Fort Bragg teen travels to California, New York for movie production
Katelyn Hellermann, a South View High School student and military survivor, traveled to Pasadena, Calif. to participate in the production of an inspirational, short-story movie for Skintimate Studios in late August.

FORT BRAGG, N.C. - It is common for teen-aged girls to have aspirations of working in Hollywood, but for most, their dreams of traveling to California are just that - a dream.

For one Fort Bragg Family member and survivor, the call from Hollywood became a reality when she was chosen as part of a team to produce one, of two, short-story movies for skin care company, Skintimate.

In late July, Katelyn Hellermann, a 16-year-old sophomore at South View High School in Hope Mills, N.C., submitted an online essay to the Skintimate company, explaining why she should be one of 18 participants chosen to produce two inspirational short-story videos for the company. A little more than a month later, Katelyn said she received notification that she had been selected to fly to Pasadena, Calif. to spend a week participating in the project.

Hellermann's father, Staff Sgt. Brain Hellermann, died of injuries suffered when an Iraqi vehicle fired upon his unit during an ambush Aug. 6, 2003, in Baghdad during his deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Hellermann, a Freeport, Minn. native, was assigned to Company C, 2nd Battalion, 325th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. Katelyn said that although it has been seven years, the loss of her father is still difficult for the Family. She said the trip to California allowed her to see a different side of herself.

"The trip to California was great," she said. "The first day was just a day to get settled in, but on the second day, we had a conference that allowed us to get to know each other. Then they split us up into two groups and explained story and what it was about. We all went over the script and shortly afterward, we had a casting call."

The girls were divided into two groups of nine. Each was identified by the title of their movie, Katelyn's team was known as Team Locket, while the other team bore the title, Team S.O.S. The two teams would then compete to see which one could create the best production.

Katelyn and her crew performed all of the coordination and decisions for their production. Part of that included interviewing more than 5,000 actors and actresses who applied for parts in the presentation. She said the crew then chose which actors they wanted to come back for open call, which was closed to the public.

"Later that night, they took us out to eat at a restaurant and they gave us these gift bags that had a lot of goodies in them, such as a can of shaving cream, a new razor and a brand new top-of-the-line, Sony digital camera," she explained. "Basically, we had a hand in everything. We got to cast everyone that we wanted and other things involved in creating the film."

"The Locket" was the story of three girls who found a special locket that gave them the confidence to pursue their dreams. Katelyn explained that they did everything from casting to writing their own storyboards to actually shooting the film.

"It was pretty hard," she said. "The shoot day was the last day and we had a 14 to 18-hour day. It was something new. I've never touched a camera that big before. To actually (become involved) in something like that and to go out there and shoot it was just unreal."

Hellermann said that although they spent most of their time in Pasadena, the group did manage to squeeze in a tour of Hollywood, during their visit.

"I loved it," she said. "We were actually there for the red carpet premiere of the movie, 'Inception.' We didn't get to attend, but I enjoyed seeing everything."

Katelyn said she had considered a career in movie production, but she had not given it any serious thought until now.

Katelyn's mother, Michelle, accompanied her daughter on the trip. She said she was glad her daughter had the opportunity.

"It brought her out of her shell," Michelle said. "It just gave her the opportunity to see that there are more things out there that might not be offered here in the southern states area. North Carolina doesn't have a lot of film schools. Therefore, the high schools don't have that as part of their curriculum. They have journalism and photography, but they don't have a lot to do with the actual, behind-the-scenes, start-to-finish production work."

Michelle said the experience allowed Katelyn to meet some girls who, based on where they lived, had experience in working with films and working with the Koblenz lens.

"That gave the other girls, as well as Katelyn, the opportunity to see that there are opportunities and it's not far beyond their reach," she said. "It was a very good learning experience for her."
Katelyn admits that before her travels to California, she was more subdued, but now, she says, she is just like the girls in her production, who found the special locket, she feels more confident in herself.

"Before this, I kind of stayed to myself," she explained. "When I met the girls, it was like, they accepted me for who I am and I realize that a lot of people will. I told them about my dad at the very beginning and that if anything happens, like if I break down, to understand and they accepted it. They were cool about it and they were there for me."

Katelyn said she feels her experience has brought her closer to her father because while she was in California, she met a young woman who, coincidentally, was from the same hometown as her father. She said they struck up a friendship and that allowed Katelyn to open up about her dad to her new-found friend.

Although Team S.O.S. was declared the winner of the contest, members of both teams remained in contact, even after their California journey was over.

Two weeks ago, Katelyn and her Family traveled to New York to see the premiere of the winning production. There, she was able to meet up with the other 17 girls for an impromptu reunion. She said it was an experience that she will remember for a lifetime.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16