1, 2, 3, All Eyes on Me: Is the Short Film Inspired by Real Events?

‘1, 2, 3, All Eyes on Me’ is a short film that centers around a teacher and her students who are caught up in a school shooting. It’s a normal day for Ms. Leena, an elementary school art teacher, who sees a teenager marking doors in the school with an “x.” Alarmed and knowing exactly what is about to transpire, Ms. Leena runs back to her classroom to ensure her students’ safety as two armed gunmen storm the school building.

Directed by Emil Gallardo and starring Farelle Walker in the lead role, the 2020 film is a heart-wrenching commentary on the terrible and ongoing school shootings that have plagued the country. Told from the perspective of Ms. Leena, the drama film’s story delves into the terror teachers experience alongside their students, but despite it all, they make sure that nobody panics or acts in a way that would put everybody in danger. But is it based on a true case of a school shooting? Let’s find out!

1, 2, 3, All Eyes on Me: Drawing from School Shooting Realities

No, 1, 2, 3, All Eyes on Me is not a true story. However, it is inspired by the countless school shootings that have taken place over the last couple of years in the country. Director Emil Gallardo and Derek Ho serve as the co-writers of this impactful film. Speaking about the production process, in an interview with Indie Activity, Emil said, “The story is based on a combination of real incidents, the interviews we did with teachers, and some creative decisions we made. We self-funded the film. We had a small window in which to shoot the film and knew the subject matter was controversial.”

The director added, “It was important for us to tell the story we envisioned and wanted to have complete creative control from the script through the final cut of the film.” Filmed inside an actual school in Oakland, ‘1, 2, 3, All Eyes on Me’ uses quite a few child actors to fill in the role of the students. But these young actors weren’t given any training or direction about what to do beyond the most basic of instructions because all of them had gone through several active shooter drills at their own schools prior to their roles in the short film.

“I remember Olivia [one of the child actresses] saying ‘We do this [active shooter drills] so frequently that none of the kids really take it seriously. And so they’ll start giggling and laughing and our teacher will give us lollipops to help keep us quiet.’ And that moment made its way into the film,” revealed director Emil Gallardo in a behind-the-scenes video. The short film is anti-gun violence; therefore, no actual firefights have been graphically depicted in the film. Instead, the story alludes to it through a series of engineered sounds of bullets being fired.

In fact, as per reports, the child actors were actually not present when the single sequence with the gunmen in the film was being taped, and neither did they hear any of the firing sounds, which were added in post-production. Talking about what kind of message he hopes the audience takes away from the film, Emil Gallardo continued, “When I was in school, we had earthquake drills, we had fire drills, we weren’t training for an active shooter.”

The filmmaker further added, “A lot of us as adults, we don’t fully understand, so I think it’s extremely important that people watch this, so they can feel what’s it like without actually being in the situation and they can take everything that they felt and then push for actual real-world change.” Though a work of fiction, the short film is nonetheless as true and authentic as any other biopic or documentary.

‘1, 2, 3, All Eyes on Me’ captures the very real terror that people feel when people are being massacred in front of them, not knowing whether they’ll be next to lose their life or not. A truly immersive experience, the short film will make viewers go through sorrow and fear alongside Ms. Leena and frustration at their inability to do anything substantial about the situation both on-screen and in real life.

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