Alumni portray the pressures of seniors in high school with NYU short film “17”

New York University senior and former CHS student Esha Rao, along with her fellow alumni, current CHS students and the rest of Cupertino’s community, is raising funds to shoot a short film, “17,” in the Bay Area, which tells the story of high school seniors facing a paranormal situation.

“A thesis film at NYU is something that a person spends years preparing for, and I always knew that I wanted to return to my hometown to make this film,” Rao said. “My desire was to turn it into an experience I could share with my friends and family as well as my friends and fellow film students at NYU.”

The film, which is scheduled to take place in Santa Cruz and Cupertino — including on campus — is scheduled to begin shooting on location this summer, from June 19 to July 3. Due to the nature of the film, Rao must raise approximately $12,000 through donations to make “17” a reality. Because this film is not being produced at NYU, Rao and her team must raise their own money to fund the project. Rao is using the film’s main website,, to reach out to the Cupertino community and run the fundraising campaign.

“I’d like to think that I’m representing both CHS and Cupertino, not only visually on camera, but as a filmmaker to whom both the school and city are very important,” Rao said.

Rao has currently involved many alumni and students from CHS and even the city of Cupertino, which has given her and her production team permission to shoot here.

Sophomore Jason Shuieh and freshman Caroline Jacquet auditioned this past December for one of the supporting roles in the film. Though the students do not know their actual role in the film, they are very excited to be part of this project.

The film centers around three graduating seniors, two of whom are played by Thalia Moshtagh and Maithy Vu — both alumni of CHS and close friends of Rao — who decide to make the best of their last night of high school and drive down to Santa Cruz beach. However, as they speed down Highway 17, they get into a tragic car accident and do not survive. Miraculously yet mysteriously, the teenagers wake up on the ground the next morning and find that they cannot interact with the people they most want to see.

“It’s a story that anyone who grew up in Cupertino can relate to, as it focuses on a lot of the challenges I and a number of my peers were faced with during high school,” Rao said.

The film brings out characters that are easily relatable to students at CHS because it focuses on the pressures they face at school and the uncertainty of their future.

With such a large number of locals participating in the production of the film, Rao truly wants to make this a big community event over this summer.

“I want this to feel not like a film I’m making in the city of Cupertino, but like a film that the city of Cupertino is making,” Rao said.

Chris Yoon, News Assistant



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