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Carmel grad Laura Baker brings a little bit of Hollywood home

By Mark Robinson

Carmel will be going a little Hollywood next month, thanks to a native college student who has aspirations of making it big in tinseltown.

Laura Baker is a 2011 Carmel High School graduate now majoring in film directing and post-production audio at Columbia College in Chicago. For her senior capstone project, she is directing a short film titled “Tread” and will shoot on location in Carmel, Sheridan and Indianapolis in early January. She is bringing a crew of 40 production people from Chicago to spend a week here, and last weekend conducted open auditions for local talent to star in the movie she hopes to place in numerous film festivals to garner its (and her) notoriety as she prepares to launch her career in May.

Baker has already earned acclaim in the industry with a film she wrote and directed in high school. “Shades of Grey” earned a spot in the high school division of the Indianapolis-based Heartland Film Festival and was screened locally. The project was developed during Baker’s two years taking International Baccalaureate film classes at Carmel High School, providing the foundation and inspiration for her to follow her dream of being a director in Los Angeles.

“That IB program is really what sparked my interest in actually pursuing a career in film,” Baker said from Chicago, where she is one of several Carmel graduates attending Columbia.

Baker said she is “very honored” to have been chosen to direct the capstone project because few are granted that opportunity. “Obviously everyone wants to be a director,” she said. “It’s a very powerful position, you get to do a lot of creative things that branch out through all the departments. A lot of people desire to do that, but not many actually get to take a film through the pre-production process into production and really make something amazing.”

Jim Peterson isn’t amazed whatsoever with Baker’s achievements. As director of theatre and film at Carmel and teacher of the only IB film classes offered at any Indiana high school, Peterson saw Baker bloom first-hand.

“Laura was a great student,” said Peterson, in his 23rd year at the high school. “She impressed me with her leadership skills, so it does not surprise me that she is killing it as a director. She had a tremendous intrinsic drive and was really focused when it came to her film projects.”

“Tread” follows the emotional saga of a teenage girl Riley who is dealing with schizophrenia following the death of her mother at a young age. Baker said it is a true story based on the film’s producer, Lacey Marshall, whose cousin lost her mother and suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. Riley endures auditory hallucinations where she hears her mother’s voice and is conflicted about following through on treatment because the hallucinations keep her mother alive in some respects. She fears losing that last connection.

“Who wants to take a mother away from a child?” Baker asked. “It’s kind of questioning is it better for her to lose her mother entirely. She’s just afraid that she might lose her altogether if she does pursue the medication route.”

Shooting is scheduled to take place locally from Jan. 5-11 and will include underwater filming at the IU Natatorium at IUPUI and the use of Indianapolis Fire Dept. rescue personnel. Baker said it will mark the largest out-of-state shoot ever for Columbia College and she plans to use some current Carmel IB film students as production assistants because “the experience is so important. When we were all in that program, it was opportunities like this that inspired us.”

The final product must be completed by the end of the spring semester and Baker said she will likely create several version lengths ranging from 10 to 30 minutes to enter “Tread” in as many film festivals as possible.

As director, Baker is responsible for all aspects of the project, including securing financing. She set a budget of $10,000 and has raised about $3,000 thus far, so she has created a crowd-funding site where individuals and groups can donate. She hopes organizations in the mental health industry will recognize the film’s importance and donate “because this is such a positive story that really helps people understand what schizophrenia is and how people deal with it every day.”

To learn more about contributing to Baker’s project, visit https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/tread. To make a donation to fund her film, send inquiries to 14303 Esprit Dr., Carmel, Ind. 46074.

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