Reap what you sew

Reap what you sew

There is a tricycle laying on its side in the middle of Hardy Drive, a toy from one of what Quintin Franklyn would call the "immature" kids, the kids that hang out at the spot called Little Kids’ Park in the back of the Westhaven housing project. Quintin only hangs out at the Big Kids’ Park near his apartment along the "top row" houses.

Quintin Franklyn is 16 years old, a junior at Charlottesville High School, a filmmaker at Light House Studio and a fashion designer. On the day Curtain Calls meets up with him, Quintin sports a bright green t-shirt from Famous Stars and Straps, not-too-baggy jeans, black Vans sneakers with a checkerboard pattern along the side and a long chain that links his wallet to his jeans. His hair is shorter than it appeared in Sew What??, Quintin’s documentary about his Westhaven life and his runway dreams. A friend’s father carved the graphics along the left side of his head with a razor two days before school started, a series of loops above the earring in his left ear, to match the piercing in his right.

A life in pictures: Sixteen-year-old Quintin Franklyn, aspiring fashion designer and filmmaker, turned his craft and life in Westhaven into an award-winning documentary that will screen on September 7 at Light House Studio’s annual Youth Film Festival.

Quintin meets Curt on the front porch of his apartment, where his mother ("Mrs. Parker," says Quintin) talks with a few friends and Quintin’s sister, another Light House student. The designer offers a quick tour of his apartment: Downstairs, "Judge Judy" and a rotating electric fan compete for volume, and an award from Light House for Quintin’s work in 2006 sits on the mantel; upstairs, Quintin pulls copies of Vogue and Vanity Fair from beneath a chemistry textbook that sits on his milkcrate bookshelf, and points out images from similar magazines that snake across his bedside wall.

"Mrs. Parker" moved her family from Northern Virginia to Charlottesville in August 2005; when they arrived, Quintin says that the family alternately lived in motels and with his aunt.

"We actually were homeless," says Quintin, in the breathless, unchanging tone of someone keeping his cool. "[My aunt] eventually had to leave her place because there were too many people staying with her." Including her two adopted kids, three biological kids and "some other people," not to mention Quintin and his family.

Are you listening?

Quintin’s stone-faced delivery of the same tale is what makes Sew What?? a striking film. By his own estimation, the film took two to three weeks to shoot, followed by another week "to get everything cohesive."

"Shannon [Worrell, founder of Light House] interviewed me—she had the camera on a tripod—and I just went with whatever," says Quintin. "Told a story." Pre-editing, the pair had roughly 48 minutes of footage that they cut to five minutes or so, then submitted to Very Important Producers (VIP) 2007, a film competition held by the Listen Up! Youth Media Network.

A clip from Quintin Franklyn’s Sew What??

Listen Up’s creative director, Austin Haeberle, puts the number of films submitted this year at 250 or so, but admits that lots of films have multiple directors. "It wouldn’t surprise me if 400 filmmakers were involved, not to mention crews," says Haeberle.

Last year, Light House’s Ross Bollinger won the Audience Award during the 2006 VIP competition for "Pencilmation," an animated short, and came away from the event with a cash prize and an iPod. Quintin’s film placed first in the Documentary category; the competition is only 2 years old, but Light House has placed dependably well each year.

In Sew What??, Quintin and Worrell shoot interview scenes in Quintin’s living room and around Westhaven, interspersed with shots of Quintin knitting a bright red stream of fabrics in an alley near the Live Arts building. The film kicks along with a rolling gait that suits Quintin’s own strut.

Yet in spite of his film chops, Quintin seems more focused on fashion and his community on this visit.

Brighter colors

Not long after his family moved to Charlottesville, Quintin traveled to Richmond to attend the Ebony Fashion Show, and a few designers recommended Virginia Commonwealth University’s fashion design program to him. Quintin tells Curt that Richmond is a move he hopes to make.

"I want to be, like, completely lost down there," says Quintin, who says that there’s "drama" in Westhaven and that some people in the community "aren’t goal-oriented, so they try to make you feel bad."

During the tour of Westhaven, Quintin tells CC that he’s been thinking about bright colors—yellow, green, orange, hot pink—and materials like silk, not cotton, maybe wool to spice up a dress in the spring. His sister has a pair of pink pajama pants that she begged him to make; he has been thinking about designs for his 17-year-old sister’s prom dress as well.
Curt promises to meet up with Quintin at the Light House Youth Film Festival on September 7 and heads to his car while Quintin rejoins his family on his front step. The tricycle that rested in the road is gone.

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