HOUSTON (FOX 26) - From the moment it begins, you can tell it's not your typical student production. The footage looks like a moving Instagram photo. It's evocative and moody. It tells the story of Jamie Chapman, a young man who made the fateful decision to drink and drive. Travis High School senior Marisa Emiliani heard Chapman speak at her middle school one day, and was moved.
"This is a real person," says Emiliani. "He played soccer. He had a bunch of friends and everything. His life has completely changed. Just from that one decision. I think that really hit home to with me." She had the passion to share his story with the world, but lacked the expertise. She approached schoolmate Danish Nelson who agreed to get involved.
"Filmmaking is just," says Nelson, pausing to collect his thoughts. "If you have a vision to do something and you see it and you want to make it happen. you want to do it right."
Armed with a consumer grade camera, some desktop editing software, talent and passion to spare, they made the documentary called simply "Jamie." In it, Chapman and his mother tell the story of how he wrecked his car and suffered brain trauma. They both speak candidly about how it affected their lives. It is heart wrenching to watch.
Audiovisual teacher Vince Beck says he advised them on the project but the work was all theirs.
"This is unparalleled," says Beck. "This is really exceptional work. Gifted I would say. It's humbling to be around it, honestly."
It was one of eight works chosen in the Texas Thesbian Competition to advance to the nationals. They've entered it in a bunch of competitions and are waiting to hear back. It's picked up thousands and thousands of views along the way.
Emiliani and Nelson want it to have an effect on others, but it's changed them too.
"Not only will I never make that choice, but I'll make sure people around me don't have the opportunity to do that." says Emiliani.
"Jamie really is the biggest thing about this," adds Nelson. "This whole thing, his story, his life. it really touches anyone who sees this."
Like seasoned professional movie makers, they know how to leave the viewer with one last emotional punch. They close with Jamie urging people, "Don't be like me."