O.C. Student's film that was shot at her public school premieres in Hollywood

Weeks after she promoted from McGaugh Elementary School, London Houghton is joined by friends and family at the screening of 'Breaking Plans' at the Dances with Films festival.

O.C. Student's film that was shot at her public school premieres in Hollywood
The cast and crew of "Breaking Plans" gather at the short film's premiere during the "Dances with Films" festival at TCL Theaters in Hollywood. Courtesy photo.

It’s hard to understand how a few minutes of celluloid and music can evoke such powerful emotions, but such was the case last month as Orange County student London Houghton’s short film “Breaking Plans” premiered in Hollywood.

After more than a year in the making, London and her fellow young co-stars had their name in lights when the film was shown June 23 at the TCL Grauman’s Chinese Theater complex as part of the Dances with Films Festival.

Houghton, who recently promoted from fifth grade at McGaugh Elementary School in Seal Beach, made the school part of the film.

Many scenes from "Breaking Bad" were filmed at the TK-5 campus in the Los Alamitos Unified School District with the support of the school’s administration. Many McGaugh parents and administrators were part of the 200-person audience that filled the screening room for the film's world premiere. Also, the teacher character in the film is named Jerry McGaugh (Luc Clopton).

In the short film, three best friends, Emma (London Houghton), Sarah (Gracelyn Surtees}, and Amelia, (Zoe Tran-Wofford), are set to work on a school assignment together when Emma and Sarah are disappointed as Amelia doesn’t show up.

Emma and Amelia grow weary of waiting, then walk down the street for ice cream (McKenna’s Tea Cottage) where they unexpectedly see Sarah sitting there with Emma’s older brother Drake, played by Carter Jude Dau.

Eyewitnesses report the audience murmuring a huge “gasp” when the two girls see Sarah sitting with Drake. Even the young director was taken aback… and she wrote the script.

“I was really surprised to hear everyone in the theater react in shock,” said London. “It was quite a gasp,” when Emma and Amelia saw Sarah sitting with Drake instead of working with them.

The girls think they have been betrayed, yet it turns out later, that Sarah was consulting with Drake on the best way to tell Emma, her best friend, that he overheard their mom and dad talking about getting a divorce.

“It is a powerful short film,” said Paul James Houghton, London’s dad and the owner of Dreamotion Studios in Seal Beach, who co-directed the film. “Basically,” he said,“ I pointed her in the right direction then I let her say what she wanted.”

Houghton said his daughter London wrote, co-directed and acted in the leading role as Emma. Even though London is only ten, his daughter grew up watching him make films, so she knew what she wanted.

 “London has been through the whole process before, so none of this is completely new to her,” the dad said.

Moreover, he said the story was loosely based on “what, in real life, London had witnessed when her parents, Cait and I, got divorced.”

In the film’s dramatic twist, Drake eventually confronts Emma and explains that he asked Sarah to meet with him to help him find the best way to tell her that their parents were divorcing.

Emma and Amelia now realize why Sarah did not show up and best friends Sarah and Emma share a tearful reunion.

“My wife and I both cried,” admitted Eric Surtees, whose daughter Gracelyn played “Sarah” in the film. They were part of the large McGaugh contingent in the audience.

Surtees said he and his wife Miriam were so proud their daughter Gracelyn overcame much to act in the film, but they “were blown away” to see the way it turned out.

London Houghton, who recently promoted from McGaugh Elementary, speaks to the media during the premiere of her short film "Breaking Plans." She is pictured standing with the film's producer, Baylee Corona, and Brooke Mueller, the film's Director of Photography. Photo by Paul James Houghton.

“Me and my wife Miriam had no idea how much had gone into this production and what a tremendous honor it was for Gracelyn to have been in the film,” he said. “We are super proud to be associated with this production,” said this parent, who enjoyed his night in Tinseltown.

Stepping around the footsteps and handprints of Hollywood royalty, the cast and crew arrived by stretch limousine before attending the world premiere and walking the festival’s red carpet.

After the premiere, London said making the film was fun but very hard. “I thought it was going to be easier,” she said. “But everything about it was exciting,” she added.

According to London’s dad, it all started with six pieces of paper where she had cobbled a story together.

Though her dad Paul is an established industry screenwriter, and producer/director, he had to first teach London how to use the special software to write scripts.

“I told her, if you finish the script, we will make the film. I didn’t think she would do it, but she sat down and wrote the whole script that same day,” he said.

Although she’s been around the industry with her dad for most of her life, this was her first real project. Once the script was ready, London along with producer Baylee Corona and cinematographer Brooke Mueller, screen-tested fellow 5th graders for the key parts.

For the original soundtrack, Jaya Loo and Justin Busch composed an original song “I Got You” for the film, and it was performed by Koraloo.

London’s dad noted more than 90 percent of the cast and crew on this project were women, “which is kind of cool. He said Technicolor, the industry-standard film colorizing company, invited London to attend the colorizing sessions for her film.

“Really cool,” she said in an interview.

Houghton said the film will soon be placed on the so-called Film Freeway, which will then land it on the official short film festival circuit.

“Making the film was not as easy as I thought it would be,” said London this week, “but it was amazing.” With her first script, written at 9 years old, now made into a film, her dad said it didn’t take long to figure out what comes next.

She’s now 10, and already working on a new script. “Oh well,” her dad said, “at least she’s a chip off the ole block.”

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