Every year about this time, after high school graduations and before college classes begin, I get a phone call from a frightened and anxious parent who has suddenly noticed his or her child hasn't done a thing to ease the transition to higher education.
The parents had never attended college themselves and didn't have a clue as to what to do. They had left everything up to their child, who needed more guidance than he or she had asked for from school counselors.
FAFSAs (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) had not been filled out, dormitory rooms had not been reserved, freshman orientation dates had not been selected.
Granted, it should never come down to that. High school counselors are doing great work in directing students step by step in preparation for entering college. But the message is not always heard, for whatever reason.
Knowing that, Kathryn Beane of Atlanta, the daughter of a counselor at a private school, set out to make a documentary/movie that would give students and parents the basic information about entering college and do it in an entertaining way.
I think she succeeded.
Getting Into College: The Movie, a 70-minute feature film produced, written and directed by Beane, walks the viewer through the sometimes intimidating process of selecting a college, applying to colleges, and then finding the money to pay for it all. And it uses high school characters to comically and youthfully relay the information so that boredom does not set in.
"I was shocked there was nothing around in this format," Beane said.
The film was completed in late 2006 and premiered in 2007, and then it pretty much sat on a shelf.
Beane said she is not a marketing person and the agent who had an exclusive to peddle the film, didn't. Not much was done, and only a few people got to see the film or learn from it.
Tony Frierson, owner of Frierson Media, signed on in January to market the film, bringing energy and aggressive marketing to the project.
Frierson is a Lexington native who grew up in the Green Acres subdivision, graduated from Bryan Station High School and attended Eastern Kentucky University. He moved to Atlanta in 1989.
Since getting on board, Frierson has contracted with a distributor to put the film on various cable companies' "on demand" programming list. In Lexington, the film can be seen on Insight for $4 through August.
A more comprehensive two-disc DVD set is available online for $24.85. That offer includes the entertaining movie and a second disc featuring more than two hours of interviews with deans of admissions, financial aid professions and college counselors from the University of Virginia, Duke University, Northwestern University and Georgetown University, among others.
That disc is a more behind-the-scenes view of what colleges are looking for.
"We're trying to get this film into the hands of as many high school kids and parents as possible," Frierson said. "There are a lot of families in rural communities and in the inner cities where no one has ever gone to college. What this movie does is go above and beyond the technical information. It offers inspiration."
The film highlights four main characters: Jake, who is the first in his family to attend college; Michele, who is fixated on one college that has rejected her application; Marcus, whose parents might not be able to afford to send him to college; and Beth, who is paralyzed by the numerous offers she has received.
The protagonist is Ryan, the student all others gravitate to because he knows the ins and outs of getting into college. His mother is the school's guidance counselor.
Beane said her mother's role in the film was crucial in getting the facts correct.
While many counselors do their jobs well, many are overburdened with a large number of students and with other issues that students deal with in high school, she said. So informing students of their college options isn't as complete as it should be.
Beane said she had often heard her mother talking with parents at home about college. "If my mom wasn't around, sometimes I'd ask if it was something I could help them with," she said. Sort of like the Ryan character.
Getting Into College probably could help those overwhelmed guidance counselors and definitely should be made available in school and public libraries as well.
If there is a student on the edge, trying to decide whether to go to college, "I think this movie will push them on over," Frierson said. "It is done in the language of the young people. It's hip."