“There’s no playbook for this’: Smyrna High students embark on year-long filmmaking process

December 4, 2023

Rutherford County Schools


When Kyle Dietz had sophomores in his Audio Visual Production II class at Smyrna High recreate well-known scenes from movies last year, he was admittedly impressed.

“I was blown away by what they did. I thought ‘If they could do that, what else can they do,’” Dietz said. “I came up with the concept of them doing a movie, so I pitched it to our principal and she was fully on board. So my whole summer was spent planning for it.”

When school resumed in August, students in the third-year class were divided into groups and asked to come up with a plot to pitch.

“The depth of what they came up with was just something else. Sometimes, it’s really simple concepts that leave a big impression. At the end of the day, we all wanted something relatable and real,” Dietz said.

The movie is titled “The Strings Attached” and explores high school life, the anxieties and friendships that come along with it. Filming is expected to wrap in March with an April 25 premiere scheduled at Smyrna Malco Cinema just off Sam Ridley Parkway.

“It’s like taking pieces of ourselves and creating a story. We’ve been taking our time to thoroughly create something that resonates with us, something that we feel a connection with,” said junior Alan Mata, who is co-directing alongside Jayden Jones.

“It’s been an educational process for everyone and I don’t think there’s another film out there like this or anything like it on TV,” Mata added.

Scenes are filmed as the script is written. Filming has taken place at a coffee shop, LifePoint Church and a barn owned by the family of a Smyrna High teacher. Other SHS students round out the cast and crew, including those from drama, music and visual arts programs.

“The only parameter I gave them was that it needed to be based around a high school, so everything falls under dress code and school rules,” Dietz said. “There’s no playbook for this. I’ve worked film and TV in different roles, but I’ve never led a production, so we’re learning this process together.”

Kailey Cooper, second assistant director for the film, said a highlight of the process for her has been costuming and scripts.

“This is the first time I’ve ever thought about doing this. I didn’t think anything like this was possible until Mr. Dietz said so,” she said.

“Our teacher really hypes us up,” Mata added.

When the lights come up in the theater on premiere night, Cooper said she hopes the crowd feels satisfied.

“I want them to be able to connect with some of the characters,” she said.

Mata hopes the crowd gains a better understanding of what it’s like to be a teen today,

“Our main purpose is to shine a light on what us as teenagers go through, how we feel and act and the reasoning behind our actions and the purpose for our emotions,” he said.

To stay updated on the progress of the film, visit @stringsmovie_24 on Twitter.