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Finishing My Short Film in Quarantine

After working since March, my final film for the semester titled “A Marriage to Death” is done! The final product is not exactly all that I had envisioned but I am satisfied with it nonetheless. It was difficult doing everything basically by myself. If it weren’t for my sister this wouldn’t have been finished. However, this is a story that I would love to fix sometime in the future.

I started the third week of March and I can see the progression from almost bad camera quality to a better one. I decided to have the film in black and white because to be completely honest, there are too many clashing colors in my home. Although I think this helps the vibe. The thing that helped the most in this film is the completely white hallway that I have.

This film was inspired by too many conversations I had around January or February. A few people asked me when I would get married or would I get married, something like that. I always had the response they did not expect. Basically I said nope and why is that? Well in a nutshell, I would say I was inadvertently conditioned to not like it. I never liked the thought of being tied down to something. The spoken words in the beginning vaguely state that.

So with that in mind, I decided to make this slightly creepy and sorrowful story of someone trapped in a marriage. This is supposed to showcase my fears. The character is some sort of ballet dancer. I’m saying sort of because I myself am not a ballet dancer but my feet naturally point down (they’re ‘broken’ basically) and I have years of experience in karate to move in a certain controlled way.

Most of the film is shot centered because to me that invokes a dramatic effect. Since this is a music video, it is edited like a montage. Part of it are realistic scenes, scenes of the dance, and the scenes portraying the characters sadness with the inky black tears.

The part that I am most proud of is the silhouette scenes and the tracking shots I taught my sister to do. I threw myself off the stairs gently (don’t try this) for one of the scenes. That shot took 2 days, some practice and so many takes. The shower scene also took 2 days. That was the most uncomfortable thing ever. The dress was so sticky that afterwards I took a shower because it felt weird.

The wardrobe of the characters is supposed to portray more of a “proper lady” with the pearls, the hair bun, and the choice of dresses. This was supposed to contrast the reveal of the dress and veil scene and the scenes in the black shirt where the character is supposed to look sad and innocent.

For the death scene, my sister and I filmed during the night almost at 3am. It took me a while to adjust because I was forcing myself through an anxiety attack that wouldn’t go away. I knew I couldn’t wait anymore, having been panicking previous day. I pushed myself and just tried to think of the scene and although I was trembling so much the scene was completed. I think this final week of filming was the hardest because everyday I woke up with this sense of impending doom and panic because I had days to complete it.

This was a crazy project but I’m so happy that my sister helped me in almost every moment. It was weird seeing myself in this but I have detached myself from the character. After shooting the scenes in the dress and veil, I felt very miserable and just wanted to take it off right away. The more I looked at myself in the mirror the more ‘terrified’ I felt. The dancing exhausted me because I have not put my feet in that much strain and controlled movement in a while (and also quarantine has me inactive).

I submitted it to my school’s film festival. I don’t think it will win. It is more of an experimental film than a solid narrative piece. I’m still proud of it regardless and I loved and enjoyed making it. It was all sad faces but my sister and I had fun and a lot of laughs. Check out the final piece on Instagram for yourself. 🙂

How I Create My Melancholy Artwork

Most of my artwork is not the most happy thing in the world. I have yet to make something that doesn’t inherently have anything dark or sad in it (ok maybe that’s not entirely true but still). However, I know that my life experience is mostly the reason why my content is the way that it is.

People have told me that I’m nice and wholesome and that notion of me completely conflicts with my content. So why do I still gravitate towards making content like such when for me at the moment life is pretty ok? Well no matter how much life gets better there’s still a cruel world to brave. Being shy and unassuming growing up, I’ve done my fair share of people watching and seeing how those around me react.

To me making that sort of content feels like that only thing I can do well. When it’s time for an assignment, I feel like I have to do something dark and sorrowful. I can’t stop till I create that story in my mind.

Click the image to see the short film on Instagram!

There was one short film I made last semester as well as a sequel to that today. It had a character distressingly painting some sort of mess of a work. When I presented that work in class for my final, my professor played it 3 times in front of the class. I was extremely uncomfortable because A. I’m shy and B. that was a creepy and weird piece.

