Joseph Schiappa saw an episode of Oprah that dealt with the dangers of texting while driving. A normal teenager might have simply been inspired to put down his phone while in the car
Schiappa not only stopped texting, he started producing. In several short months Schiappa wrote, shot, directed and edited a 20-minute film, LOL – Lost Our Lives, highlighting the dangers of texting while driving.
“I knew that I was one of the people she was talking about,” Schiappa said. “I wanted to spread that to my peers, that it can happen to them. “
The Stagg High School senior and Palos Heights resident was taking a media studies class at school. He then convinced his parents to buy him a laptop with editing software.
Equipped with a camera, a computer and plenty of determination, he got to work.
Like any good independent film director, Schiappa hustled his friends and community members for help. The North Palos Fire Protection District, Palos Hills Police Department, Palos Community Hospital and a list of others all volunteered equipment and personnel for the project.
“I learned so many life lessons as well as technical film [lessons],” Schiappa said. “Especially that I have to try hard if I want to succeed. I am going to face failure and here no but I have to keep going.”
His mother Lynda Schiappa was not surprised by her son’s determination. What she was surprised by was how fast he picked up filmmaking techniques.
“As he kept working at it, and it kept developing and growing it just kept getting bigger. I am so proud,” Schiappa said.
The film took about six months to shoot and edit, with Schiappa working on the project almost every day throughout that time.
The hard work paid off and the premier took place at Stagg’s theater Wednesday night. Watching the film on the big screen were Joe’s family and friends as well as numerous community members who participated.
John Seguin, 17, of Palos Park, played the texting driver.
"He really made it something else with the work he put into it,” Seguin said. “I was there every step of the way with him, and I know how much work he put into it. “
Stagg’s principal Eric Olsen said the film will be shown to all drivers’ education students at the school for years to come. Many other area high schools have already requested copies.
“There is nothing like a student making a film about a principal’s worst nightmare,” Olsen said.
The film shows several heartbreaking scenes that demonstrate the very real effect texting while driving can have. The scenes are made even more powerful knowing that a teenager wrote them.
“People who see it definitely understand the concept and it definitely makes them think about what they are doing,” Seguin said.
Schiappa will attend Columbia College in the fall to study filmmaking. He hopes this is just the start of what will be a lifelong career.
“I always like to think of stories and things happening in my head,” Schiappa said “ I think it is cool that I can apply that and show that through film . . . I like how you can tell people a story and make them feel something inside.”
The film can be viewed on YouTube and is embedded in the viewer with this article.
Schiappa was also honored at the most recent District 230 board of education meeting.