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Young Artists: Miami and Harvard's Lily Erlinger Wins Money, Makes Movie

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This profile is part of the Culture Blog's series on young Miami artists. For more, stay tuned to Riptide 2.0.

Lily Erlinger was born in Munich, Germany, but moved to Miami when she was 6, attending the Cushman School, Ransom Everglades, and, briefly, the Design and Architecture Senior High School (DASH) before finishing her secondary education in Brisbane, Australia. Now a 20-year-old senior at Harvard University, Erlinger just finished shooting a short film titled "Jesse's Tracks" in Miami (where her parents are once again located).

"The idea came from driving around Miami," Erlinger says. "I couldn't get this image out of my head of a girl lying in tall grass beside the train tracks and being able to feel an oncoming train but not hear it."

Over the course of a year and a half, that nagging image became a 25-page script about Jesse, a 15-year-old deaf runaway and her sudden friendship with Scott, a 47-year-old convicted sex offender. Erlinger wanted to make the film this summer and had a director of photography, a key grip, and an actress to play Jesse lined up, but she was short on money and wasn't sure she had the connections necessary to find an affordable sound designer.

Then her mom saw an article in the Miami Herald about the Miami World Cinema Center, the nonprofit organization formed last year to grow local independent cinema. Erlinger sent her script in and soon after received a call.

"[Jesse's Tracks] was one of the top two shorts that I've read since we launched," says MWCC co-founder Josh Miller. "We were immediately interested." And Erlinger was overjoyed to have them as allies. "I'm not sure what kind of film we would have made without [MWCC]," she says.

Like all film shoots, it wasn't without its challenges.

In the opening scene, Scott pulls Jesse off of the train tracks, mistakenly thinking she's in danger. In preparation, Erlinger spent two consecutive Sundays sitting by the location in Hallandale to be sure of the train schedule, but just as the crew was getting organized, police cars showed up.

"Somebody had called to complain about kids on the tracks," Erlinger says. "We had sandbags and wires set up; it sort of looked like we were terrorists." Luckily, Miller had permitted everything and was able to resolve the situation while the rest of the crew kept working.

"As the police were pulling out, the train appeared," Erlinger says. "Five more minutes and we wouldn't have gotten [the shot]."

The film used six different locations--including a house in Belle Meade, two motels on Biscayne Blvd, and a gas station--over the eleven days of production, finally wrapping on August 24. The goal is to screen the film in Miami in the summer of 2010.

As for Erlinger, she's planning on submitting the film to festivals, but after graduation, she wants to spend a year doing social service work to "gain more experience and exposure" before applying to graduate film schools. She also hasn't ruled out coming back to Miami. "It's up in the air," she says.

Her plan to make more films is not.

For a detailed look at Erlinger's previous films, go to her website. Or go here for more information about the Miami World Cinema Center.

Photos of the shoot courtesy of MWCC:

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