The 2014 award-winning Project Yellow Light video “Afterlife,” shot in the vein of Beetlejuice and other 1980s dark comedies, delves into the ghastly consequences of texting while driving.
Then-Savannah College of Art and Design seniors Josh Falkum and Paul Price approached the project with great ambition and attention to detail.
However, the student directors didn’t fully grasp the message until Falkum’s car was totaled just as production was starting. Falkum wasn’t hurt in the crash, which is more than he could say for his 1995 Ford Taurus.
“I started to see impact of distracted driving once we researched the numbers, but that doesn’t have the emotional impact of the people affected,” Falkum said.
“Then I was T-boned by two teenagers in Savannah that were presumably texting while driving. They drove straight through the intersection and totaled my car. That wreck and talking to (Project Yellow Light founder) Julie (Garner) made the message so much more real, so much more palpable.”
U-Haul signed on as a corporate sponsor of Project Yellow Light in February. Project Yellow Light is a video competition with scholarship prizes that targets texting behind the wheel and other forms of distracted driving that claim thousands of American lives each year.
Julie Garner formed the competition in memory of her son, Hunter, who was killed in a 2007 car crash at the age of 16.
Beginning with the 2015 competition, U-Haul will make a financial donation that covers the $16,000 in scholarship prizes and assist on the judging panel. In addition, U-Haul will provide in-kind moving expenses to the high school and college division winners toward their next moves.
Falkum and Price went all out for their video, opting to enter the 2014 competition while also using it for a project in their advertising and film class.
They hired a makeup artist. They received permission to shoot in a cave hours away from the college. They conducted casting calls and even used an actress who had a role in the 1975 cult action film “Death Race 2000” with David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone.
All told, Falkum and Price spent $2,500 of their own money to complete the video. And while that’s unnecessary to enter the Project Yellow Light competition, it clearly revealed their commitment.
“Whatever we did, we didn’t want to do a PSA that’s just trying to make you cry,” Price said. “We thought it would be a good challenge to make it a little funny with dark humor. We based a good portion of the overall feel on Beetlejuice and the 1980s comedy-horror genre.”
Falkum added: “We decided to invest our own money and time, and kind of take a risk that if we were to win the competition, the scholarship money would go toward paying for the production. We had to have gone through 15 revisions on the script. We were serious about the writing and making sure the right people were cast.”
Falkum and Price acknowledged it was a whirlwind once they received the celebratory call from Garner informing them of their victory and $5,000 prize for first place, which was split between the friends.
“Afterlife” also helped land Falkum and Price a summer internship at The Martin Agency in Richmond. Once their production costs were covered, the remainder of their winnings went toward their move from Georgia to Virginia.
Today, Price is in the process of relocating to Los Angeles. Falkum works out of Detroit and just completed a project in Chicago. Both filmmakers have a promising future, but neither is likely to forget their Project Yellow Light endeavor and the cause their film championed.
“We went to Washington D.C. to a global youth event where it was all about teen safety, and it was really interesting to hear people who had actually experienced these losses,” Price said.
“You never saw the kids. You just saw the people they left behind and you hear, ‘This is exactly where she pulled out her phone.’ It’s not just like a theoretical thing.”
To read more about the common cause shared by U-Haul with Project Yellow Light, click on: U-Haul Partners with Project Yellow Light to Stop Distracted Driving.