We There

If you’ve been paying attention to this blog, you know that I’ve been making most of my films available online, for free, going backward in time until I hit the first one I ever did. That was in 2000 with the ultra-low-budget production of I’d Rather Be…Gone. (When we get to that point, I’ll explain the ellipsis.)

There was a big gap in posting anything because I tried to go in the exact order — even if some weren’t edited yet. Getting these done has been a challenge. I’m a busy mama (and employee, and sleeper, and eater, and ceiling watcher). Ergo, there are still a bunch that haven’t been completed. Excuses, excuses.

Well, I’m starting the new year uploading those that are completed, the first one being a short film I created with Rena Marie Guidry, Janna Browning Weir, and Amal Kouttab in 2007, titled We There.

That year, Rena and Janna conducted drama therapy sessions in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood with a group of local youth. On March 16, 2007, one of the group’s participants, Antwanisha Morgan, was shot and killed by a stray bullet from the gun of a Potrero Hill gang member.

We There grew out of the collaborative efforts of the young people in these drama therapy sessions — Antwanisha’s friends — using creativity as a means of expressing rage, grief, and the trauma associated with living in a violent environment. The movie centers on a main event — a neighborhood shooting — but also incorporates everyday occurrences in the lives of the youth. These were all dramatized in such a way as to anonymize the storyteller’s experience.

When I heard about the group at a night of performances at CIIS and their goal to create a short film, I knew I had to be involved. After approaching Rena and offering anything they needed, they asked me to direct, and I said yes. The project, however, was very much a co-directorial effort.

Our slim budget went toward food and rental of a second camera, and we otherwise used my equipment and filmed using natural and available light. We shot guerrilla style with no storyboards or shot list. All the sound was done by whoever happened to be free to hold a boom mic.

A memorable moment for me was directing one of our actors during a scene where, while on the ground, her mother attempts to choke her. My mother tried to choke me when I was around eight or nine years old. I was honored to be able to contribute to the narrative, from a position of adult survival and success, in another form of creative giving back. Perhaps the drama therapy went all ways.

Cheers to our young actors for making themselves so vulnerable in this film. We There premiered at San Francisco’s Roxie Theater to a sold-out audience, with the actors arriving in a limo to a red carpet reception. It also won Best Docudrama at the 2007 Southern Appalachian International Film Festival. I hope you enjoy it, warts and all.


Winter’s Eve

Sarah Korda and Elinor Bell in "Winter's Eve"

I hope that as I grow older, I figure certain things out — what’s most important, the unhealthy patterns I’ve repeated, the things that are trivial that can fall by the wayside (with any luck, those unhealthy patterns).

I hope it’s a time of great clarity and peace.

This is essentially what I wanted to explore in Winter’s Eve, the next short film I’ve made publicly available on Vimeo. The story centers on two women — one who’s “grown older” and her pool cleaner, the young mother of a toddler. It deals with several questions:

  • What constitutes a human connection?
  • Can we ever truly put ourselves in someone else’s shoes?
  • How does our perspective of death change as we get closer to it?
  • What does inner strength look and feel like?
  • What existential, unspoken moments of insight do we face when we realize so many things at once — the immediacy, vibrancy, and beauty of life; the inevitability of death; and the need and desire to persevere while we can?

Check it out, and if you like it, please share.


How Are Those New Year’s Resolutions Going?

You may be lucky—you may be one of the 8% of Americans who’ll actually make it through all of their 2014 resolutions. Cinemulatto wishes you the best of luck! I made a few of my own resolutions in January, so since the first quarter of 2014 is behind us, time to check in.

How are you doing with yours? Here’s where I am:

  1. Write and produce six original shorts around a theme. I’ve already downsized this to five shorts instead of six (let’s hear it for stretch goals). Still, production for one short is complete, editing is underway, and I’m in the middle of production for the second short. In the spirit of Zero Dollar Shorts, I might set an offshoot goal to post all of my undistributed films online for free. Please leave a comment if you’d like to see this happen.
  2. Complete five feature scripts (four rewrites and one new one). I think I’m on track with this one. One of the five screenplays has been submitted to a staged reading competition and the second is in review with a reader. It can happen!
  3. Find a mentor. I came to a conclusion: I don’t want a mentor. I want a mentee. To this end, I now have two aspiring actors who’ve decided to take my guidance and work toward roles in indie films. What better way to organize and solidify what I believe I’ve learned from 25+ combined years of drama and film experience? And what better way to force myself to know what the hell I’m talking about, and to make myself fill the gaps in knowledge I know I need to fill?
  4. Hold four “movie retreats”. I’ve done one retreat so far. Three to go.
  5. Get out more. I’m not doing so hot on this one, but I have been doing a healthy amount of socializing while I film, making this goal two-fold: also become known as someone who has a mellow film set, who’s there primarily to build community, have fun, and be creative. A passion should never be work.

I’ll do another check-in after June. I encourage you to do the same. Onward!