NEW YORK -- Stuart Solomon turns 23 on May 17. That's probably actually not the most monumental event for this month. That came on May 10 when his short film "Sleeplessness" was screened at the 25th annual Dusty Film and Animation Festival in New York.
"This is the first time a film I've directed has been in a film festival," Solomon said after the screening. "It was interesting seeing it with an audience because I definitely noticed a few things that I hadn't noticed previously and will go back and fix. But generally the reaction was positive."
Solomon grew up in the Bay Area and lived in Albany as a teenager. He dropped out of Albany High School at 15 and moved to Brooklyn at 17 to pursue film. His mother and sister still live in Albany.
"Sleeplessness" is about a young couple living together in a garage. The woman begins having violent nightmares that lead to her thrashing about in her sleep, endangering herself and her boyfriend. The couple decides that the best solution is to never sleep again.
"They decide if they don't come home at night and only come home during the day, they can avoid sleeping," Solomon said.
Of course, this leads to other consequences. Solomon said the film, shot on 16 mm in New York and New Jersey, is using insomnia as a metaphor for strife in a relationship.
Solomon first had the idea about five years ago and started work on the project a year later. He set up an Indiegogo campaign to fund the endeavor.
Solomon's road from dropout to director has had its share of plot twists. He said of Albany High School that it is, "incredibly homework-heavy," and that after a year and a half, he had "had enough." He liked film as a medium because it is both creative and technical and the visual element appealed to him.
"You can actually hear how people talk and see what they look like," Solomon said. "And I've always loved that."
After moving to Brooklyn, Solomon spent a year trying various internships before enrolling at the Pratt Institute. He then decided to transfer to the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. He earned a bachelor's of fine arts in film and video there and, among other projects, has been working as a cinematographer, filming music videos for Brooklyn bands.
SVA puts on the Dusty Festival (known as the "Dustys") for its students, so it made sense for Solomon to enter his project. The festival included more than 100 films made by this year's graduating class.
The school says it has 6,000 students at its Manhattan campus.
Solomon said he hasn't been back to Albany in a couple of years but hopes to be able to visit his family this summer. He said things seem to be working out for him.
"There's no career path to becoming a director," he said. "You have to either get really lucky or really struggle. It looks like I might be getting a bit lucky."