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Alumnus actor directs, stars in recently released film

Courtesy Mark Elias
Movie magic: Conestoga alumnus Mark Elias, playing character Aaron Barnes, watches a band play a live show. He released “Boy Makes Girl” in 2022 after delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

By George Zhang, Co-Director of Staff Development

Lights, camera, action. 1995 Conestoga alumnus Mark Elias moves across the set and transforms into Aaron Barnes, the main character of his own movie, “Boy Makes Girl.”

Elias started writing the script in 2017 and centered it around Barnes, a programmer on the autism spectrum who creates an artificial intelligence program to resemble his childhood therapist. However, as their relationship progresses, the program evolves, and Barnes struggles to keep up.

“It’s really an examination of how artificial intelligence can be positive and negative in our society as it becomes more and more prevalent in our everyday world,” Elias said. “It’s a science fiction love story, but it’s really about alienation and a struggle to connect.”

Elias finished the script in 2018 and shot the film from 2019 to 2022 due to complications with the COVID-19 pandemic. He then submitted his movie to numerous film festivals such as the Milan Gold Awards and the Durango Film Festival, winning awards such as Best Indie Narrative Feature. Elias released the movie on Oct. 24, allowing viewers to stream it on platforms such as Roku and Amazon Prime.

Serving as both the director and lead actor for the first time, Elias found the process to be both stressful and insightful.

“When you go in front of the camera, you’re working as an actor, and when you step back from the camera you have to make sure you’re getting everything from the director standpoint such as the relationships, how everything looks on screen and the overall story that we’re telling,” Elias said.

Elias first introduced himself to the world of writing and design at Conestoga after writing for The Spoke and creating graphics for the TETV Production Club. These experiences led him to pursue a graphic design major at Penn State University, where he discovered a passion for acting. Throughout his career, Elias has appeared in numerous shows and movies, most notable being “9-1-1: Lone Star” and “Lucifer,” which he cites as his most memorable experience.

“During the set, (the producers) came to me and said, ‘We want to have you flying through the air and have the camera above you so we catch you flying after getting hit by a car and landing on another car and then rolling off and getting hit by another car,’” Elias said. “We did it three, four, five times, and when I landed back on the ground, I just went blank and couldn’t feel my feet or my body. It was like being on a roller coaster, but you don’t know what’s going to happen next. I almost passed out.”

In the future, Elias hopes to keep pursuing roles in long-running shows in order to gain more exposure and funding so that he can continue creating projects that are meaningful to him.

“The films that I write and get produced are going to be meaningful on some level and let me tell a story that could help potentially change people’s lives or make them less alienated or help them feel better about themselves,” Elias said. “You can’t do that until you have a platform of being on a show that gives you visibility. So, my goal is to grow my reach so I can continue to tell impactful stories as a filmmaker.”

George Zhang can be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
George Zhang, Co-Director of Staff Development
George Zhang is a senior and the Co-Director of Staff Development of The Spoke. He enjoys covering a wide variety of topics ranging from news to sports. Outside of The Spoke, George enjoys taking pictures with his trusty Canon 90D, inhaling Graham Central Station ice cream at Handels, registering youth voters through New Voters and playing basketball at Wilson Farm Park. He also leads a variety of clubs such as the National Honor Society of which he is the vice-president and Future Business Leaders of America of which he is the co-president.