Photo by Jackson Stack ’25
By Jack Kyle ’24
“Be resilient.” It’s not something that most people would attribute to art, but those were the words Wilson Bryant ’24 kept in the back of his mind after his films were rejected from the High School All American Festival year after year. But now, his hard work has finally come to fruition.
Bryant’s short film, “¡Que Viva El Salvador!” was nominated for the festival’s 2023 Adventure/Travel category and will be screened during the awards ceremony in New York City on Oct. 21.
The film, which captures the first part of the summer immersion trip that Bryant and 18 other students and staff members took to El Salvador, is one of a three-part series. But because of the strict time regulations that the festival places on its entries, Bryant said that he was only able to submit the first section of footage.
“That first part was about our time in Morazón, which is in northern El Salvador,” said Bryant. “We know about oppression, we read about where it happens in our classes. But, going to these places in El Salvador, we’re actually going to see it.”
Bryant originally only planned to film the trip in order to capture the experience, but once he realized how impactful it was, he decided to go further.
“I had no intention of submitting it to a film festival,” said Bryant. “I just wanted to capture the experience because I knew it would be one that I would remember and that the people that I went with would remember.”
The objective of Adventure/Travel films is to record as much of the experience as possible. “But the hard part is still being part of the experience without being limited to the camera lens,” said Bryant.
One of the most distinctive parts of Bryant’s films are the music that he chooses to play behind the footage. He said that this is one of the best ways that he can convey emotion through his work.
“So, with each song in my films, there’s a certain feeling that I’m trying to go for,” Bryant said. “Because, one of the things I’ve found, you can get away with having bad visuals, as long as the sound is up to par. So I try to capture that with each song.”
Bryant has also created short films about another immersion trip to the Navajo reservation, school dances and events, as well as the Black Student Union and their activities.
“Every time I make something, it’s a new challenge, and I try to do something different every time,” said Bryant. “I try to use a different element of film that I’ve seen in major movies or even music videos and trends just to add something new to just build off of the last topic and get better.”
“¡Que Viva El Salvador!” is inspired heavily by Tyler the Creator’s music video for his song “Things I Love,” most specifically the way it combines commentary with the music and visuals of the song.
“I wanted to borrow from that because if it was in the film, if it was just scenery with no commentary, I felt as though people would be lost,” said Bryant. “And I try to borrow with almost everything I make.”
This year is not the first that Bryant has tried to enter this contest. He submitted one film his freshman year and two his sophomore year, but none of his work was nominated. But that refusal only drove him to continue creating films.
“As artists, we will hear no more times than we hear yes,” said Bryant. “But, if you just stay persistent and you still have the desire to learn and to get better, then I promise that you will eventually hear yes.”
Bryant said that he hopes to continue filmmaking outside of high school and is currently working on branching out into narrative films. He plans on creating two more films by the end of this year, both of which will be released on his YouTube channel.