South alumni direct original feature film

Sharon Kim, staff reporter

Smoke in the Air, a feature film directed and produced by NYU student and former South student Connor Smith, was filmed in Glenview in August of 2013. With the help of longtime friend Dan Chmielinski, current Juilliard student and former South student who composed the music, the alumni film was recently completed just a few weeks ago.

According to Smith, the film, written by Smith’s roommate Maxwell Klausner, is a heartfelt comedy that centers around four suburban teenagers who discover themselves in their last summer together before going off to college.

None of the filming took place in South itself, but the TV room, stage, and equipment were utilized after getting permission from Rich Winship, stage crew director, according to Smith.

“[Smith] just asked me ‘Can I use this space?’,” Winship said. “I have such confidence and trust him in that I said, ‘Sure.’”

According to Winship, South alumni are always welcome back to pursue projects.

“[Returning alumni students are] fantastic. If we can help anybody who was a student here we’d do it within reason.”

Auditions for the four roles (Jenn, Nate, Margo, and Craig) took place in both New York, where Smith and Chmielinski attend college, and Chicago. Over the course of the two weeks, the cast got very close, according to Smith.

“[The actors] were all great,” Smith said. “It was crazy shooting a feature in two weeks so we were all living together and working together every day so we got to be really close.”

Because of the time crunch of two weeks, Chmielinski claims that filming was not easy.

“I would say time was definitely a difficulty,” Chmielinski said. “The schedule was literally ridiculously early hours in the morning and very late hours of the evening.”

Other than the lack of time, Smith remembers the problems they faced due to the weather.

“I remember one time we were shooting an outdoor scene,” Smith said. “It was one of our big scenes but it started to rain. We got shut down for a whole afternoon.”

Despite the complications, Chmielinski claims that Smoke in the Air had been a great experience that inspired him even more to pursue music composition.

Chmielinski chose to work with Smith because the two have been friends since kindergarten at OLPH, and later on as students at South, according to Smith.

“Dan was very involved in music at South and I was very involved in like TV and theatre,” Smith said. “We would kind of just run into each other because Dan was in like every music event… and I was often doing sound and working for stage crew.”

According to Winship, Smith was a leader in stage crew.

“He kind of lived here for four years,” Winship said. “He had a locker back here so we just spent so much time together building sets and working on shows together.”

Both Chmielinski and Smith claim that South had impacted their career choice.

“South definitely had a big impact on me wanting to go into music as a career…I definitely was able to develop my musical interest and musical style,” Chmielinski said.

According to Smith, he wrapped up Smoke in the Air and is now preparing to enter it into film festivals. He claims that it may be available to a wider audience soon.