Book reading becomes movie project

In one scene of a movie just produced by Andrea Leiker and her fifth grade class at Resurrection Catholic School, Kason Collins, at left, Cecilia Kelleher, and Mason Long sit at a table in Maine. A green screen was used for the background. (Screenshot from the movie)

Resurrection Catholic School won’t be constructing its version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but it has 25 budding stars who have learned a lot about making a movie.

Screenwriter, producer, director, cinematographer, and editor Andrea Leiker didn’t anticipate wearing such a variety of hats this year. Her recent project was just one of the many challenges a paraprofessional encounters during a school year.

Leiker, a fifth-grade para at Resurrection Catholic School, said she and her class had just finished reading Navigating Early, a book by Wichitan Clare Vanderpool, when they asked to watch the movie.

Book author is from Wichita

Vanderpool is a Newbery Medal-winning author and member of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Wichita.

“They usually like to watch the movies with the books,” Leiker said, “So I said, ‘I’m sorry guys, there’s no movie for this one.’ Then they asked me if we could make one.”

After her students begged her, Leiker capitulated and wrote a screenplay adapted from the book.
“Then we spent a couple of months filming – from November to January,” she said. Her 25 fifth graders were involved in all aspects of the production.

“It was time-consuming,” Leiker said. “I edited all myself. And, of course, we had numerous takes but the kids had a lot of fun with it.”

From Kansas to Maine

The book is about a character named Jack Baker who is uprooted from his home in Kansas and placed in a boy’s boarding school in Maine. It is there that he meets the other main character, a strange boy named Early Auden. Their relationship develops while on a quest for “the great bear.”

In the Resurrection school production, Baker is played by Kason Collins, and Auden is played by Mason Long. Emma Long, Mason’s sister, was Leiker’s assistant. “She went with me during all the filming and helped me remember all the stuff that I needed to bring to all the scenes. We use various locations around the school and then we had a green screen set up in our fifth-grade classroom that we also used.”

The fifth graders learned how complicated it is to make a movie, she said. “They learned a lot about memorizing lines. They all knew the story very well after we were done.”

Vanderpool, who attended the screening said she considered it an honor the fifth graders not only read Navigating Early but made it into a movie.

“It was so fun to watch the premiere with the students, teachers, and families,” she said. “I could tell it was a labor of love, and it takes a special group of teachers to agree to that kind of an undertaking. The movie was so well done. I actually got a little teary in one part, and I even knew it was coming!”