Alex Yonks wants to make a difference, one film at a time.
For the Parish Episcopal School alum, filmmaking is about changing lives through storytelling. Her current project, A Taylor Story, is a short film about a 15-year-old girl battling cancer and finds out on a family horseback ride that her chemotherapy has stopped working. She is then given the option of partaking in an experimental trial that has a low success rate. Her two best friends take her out on Halloween night against her parents’ wishes to show her what it feels like to be alive.
“When it came time to do a thesis film, I wanted to do something important to me,” said Yonks, who is a film student at Chapman University in California. “And though it is not based on a true story, it is still inspired by a variety of things true to my life.”
The horse element in the story is one of those truths, Yonks said. Her sister was battling an illness when she was younger, and Yonks believes her horse, Pippin, saved her sister’s life.
Yonks hopes to donate a percentage of the money raised from the film’s Indiegogo campaign to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
“Whether it’s supporting a charity or just making somebody smile, I’ve accomplished my goal as a filmmaker,” Yonks says.
Yonks started with a passion for acting, as she took classes from Cathryn Sullivan’s Acting for Film Studio in Lewisville. There, Yonks developed a love for screenwriting and directing.
“When I was 16 at the acting studio, I took a directing class and made a documentary about the class itself, catching behind-the-scenes footage,” Yonks said. “When we screened the films, I noticed that everyone was enjoying mine a lot. Even though I had no idea what I was doing, I knew that it made me happy to see others enjoying something I created.”
Yonks’ acting background has proven beneficial for her filmmaking.
“I am able to understand what actors need and how to help get them there,” she said. “It’s different from person to person.”
Casting for the film was a matter of Yonks connecting with old friends from acting school. Emma Fuhrmann, who plays Taylor, is best known for her role in Blended with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. Cozi Zuehlsdorff played Hazel in the Dolphin Tale films. Gavin Casalegno gained notoriety for his role in Noah alongside Russell Crowe.
Yonks’ teacher from Parish, Kevin Ash, is the executive producer of A Taylor Story, which Yonks aims to submit to the Dallas International Film Festival and other festivals in the coming year.
“Alex is a very talented and driven student,” Ash said. “Each year she would come in to the school year having started or nearly completed an even more well-crafted film than the year before. It’s amazing when you have a student with that kind of passion.”