What’s the Password?

“What’s the Password?”

Roles: Director, Director of Photography, Production Design

Smile Politely: “Proof is in the pudding: Pens to Lens films in review”

Exposing the Crew: “Chicago Prop Master: Anna Zorn”


This script was written by a high school student, Eliza Foli, as part of the Pens to Lens screenwriting competition. This was the second script I laid eyes on and immediately wanted to snatch it. I loved that it not only addressed gender issues in a fun way, but I loved that this little girl was intensely smart, quick-thinking, and brave. Veronica Bechtel (Maddie) absolutely killed this role. She told her mom after filming the battle scene that today, she got “to be a superhero.” I tag teamed this film with two friends and shared responsibility for direction, producing, and camera. We had previously collaborated on “Mr Snuggles,” and all of us wanted to work on this amazing script.

This film was shot on a combination of a Black Magic Production Camera and a GH4. We decided to include as many ridiculously dramatic shots as we could including the above, which is the classic Vertigo/Jaws push in/focus rack. Because so many of these were shot in high frame rates, the focus pulls were challenging but very fun.

The build for Maddie’s fort took over 6 hours. I built the turrets out of an umbrella and hula hoops and a dozen or so sheets. My original vision was to have it look like Martha Stewart went insane and specifically didn’t want it to contain any pink. I personally despised pink as a kid and disliked that it was always portrayed as the go-to female color. I wanted to make it perfectly symmetrical and ridiculously planned, aiding the grand reveal that Maddie is a ruthless mastermind.

The boys’ fort was a much simpler build and made to look more haphazard. We made it larger so it was easier to shoot inside.


In addition, I made many of the costumes myself for this project. My particular crowning jewel was a knight’s helmet for the dog I constructed out of stiff felt. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into it!


Here’s the cast and crew along with the talented writer, Eliza Foli, at the screening!