All-female team of teen filmmakers hits the festival circuit with horror short ‘Retribution’


Artwork for 'Retribution'

by Alaina Tennant

In Fall 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, 17-year-old Evelyn Smits and 13-year-old Camila Figueroa teamed up to write, cast, direct and shoot a short film. The Northeast Ohio girls initially set out to make a one-minute video based on the concept of “hearing the end of the world.” In the end, they produced a 15-minute horror film involving nearly 50 people, including a diverse cast and crew made up of young women.  


Retribution follows the story of a teenage girl who hears a humming while with her friends. That humming turns out to be the preamble to Doomsday. The story builds as the event affects the girl's friends and soon everyone she comes into contact with.

After spending three days developing and writing the script, the team used video reels to cast through NEohioPAL, the Northeast Ohio Performing Arts List. 

 

From left, filmmakers Mia Thomas and Evelyn Smits
set up a shot.

“Because of COVID, we had to do everything a little differently,” says Smits, the film’s director and co-writer. Masks were worn by everyone who wasn’t on camera and social distancing was practiced. “It’s very hard when there’s only one camera, and everyone wants to be around it,” says Smits.

After completing the film and screening for family and friends, the two filmmakers looked into thousands of short film festivals and submitted to six. As of now, three have accepted the film. However, there’s the knowledge that the pandemic will affect the festivals as well. Most in-person gatherings have been canceled or limited. 

 

Figueroa states, “I feel like that would be an amazing experience, getting to say ‘Hey everyone, we got into this festival, and we’ve got some tickets to go over there, come join us!’ But that can’t happen this year.”


Working on a scene, from left, Eveln Smits and Camila Figueroa

Both filmmakers have worked on projects, both acting and creating, with the
Young Filmmakers Academy in Lakewood, Ohio, run by Camila’s parents. This year, Smits will join the company as a trainer, helping new kids learn about the film industry. Over a two-week period, those students will make their own short film together. 

As for the future, the team has a new short film in the works. Figueroa intends to continue working with the Young Filmmakers Academy, and Evelyn is working towards an education in film. 


Because of festival rules dates for the release of Retribution, the team is looking to share the story with the world as soon as possible through YouTube and other social platforms. Until then, you can follow them on the film’s Facebook page, @retributionmovielyfa.

 

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Contributing reporter Alaina Tennant, 15, is a freshman at Firestone CLC. An actor for more than eight years, Alaina starred in Weathervane Playhouse’s The Diary of Anne Frank and Orrville Community Theatre’s The Crucible. She produces short films with friends, winning first-place in her age group and category in Cleveland’s KidsFilmIt Festival. Alaina enjoys reading, writing and history, and is studying to be a screenwriter or playwright

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