When the Sundance Film Festival begins Thursday, Harvard’s artistic talent will be well represented. “Beast Beast,” starring Shirley Chen ’22, and “Some Kind of Heaven,” directed by Lance Oppenheim ’19, will premiere in NEXT, the category for young filmmakers. In interviews, Chen, a history and literature concentrator, and Oppenheim recounted the paths they took toward filmmaking.
Chen’s journey began when she landed role of Krista in the short film of the same name in 2017. The story of a teenage girl who experiences harassment and uses theater to express emotions she doesn’t know how to process, “Krista” had such a small budget that the cinematographer used a skateboard as a dolly for action shots. Chen, then a junior at a public arts high school in Los Angeles, had to leave the South by Southwest premiere early to get back for classes, and missed collecting the winning prize for best acting in a narrative short.
“I had been excited to visit Texas for the first time, and I knew ‘Krista’ was a pitch for a larger feature, but I thought, ‘Maybe they’ll replace me,’” Chen recalled.
Instead, Alec Baldwin signed on to executive produce, and Chen became the lead in the feature-length “Beast Beast” about three teens growing up and facing tragedy.