I try to make myself uncomfortable developing the story. Working on my semester long project now, I have added elements to try and make the story more unnerving as it is about one of my fears. With one of the outfits that I wore during the shoot, I felt so miserable and despondent. However, I knew that this outfit was needed for the story to come through.

Speaking of fears- that has been such an inspiration. It is the one thing I can say that helps with creating content. One thing that I do is intentionally scare myself with stories, movies and YouTube videos. I myself have a lot of fears so that is not too hard to do. For me I always feel like I can be one step to losing myself and that is a great fear of mine reflected in my work. When you know something well like fear it’s easy.

So the next step for me is then is how will I convey that message to others. Many things are collectively strange to all of us. However, clashing a creepy story with something positive like bright colors or something common and changing it up a little makes the viewer confused on what they’re watching.

I wish I could say more on how I come up with this weird way of storytelling but unless you’ve encountered some cultish environment and been in constant psychological and emotional distress growing up, I don’t really know what to say. I’ve seen a thing or two and I know many other people have as well.

The greatest piece of advice I can give is create something good out of a bad situation. Some great piece of artwork can come out of it. I guess you could say that the way I craft my artwork is just me purging my demons. I do hope that because of it I will become a better storyteller. That is what my end goal is regardless of anything else.

How I Write Poems

In my spare time (or for an assignment), I tend to write poems. I’ve written little stories for many years now but I started writing poems when I was in my sophomore year of high school. Why then, you may ask? Well it wasn’t for any English or writing class. No, I wrote as a purging of my emotions during a time when waking up everyday became a little harder. 

Most of the poems I wrote at that time were destroyed or lost. I cried when my phone died with them. I couldn’t care less about everything else on my phone except my writings. But ever since that little sad occasion, I’ve been writing more and more. Last fall, I became a poet for my college newspaper, The Manhattan Globe. When I took up this task, I wasn’t very confident in my writing, however I have gotten so much practice from this. I’ve received so much positive feedback from it and it has warmed my heart so much.

Now the substance for my poems is almost the same for how I write short stories but a little more personal. Not to be cliche but my poems are truly from my heart so they take a little more time to carefully craft. The first thing I do is recall a memory from my past or something present. Honestly, writing somber poetry is more enjoyable for me.

Click the image to see the short film on Instagram!

However there was one time recently I wrote a poem and I was trying to immerse myself in those days of my bitter high school years. The memory I recalled was too painful that I immediately had flashbacks and I was panicking for the whole day afterwards. I wrote a poem from that experience of recalling things which was not planned initially.

I just think for me, poems come out randomly. I was writing a poem early in the year so that I would keep my mind off something but I was so furious that it just split into a short story of the yearnings of my heart.

But wherever the poem’s origin arrives from, then I have to structure it. I usually pretend it is like a song so I can format it right. The grammar of my poems vary slightly but I love searching for new words. If there was one thing I loved to do when I was younger and still today is read and search for unusual words. One other element I like to use is alliteration.

So while I’m struggling with a story I want to tell and formatting it, I usually play music. It’s not pop music or anything mainstream, it’s sad and creepy lofi music. I think that’s what really helps me get into the mood of writing. It takes me a few hours to craft a poem but sometimes it takes days just to find the right word.

Poetry is always fun to task yourself with.

Its short and sound quality make it swift 

To read but time to clasp. 

Whether it is from the heart or soul,

There is always a story waiting to be told.

However you may mold and behold it,

Let it bloom for all to grasp.

There is a story that needs to be told,

You may think it nothing but it may be gold…

Film Assignments in Quarantine

In the beginning of this semester, back in January, I had a couple of plans for film projects. I had this one idea looming in my head (because people kept mentioning the topic) and I created a little script. Fast forward nearly 4 months later, I have only shot a couple scenes and have only released a mini trailer a few weeks ago.

I’m both optimistic and pessimistic. My sort of wholesome and happy behavior is completely contrasted by the dark thoughts and feelings I have. So what now? Well, it was hard to shoot scenes in the few small rooms in my home. I have my sister working with me sometimes but it’s usually just me.

