“The Right Key” to People’s Hearts with Short Movie by COD Students

Students of College of DuPage shared their insights on the launched campaign and talked about production of their short film, “The Right Key.”


Mariia Kukshyna, Staff Writer

“The Right Key,” a student-made short film, is a heartwarming narrative of a woman and her kid who are moving into a new house after a divorce. They’re going in there with all their feelings. Julie, the main protagonist, is a young girl who is dealing with conflicting emotions and is unsure how to handle them. She’s so young, yet she’s been given a box of keys, and with those keys come a lot of life lessons for Julie and even her mother.

College of DuPage MPTV students of the Advanced Film/Video Production class released a Seed & Spark-funded campaign for their short movie called “The Right Key” last Tuesday. With contributions from a Seed & Spark website, they are producing the film about parenthood, childhood, love and little things that make hard life situations easier. The crew is excited and ready to begin production when the $5000 budget is raised. 

Photo of Mikolaj Dabrowski (Alexa Solonenko)

“The Right Key” is a movie where you can find your own inner child safely while the story on a screen tells you about a little girl who is trying to find herself in a situation where both parents are not together anymore. Screenwriter Mikolaj Dabrowski said the movie is about a child trying to understand that what happened between her parents doesn’t change the fact that they’re still her mom and dad, and she can love both of them.

“I feel that is kind of my story too, that I was once Julie and I was lost,” Dabrowski shared. 

In the opening sequence of “The Right Key” Julie’s mother hands a bunch of keys to her, so that Julie can discover what they unlock in their new house. 

Photo of Zoia Shumak (Alexa Solonenko)

“And while (the) daughter is searching for the doors to open them with the keys, she figures that actually there is not a physical key that she has that can open another door, also not physical,” Director Zoia Shumak said. 

Dabrowski commented on this that the difference between the physical and metaphorical key is shown by a moment in the movie where the daughter returns one of the keys to her mother, but what is meant in the scene is that Julie reveals her emotions that she is not upset with the mother, that she understands and loves her no matter what.  

We all come across closed doors in our lives, obstacles that prevent us from moving forward. People need keys to open those doors and overcome them. In Shumak’s opinion, keys are very small things that we can find in everyday life like being present in the moment, saying, “I love you” or giving a warm hug, a kind word, listening to each other, smiling. 

“Anything can become a non-physical key to somebody’s heart,” Shumak said. 

Emphasizing the childhood theme is another way for students who are working on this project to deliver an accurate message to the audience. And the message is based on the idea of grounding yourself to the position of your inner child. Shumak noted that however grown up people are, they are still children inside, and these kids are those “who are making the world brighter.” 

“I guess such theme of our campaign is to show that this naiveness, this lightness, brightness is something you can stick to,” Shumak said. 

Photo of Catherine Antlept (Alexa Solonenko)

Head of Production Design Catherine Antlept shares the same mindset about the mission for “The Right Key.”

“I really want to … make everybody who sees this film take it [message] away to their own life… to use their own inner child more than they probably do. I feel like we definitely need a lot of that with how the world has gone, and that’s something I super strongly believe in,” Antlept said. 

Dabrowski supported this theme, explaining it from the perspective of script. 

“When the main character is walking around the rooms and discovering what was in there before they moved in, what life people had, that’s what childhood is about,” Dabrowski said.

 For him childhood is largely about experience, adventures and exploring the world.

Childhood emphasis is brought up not only in the story but also with camera, lighting and other production choices. Director of Photography Oleksii Horbatenko, while working on the fundraising campaign video and later when the shooting will begin in April, uses a generally calm style with autumn-ish colors (gradient from yellow to orange) for the screen image to represent this theme. 

Photo of Oleksii Horbatenko (Alexa Solonenko)

“As the woman going through divorce, we need to represent kind of bad emotions, but in a very soft way. We’re expecting everything to be very soft, very warm and very emotional,” Horbatenko said. 

Antlept added her perspective altering how the characters look at the beginning of the film and changing it as the characters grow. This is best seen in the following where Julie gains a better understanding of what her mother is going through, maturing from her initial infantile, curious perspective. In parallel, Julie  helps her mother gain new understandings about the world from “a child’s eye.” 

The first step to turn “The Right Key” into a released short film is the fundraising campaign that launched roughly a week ago. According to the crew, it was a crazy ride because everybody has their own schedules, and the campaign was a huge process. 

Shumak said, “Throughout this time, we were working on the script at the same time we were working on making a campaign and then on launching it and promoting it. And with that we’re working on searching for locations and searching for actors.” 

Creating a decent product causes challenges, especially when a lot of things happen not one by one, but have to be happening at the same time. 

But, as Shumak mentioned, “It all depends on how you look at the things you’re doing. Like every single step we’ve made can be called a challenge. But I prefer to not go it this way. I prefer to call it steps we’re making.” 

When production begins there are more steps that are waiting for the young crew. For example, Shumak said directing the main character – who will be a child actor – should be an interesting task, and she is looking forward to it. 

But what really helps “The Right Key” to go smoothly regardless of any difficulties is the crew. Producer Nadia Sanane said many crew members have gone through situations similar to what the character of the movie has.

Photo of Nadia Sanane (Alexa Solonenko)

“I think, the feeling of not feeling alone, just bringing the group [crew] together and really making everyone feel included. It’s like the biggest part for me,” Sanane said. 

That is why the campaign is made to be inner child friendly, according to Antlept. Also, Shumak noted that when the crew was gathered, they had a chance to choose whether they wanted to work on this particular project or not. 

“Everyone who is in the crew right now is there because they wanted to, is there because they read their idea, because they talked to me about it, because they found something that speaks to them in it,” she said. Shumak shared that her own childhood memory became a story with this short movie and this is what in “The Right Key” speaks to her. 

“When I was a kid I was given a bunch of keys to figure out what they are for and I have not found a purpose then. But it seems like this idea doesn’t leave me alone till these days,” Shumak said. The story refers to this bag of keys as something she had in a physical manner when was a little girl like main protagonist Julie. 

Their trust inside the team, and the possibility to rely on each other’s professional skills helps to build this connection.

“We do feel like a little family, even though we’re not so long in the process,” Shumak said. 

Sanane brought up another point about two women taking on leadership roles in the crew. 

“Again, it just makes me feel proud. I feel like sometimes we’re underrepresented as women in the crew, so having the producer and director to be two strong and powerful women, I think, it’s such a nice thing to reflect on,” she said. 

Besides that, every member of the current crew seems to be professional and truly interested in making this movie as successful as possible. 

Shumak said, “I see how much effort is being put to this project by every single member of our team and not only by me. And this is what makes it feel real, feel like a big thing.” 

For example, Oleksii Horbatenko, who is director of photography, noted that this time he wants to show his experience with film cameras and to make it part of his portfolio. At the end of day, movies exist for viewers. 

As Sanane said, “If we can inspire you with our story, I feel like that would just be incredible.” 

Shumak expressed this idea, too, by saying that it’s fantastic to create something that makes people smile, even though it may seem early because no one has watched the film yet. 

“But when I see (the crew) being so involved and so interested in making it happen… That’s what makes me think that what we are doing is something so much worth it. It’s not only about film,” Shumak said.

You can contribute to the creation of “The Right Key” financially on their Seed & Spark page. The team has a tier list to give different benefits per contribution level. You can also support the crew by following them on social media, as listed in their linktree