Budding filmmaker set for debut

DALLAS -- Justen Noll, an aspiring filmmaker and incoming Dallas High School junior, will take a step this weekend most trying to break into the business would envy.He will debut his work in a real movie theater -- Dallas' Fox Theatre -- Saturday and Sunday.Noll made a clever pitch to Jeff Mexico, the owner of the Fox Theatre: in exchange for showing three of his short films this weekend, all the proceeds would go to the theater's digital projector upgrade fundraising project."I'm very thankful that Jeff took my email seriously," Noll, 16, said of Mexico.Far from being dismissive, Mexico welcomed the opportunity to feature local talent on his big screen. Courtesy of Justen Noll Noll (center) films a scene from his film "Hero Unknown" starring actors and former Dallas High students Paul Disney (left) and Jackson Geiger in 2012. "I thought it was a great idea," Mexico said. "We always are trying to support the community and he's a Dallas High School student. I thought it would be great to show off his films. It was a win-win for both of us."The Fox will feature Noll's "Tomorrow is Our Today," "Bloom & Wither" and a new version of "Hero Unknown" at noon on Saturday and Sunday.The subject matter and style of the three films -- which run about 55 minutes combined -- couldn't be more different, spanning drama, romance and documentary genres.The first film to be shown is "Tomorrow is Our Today," a documentary exploring the causes of homelessness and what people can do to help.Noll collaborated with Chris Stofle, the founder of Salem-based nonprofit Street Dream, to produce the film. Stofle launched Street Dream seven months ago, after befriending a homeless man named Lyle.Wanting to help, Stofle, 19, began repairing guitars and gathering art supplies to give to people living on the street.He also began taping interviews with homeless people and eventually showed the video to a representative of Salem's Northwest Human Services. The nonprofit provides low-income people with health care and advocacy services. Stofle was asked to expand the scope of the video and he asked Noll to join the project. "Our No. 1 goal is awareness about homelessness," Stofle said. "It's a bigger problem than people realize."Noll said he learned much about the reality of homelessness while interviewing people for the film."One of the points we emphasize is trying to break the stereotype of homelessness," Noll said. "Homeless people are stereotyped as bad people when sometimes they might just be unlucky.""Hero Unknown," which Noll directed with classmate Nathan Beaton, debuted at DHS last year. It tells the story of a teenager's struggle with grief leading him to commit random acts of kindness. Noll has made significant edits for this weekend's showings, retooling the sound track and improving the look of the film.The other film set to debut Saturday, "Bloom & Wither," follows the story of two romantic relationships, one just beginning and the other falling apart. They are set in different times, 2005 and 2020, and filmed in black and white."It's a postmodern romance," said Noll, who spends most of whatever spare time he has watching movies. "That is the best way to describe it. Most of the film plays as a romance, but it has a postmodern twist at the end, which I don't want to spoil."Mexico said he has been promoting the showings on the Fox's website and Facebook page, hoping to generate interest in Noll's work."I'm hoping he has a good crowd," Mexico said. "If he does, then maybe he will get involved in the film festivals in the area. This will hopefully motivate him to keep pursuing his dream." Check It Out What: Three short films by Dallas resident Justen Noll: "Tomorrow is Our Today," "Bloom & Wither" and "Hero Unknown." Where: Fox Theatre, 166 SE Mill St., Dallas. When: Saturday and Sunday, noon. Admission: $5; all proceeds will go to the Fox's digital projector upgrade. For more information: 503-623-9346.


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