Worscheh addresses school stress in ISP film

Iris Chen, Staff Writer

Junior Sophie Worscheh wants people to talk about stress.

That is why she directed and produced a “mockumentary” about academic pressure for her semester-long Independent Study Project (ISP). The film, titled “OD on the SAT,” will premiere May 2 at the Black Box during lunch.

“Student stress isn’t new. We all know that it’s happening,” Worscheh said. “I needed something new to talk about. I needed an argument to make.”

Worscheh’s inspiration came from a family friend who, during the second semester of her sophomore year, worked on a project at UT Austin about student stress and mental health.

“With everything going on at St. John’s based around students’ mental health, I knew I wanted to do something about it,” Worscheh said. “All people will ever tell you is, ‘do something about what you’re passionate about, what you know’.”

Worscheh began working on her ISP in December, when she started choosing actors and writing the script with her faculty sponsor, English teacher David Nathan.

“Sophie wants to encourage discussion about coping with school pressure, and this is a much more creative way to accomplish that goal,” Nathan said.

With everything going on at St. John’s based around students’ mental health, I knew I wanted to do something about it.

Although Worscheh chose to maintain a veil of secrecy over her film, she did reveal that it stars John Ballard and features Matthew Brown as his best friend. Many other seniors also play supporting roles. Worscheh and her team filmed about three times a week before school, during lunch, or after school. Her scenes are shot at both school and Ballard’s home.

“Because it’s second semester, I wanted to use seniors because they’ve got less going on. I called up everyone in my contacts to ask them to help, but I didn’t want to be obnoxious,” Worscheh said. “As a junior, I knew it would be unreasonable to ask my friends to devote a lot of time, but everyone’s been super supportive.”

ISP’s allow students to explore their passion with more flexibility and depth than that of  a conventional academic course. This is Worscheh’s first year completing an ISP in Upper School, but she completed one in eighth grade as well. She has also filmed a short video at a summer camp in the U.K., completed a 48 hour video project as a freshman assistant director working with seniors, and shot a promotional documentary for the Houston Zoo.

“Practice makes perfect. As I have been watching more films, I have been really pushing myself and asking myself how I could make this film as great as I possibly can,” Worscheh said. “Being able to work with actors and camera shots and just go through the entire process, has been amazing and beneficial.”

Worscheh is applying to film schools and planning to pursue a major in film production, specifically in pre-production as a director, assistant director, or producer. Her passion stems from her middle school “YouTube obsession.” The summer after eighth grade, she attended a Vidcon conference in Anaheim, California, to meet YouTubers.

“I would see all of these people on YouTube make amazing things, and as I was watching, I was thinking, ‘if they can do that, imagine what I can do’,” Worscheh said. “They were truly my inspiration to do this.”

Worscheh finds inspiration from filmmakers such as Ben Affleck, Kathryn Bigelow and Steven Spielberg.

“There are directors that I really love, but I don’t want to be the next Wes Anderson. I want to be my own person. I want to make films that are original; I don’t want to just copy something,” Worscheh said. “That’s why my favorite film is Men in Black. It is simplistic but unique and the first of its kind.”

She is not planning to complete another ISP next year, but encourages all students to consider taking one if they are up for the challenge.

“It’s a major time commitment but it’s worth it,” Worscheh said. “There are so many possibilities, whether it’s in arts, sciences, or something else entirely.”