A Highland Park native and New York University undergraduate is working on a short film about what would happen if scientists discovered a genetic source for homosexuality.
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Cyrus Toulabi, 21, has launched a Kickstarter campaign for his senior thesis film entitled The Gene. The film takes place one year after a scientist has discovered a gene that is responsible for homosexuality. The film focuses on the scientist who makes the discovery as she gets caught up in a struggle with a company working on a drug that would "cure" people of this gene.
"I've always loved science fiction films, but I don't think of it as one," Toulabi said in an interview on Thursday. "It's not set in the future, it's very much in the present day."
The film is scheduled to shoot in early April in New York. Toulabi hopes to bring it to the film festival circuit in early 2014.
Toulabi, who attended Highland Park High School, says that his experience in Highland Park gave him a huge push towards his pursuit in film making. He got his start doing television show reviews during the morning announcements as a student. He was also part of the high school's theater program.
"I would not have pursued film making had I not lived in Highland Park," he said.
He learned how to film, edit and write for the screen in high school, skills he says were indispensable in applying to and working at New York University's prestigious film school.
"A lot of those skills I learned then gave me a head start going to NYU," Toulabi said.
The first time Toulabi thought that film making could be a career and not just a passion was when his teachers in Highland Park submitted his work for the local and national Emmy awards for students. He won two local awards and one national. That's when he says he realized, "Okay, I can do film making."
The young filmmaker is hoping to raise $6,500 for the film to rent a camera and lighting equipment, according to DNAinfo. He has already raised over $1,600 through Kickstarter. Additional money has been raised in part by hosting fundraisers in New York and another at his family's restaurant, Reza's, in Chicago.
Toulabi hopes that the film will earn him and his team some interest that will lead to funding for a feature film. Once that happens, he plans to return to Highland Park High School at some point down the line -- as a speaker during FOCUS on the Arts, where he got his start years ago filming interviews with the visiting artists.
"It was all Highland Park that segued me into thinking that [film making] is not only something creative," Toulabi said. "It can be parlayed into a career."