We all have anxiety, and we all cope with it in different ways. We have this tendency to label anxiety as a dangerous trait in search of a cure. Thankfully, pharmaceutical companies have found that cure to make us all better and lead normal lives (he said sarcastically).
Writer/director Danielle Kampf’s short film, Presentation, tells the story of an anxiety-ridden high school sophomore, who like any normal student, has to give a presentation in front of her class. Holly’s (Emily Rey) assignment is to give a report on the academic challenges students face in overcrowded classrooms. Easy? Not quite.
“…an anxiety-ridden high school sophomore, who like any normal student, has to give a presentation in front of her class.”
The film opens in Holly’s home before school as she stares at an empty prescription bottle. Cut to Holly stumbling through her class presentation and walking out of the class after the first minute. Holly’s teacher (Kendra McCulty) consoles her by giving her a second chance to present later that week. To compound her anxiety further, Holly is sent to the school’s guidance counselor (Vanessa Britting) for “guidance” and then home for dinner where her sister Lizzie (Lily Brooks O’Briant) gleefully boasts about how she’s going to nail her upcoming recital. Envy gets the best of Holly as she’s sent to her room over a defensive outburst.
Teens are faced with innumerable social challenges, and they all collide during the four years of high school. At the start, I mentioned that many of these challenges, like anxiety, are considered harmful, and we protect our kids by removing the challenge thus never giving them a chance to fail or in Holly’s case give her a drug that will help her cope with that challenge. But by definition, challenges are meant to be…challenges. Successfully overcoming a challenge makes us stronger, while failing a challenge and trying again, quite frankly make us stronger as well. We once believed in the idea that adversity builds character. Instead, we unknowingly stunt the growth of our youth.
“…found gold in Emily Rey’s performance as the timid student forced to overcome her anxiety.”
Danielle has masterfully created a simple, yet powerful short film about being a teen and figuring out how to navigate the maze of adolescence. She’s found gold in Emily Rey’s performance as the timid student, Holly, forced to overcome her anxiety. She brilliantly plays it with subtlety as not to make her character’s arc feel falsely dramatic.
There’s one aspect of the teen experience that Kampf nails and it’s that feeling of loneliness and alienation juxtaposed against the supportive adults in her life that mean well, but rarely help at all.
Presentation (2018) Written and directed by Danielle Kampf. Starring Emily Rey, Lily Brooks O’Briant, Vanessa Britting, Kandra McCulty.
8 out of 10 stars
The full short can be viewed below: