In the wake of Westport’s selection as Connecticut’s “Fan Favorite Town of the Year,” plenty of praise was heaped on 3 elementary school girls. They conceived the idea for a promotional video touting the contest, then starred in what ultimately pushed our town to the top.
No one’s talking about Claudine Brantley, who filmed and edited the video.
That’s fine with her. Claudine, who graduated from Staples last June, calls her young colleagues “enthusiastic, adorable and very easy to work with.” They came up with the locations highlighted in the video, and “starred” in it.
But Claudine’s very professional work should not go unnoticed. And her back story deserves to be told.
Born in Georgia and raised in New London, Connecticut, Claudine came to Westport in the middle of sophomore year. Her mother wanted to provide better opportunities for Claudine and her brother Malik, and made considerable sacrifices to get here.
Claudine quickly got involved in the school. She joined the literary magazine Soundings, and the Gay-Straight Alliance. She found a job shelving books at the Westport Library.
And — through a Staples course called Narrative Film — she discovered a passion for video.
“I really like being able to tell stories visually,” Claudine says. “You have so many interactions, and ways to create a vision of something.”
Instructor Jim Honeycutt ranks Claudine with “Staples Hall of Fame filmmakers” like Adam Marcus, Luke Greenfield and Daryl Wein. “The only difference is that she is not in Hollywood — yet,” he says.
He calls her work “unlike most student films. They are intensely personal and profound.”
Claudine cajoles Staples Players into acting in her films. She scours the internet to find people to do voiceovers. Her sound tracks are “ethereal and haunting,” Honeycutt says.
She finds extraordinary royalty-free music to use legally. It sounds like it was written just for her, Honeycutt adds.
Her films “An Interloping Dream” and “Abraham” have been selected for the 2014 All American High School Film Festival.
“Claudine works incredibly hard at developing her craft,” Honeycutt says. “She is very devoted and serious. She has a wonderful heart, and a willingness to fight.”
That heart was on display when she agreed to help 3 Westport girls fulfill their “fan favorite” dream.
“I’m impressed with how involved those kids were, and how at a young age they had such love for their town,” Claudine says.
She credits them with helping her learn more about Westport.
Clearly, Claudine has learned plenty on her own. Now a freshman film and photography major at Parsons The New School for Design, she hopes to focus on documentaries.
In the years to come, she’ll no doubt make films far more important than the one that earned Westport its “fan favorite” honor.
And, no doubt, they’ll make Claudine Brantley a “fan favorite” in the video world.
(A collection of films by Claudine Brantley is available on YouTube.)