MYRTLE POINT — Steps away from entering the cafeteria at Myrtle Point High School, a large wave of voices begin to rise as numerous students gather around to practice for an upcoming production of Shakespeare’s "A Midsummer Night’s Dream."
Inching closer to the door, the chatter blending together, one voice seems to stand out. Jack Isenhart, an 18-year-old senior at Myrtle Point, is standing in front of a group of student actors with a binder in hand, directing students where to stand and staging the next scene.
Days after competing in the Oregon Thespians Festival’s Technical Theatre & Design Competition, Jack and his brother Tom Isenhart, a 17-year-old junior, are hitting the stage once again as they star in their next high school play. The Isenhart brothers, who submitted their short film in this year’s contest titled, “M.P.I: Myrtle Point Idiots,” were surprised and humbled when they found out the news their film had won the Short Film category with perfect scores, this past weekend.
“When the judges called our name, we weren’t even paying attention to what place we got,” said Jack Isenhart. “We just heard our name and were so flabbergasted that when we got on stage we weren’t even sure which ribbons to grab.”
The Isenhart brothers competed against students from around the state and were among the nine entries submitted this year. The pair had shown films at the festival before and this year marked their third time competing.
The event, which hosts a variety of performances, features over 1,500 students who compete and participate in a range of activities and workshops. Other categories include stage management, costume design, makeup design as well as theater marketing.
Isenhart said they based their film off a local group of high school students, a sort of social club, who he idolized when he was in middle school who call themselves M.P.I.
The teenagers in the group would hang around town entertaining themselves through random shenanigans. The film chronicles a young man’s journey into joining the club and the lengths or obstacles he has to go through before doing so.
The brothers employed the help of friends and community members to star in the film and shot all the scenes from various locations around Myrtle Point. Tom Isenhart said after months of planning, story boarding, writing the script and doing multiple revisions that the actual shooting and camera work took about four days. One of the standout features included incorporating footage from a drone.
“Our main goal with the film is that we really just wanted to do the characters justice,” said Jack Isenhart. “I just thought it was such a cool story and they were such a cool group of kids and we always knew we wanted to make this video.”
The brothers describe the film as a comedy about growing up, friendships and life in a small town. Although, the film hits on various issues and topics, the brothers joke around saying the film itself doesn’t necessarily have any particular deep lesson arch that the characters go through. They cite their influences and style as mirroring those of Wes Anderson, Edgar Wright and the Cohen brothers.
The Isenhart's, along with producing videos and their short films, participate in their high school drama troupe and occasionally volunteer at the Sawdust Theatre with their mother, Stephanie. She said she knew from a very young age that her sons would be interested in the arts.
“I admire their perseverance and their 'keep-trying' attitude the most,” she said. “It feels good seeing them get credit on a project they worked on together.”
Mark, who is Jack and Tom’s father, said as soon as they were able to, the boys began making videos and uploading them to their YouTube channel, Isenhart Productions. According to Mark, the brothers have over 50 videos on their channel and have a range of work including stop animation, live action and music videos. Over the years, Mark said he has noticed their progression and improvement in their work.
“They make these quirky, comedy videos that not too many people are making,” he said. “It’s pretty difficult to do comedy well, but they do.”
Next fall, Jack Isenhart said he plans on attending Oregon State University and is thinking of pursuing a career in the agriculture industry. While his younger brother said he is interested in joining the filming industry and doing editing professionally.
With their win at the festival, the Isenhart brother’s qualify for an entry into the International Thespian Festival taking place this June. Right now the brothers are unsure if they will compete or not, but mention they are going to shop around their film to other festivals. They are focusing their efforts on other projects and ideas they’ve been brainstorming for some time.
“My big takeaway from this whole experience is that I definitely have more confidence in myself than I did before,” said Tom Isenhart. “I had this kind of a moment of realization that I can do something.”
As for Jack, he said the experience has taught him about hard work and being proactive.
“Never mock someone for what their passionate about,” he said. “Regardless of what it is, you should always go for it.”