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Title:Just A Drill | A Suspenseful Drama Short by Julianne Donelle

Determined to follow the rules in an active shooter drill, an overworked teacher in an underfunded classroom battles the impossible choices a leader must make when the drill becomes a horrifying reality. A selection of Short of the Week, the web's leading curators of quality short films. SUBMIT A FILM: FULL REVIEW: Website: Instagram: Facebook: Twitter: Just A Drill by Julianne Donelle IG: @JulianneDonelle Making a film about the topic of school shootings is an inherently difficult task. For one, it’s something that’s been done a lot. But, beyond the ubiquity of the topic, when dealing with such a hot-button and emotionally charged issue, it’s so easy to drift into moralizing or finger-wagging. I don’t think many logical folks in the United States would contest the fact that we have a huge problem with guns in this country. But, as audiences, we also don’t like to be lectured to. And therein likes the innate difficulty of making a “school shooting film.” So, it’s with some surprise that I can say that writer/director Julianne Donelle’s Just A Drill is a taut and engrossing mini-thriller. It’s engaging the topic of school shootings head-on. But, there’s a twist here: it’s actually not about a school shooting at all, at least not directly. Rather, the film is dealing with the culture of preparation that has arisen as a result of a society that has collectively chosen to “tolerate” the problem rather than actually fix it. As the title suggests, it’s just a drill. And, yet…is it? That central question becomes a powerful driver of suspense. Just A Drill is successful because it manages to slowly build on this sense of tension…this creeping feeling of unease as the “normal” transforms into something both foreign and sinister. The drill is supposed to be preparation to prevent the horrific, and so, the very act of “practicing” becomes, ironically, horrific in and of itself. As you might expect, the disturbing mood comes directly from director Julianne Donelle’s personal experience. As she relates to Short of the Week: “As a former educator, my inspiration came for this project when I was working at a school and participated in active shooter drills with my fellow employees. Suddenly the happy halls that were typically full of noisy students were now empty while my walkie talkie echoed through the classroom with cries of fear; untrained actors pretending to be as realistic as possible to prepare the teachers for anything. It was a disturbing day where educators faced difficult questions, the most unsettling being the concept of locking children out of your classroom and not opening the door no matter what happens.” The ending of the film will probably be a point of contention for some. Just as the film reaches peak tension, it basically just cuts away. It’s hard not to feel a bit disappointed by the lack of resolution. But, after stewing on this bit, I’m not sure it’s even possible to bring this sort of film to a “satisfying” conclusion. It’s essentially an exercise in tension and unease. And, so, if the film were to undercut that with a sense of a relief—the confirmation that it all was part of the plan—it, ultimately, would diminish its power. It’s essentially proof that short films can often get away with structural issues that would be detrimental to longer form work. The film obviously has larger issues on its mind, mainly the efficacy of active shooter drills in general, and the inherent logical fallacy of finding comfort in rules and guidelines when preparing for a situation that defies logic. As Donelle succinctly puts it: “This film is not a grand political statement. It is not intended to lecture, preach, or give false answers. It simply asks the difficult question, what would you do?” Donelle has several other completed short films in her persona canon. She’s also focusing on two feature screenplays that she plans to direct, both of which live in the horror/psychological thriller realm. Be sure to visit Donelle’s website at the link below to keep up with her work. CREDITS Directed By: Julianne Donelle Produced By: Sabrina Stoll, Co-Produced By: Megan Jordan Starring: Sally Pressman, DJ Blickenstaff, and Jackson Pace DP: Carole McClintock Production Designer: Sara Kugelmass Editor: Arianna Tomasettig Music By: Emer Kinsella Costume Design: Elena Flores Casting Director: Anna Mayworm Assistant Director: Arielle Zadok Reproduced on this channel with the permission of the filmmaker.


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