News Column

New Oxford grad writes, stars in original mini-series

August 21, 2013

YellowBrix

Aug. 21--Maybe it was her dance moves.

It could have been her acting chops in "Bright Eyes." Or her unique singing voice in tunes like "On the Good Ship Lollipop" and "Animal Crackers in my Soup." Perhaps it was her ability to captivate Hollywood by the time she was 3.

Shawna Stoltzfoos couldn't pinpoint exactly what it was about Shirley Temple that she idolized while growing up, but the New Oxford High School graduate remembered watching Temple's movies with her grandmother and being inspired by her talent and success.

Following in the young star's footsteps, Stoltzfoos' dream was to go into show business.

"That was always the plan," she said. "Always."

And Stoltzfoos credits the young performer with sparking that interest and motivating her to pursue a career in the entertainment industry.

She started in the theater, but as Stoltzfoos got older, she shifted her focus to the digital world of TV and film.

Now, at 24, she has completed her first original mini-series "Young/Lancaster" which will premiere Friday at the Zoetropolis Art House and Theatre in Lancaster City. Tickets for the event -- which will show all six episodes of the series, followed by a question-and-answer session -- sold out in a matter of days, she said.

The show follows Harriet

Beiler, played by Stoltzfoos, as the 20-something artist learns how to live in Lancaster independently from her parents. It's not a true story, she said, but some situations in each of the 15-minute episodes happened to either her or to a friend.

"There are lots of young artists trying to figure out what the heck they're doing," she said.

Though the story is largely about living in Lancaster, Stoltzfoos herself has only called the city home for a little more than a year. After graduating high school, she spent a year in Stockholm, Sweden, before moving to Tulsa, Okla., where she studied improv and wrote for a community publication. After a short stint back at home in New Oxford, she moved to Lancaster to pursue her artistic aspirations.

Unlike other places she's lived, the art community there was exceptionally welcoming and full of people who were enthusiastic about her concept for a young adult coming-of-age series, she said.

"I didn't know people were going to care about it so much," Stoltzfoos said.

She started the writing process in September and had six episodes scripted by Christmas.

The next step was finding a production team, which included a different director

for each episode, Stoltzfoos said. With an average of 10 to 15 people on set per episode, she estimates a total of 50 people helped film on location. All were from Lancaster County.

Among the group were David Moulton and Jason Mundok, who Stoltzfoos said were especially influential. They introduced her to other artists and helped get more people involved in the project.

"Without them , I would have been pretty lost," she said.

Having only taken a few community-college film courses, the mini-series gave her an opportunity to try her hand at a variety of movie-making skills, including producing and camera work. Stoltzfoos found she was most invested in the writing and acting.

"If I could write and act on every project from now until forever, I'd be a pretty happy person," she said.

Even though the project is complete, Stoltzfoos said, she still has work to do after the premiere. She's in talks with some of the local TV stations and hopes some will agree to air the mini-series in the future.

She also wants to spend time giving back to the community that allowed her to create her project and wants to jump on board some of the projects her filmmaker friends have in the works.

Apart from "Young/Lancaster," Stoltzfoos has already written a script for a short film she would love to make and eventually submit to festivals. She also has an outline for a feature film.

"I have a lot of ideas," she said.

kpetiford@eveningsun.com; 717-637-3736, ext. 183; Twitter: @kpetiford

Showtimes

Friday's premiere event is sold out, but there are two other showings this weekend.

What: Young/Lancaster

When: 3:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 9 p.m. Sat-Sun.

Where: Zoetropolis Art House and Theatre, 315 W. James St., Lancaster

Cost: $10

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