follows a Korean-American teenage girl struggling with the balance of keeping up with school, her friendships, and other hard choices that result when her family’s special event upsets her hard-to-manage schedule. Whipped cream cake is an important element in the overall story and is also a cultural tradition, Mo says.
Mo, who is Chinese-American, developed the idea for the film with his co-director Minju Hong. Hong is from Detroit, Michigan, and is of Korean descent. The pair met in the summer of 2019 during a five-week film theory camp at Northwestern University, just outside of Chicago, Illinois, where Hong is now a freshman.
Mo and Hong decided to work on the project together, which would end up being their award-winning short film.
“As we brainstormed, we considered common traits we could translate into our passion,” Mo says.
Mo says he and Hong saw an opportunity for increased representation of Asian culture in films, and the high expectations the two experience in their culture.
“We poured our hearts into it, writing it, revising with our mentor, and filming and editing in a matter of weeks,” Mo says. “It was an intense process for us, but it worked out for us in the end.”
The lead character, Haejin, is played by fellow film camp attendee Yinuo Jiang, a high school senior.
Mo learned about the awards via email.
“I was shocked, amazed and ecstatic,” he says. “I wish it had happened at a different time, because I didn’t get the in-person opportunity to walk on a stage and thank my parents. My parents were very supportive of me and were also happy that I won. Getting the email was still shocking to me.”
Mo hopes to continue exploring his creative side through photography and videography as he finishes high school. He is involved with the Carmel High School newspaper and DECA club, which helps students become emerging leaders and entrepreneurs.
Regarding the $2,000 prize money, which will be split down the middle with Hong, Mo says he is considering camera equipment as an investment in his future. With college in his sights, he is interested in studying economics, finance or business.
Whether he focuses on the arts or in a business environment, Mo says what interests him overall is documenting society and seeing it through different lenses. It might be economic conditions and how people handle scarcity, or the historic impact of the pandemic shown visually.
Mo says he would like to film or photograph as-yet-untold stories of the coronavirus-related recession, and the different impacts it has had on people.