In my directing class over Zoom, we had to film a few short subject projects. Well none of my family has really done any acting. (Side Note: I think all film students become a little comfortable with acting because we are all in each other’s projects) It was very frustrating because the last thing I’m going to do is tell my mom what to do.

I was really dissatisfied with the content I was creating for class because I always love to make my projects as perfect as I can make it and right now, it wasn’t happening. One project was shot in my room with my sister acting. It took so much time and frustration to shoot. I was watching my little brother at the same time and he was just having too much fun watching us attempt to film something.

But as much as things felt hopeless, I shot my final film project for class this week and to be honest I felt very satisfied with it. I filmed it in my kitchen and shot so many angles and versions. I waited till my parents left and rushed and set up my camera and outfits. I filmed and edited everything before my math class. I looked at it a couple times and I felt relieved that my creative streak wasn’t dead. It still had that flair that was in my other projects.

Click the image to see the short film on Instagram!

And besides that, I was experimenting with dramatic lighting this week. I usually just move some of the small furniture around my room and gather all the lamps around. There was a scene I shot for my larger project and I had applied water mixed with black mascara to create the effect of crying. That burned a little but it wasn’t too bad. In that little session, I tried to make the shots unnerving, but only others can tell me if I’ve achieved that.

There is a mixture of both good and bad things overall, but the thing that is the worst is me trying not to raise the suspicion of my parents. I try to be quiet and rush to do things while they’re away or not paying attention. I think that rushed and full of adrenaline scenario is what really has made creating films a struggle.

Now that the assignments are dying down, I’ll start writing a lot more. I have a little these past two weeks and oh my God how I’ve made myself cry. Writing from the heart is exhausting, but anyway…

This week I’m going to attempt once again to shoot a large part of this little project I’ve been attempting. Yes it has been hard, but I just can’t stop trying to work on it. I’ve been trying so much, it’s just bound to come out good some time! 😉

The time I escaped to see a movie

This is now probably the 6th week of quarantine. I mean I don’t know, it has felt like a long time. Every week I become more and more scared for the world and my pessimistic side doesn’t see a great outcome when this finally is over. Besides that, being at home is becoming a little more annoying by the day, but its not as bad a being at home in summer vacation.

While here in quarantine, I’ve been trying to shoot more short films. It’s difficult because between school and taking care of the home while my parents work, there isn’t much opportunity.

But this week, I managed to film a little true story. It was fun to make and I felt like my normal self while making it. My little short film is about the time last year that I snuck out twice to see two movies: Jojo Rabbit and Joker.

Now, ok, I’m a film student so I should be watching a lot of films, right? Well, as I’ve mentioned in my other posts, my parents are kinda on the strict side. So to keep things calm I just don’t tell them everything. I was dying to see those films so I just gathered all the confidence I could I just went.

Jojo Rabbit was the first film I ever saw alone. I was nervous because of the time and it was a theater I never been too. I went after a class and I spent a good 30 minutes just pacing and wondering whether I should go and see this movie or go home. Well my friends convinced me to go and I ran to this very large theater. When I got there, the theater was full of older people and I was right in the middle of all of them. I enjoyed the film. I laughed, cried, and then when it was over I ran. I ran and rode all the trains back to my town.

Click the image to see the short film on Instagram

The next day, I said I had a project to do (I didn’t) and I went over to New York. I traveled a little to ease my conscious and then went to another theater to see Joker. My conscious wasn’t eased enough because I kept fidgeting from all the anxiety. Still though, it was a great film and definitely a great experience. Afterwards, I wandered until it was a non-suspicious time to go home. It felt strange to just technically sneak out but it was fun.

When I went to see Parasite the next month, I did tell my parents because I was going with my friends. That was also a beyond amazing film and experience. The story made me anxious but at least I wasn’t scared going home. I could actually talk about it all day in the house.

Those three films mean so much to me. They were such amazing stories and the story on how I came to watch them is a great moment for me to think on. When the Academy Awards aired in February, all three films won awards. I screamed and cried with excitement when they won and I felt like I had truly lived and breathed film. I’m always excited every Oscars but this time it felt special and personal.

I don’t know if I’ll sneak out again to watch any movies. Well it would be after quarantine and probably next year if things don’t become better soon. I love film and I never really get to see a lot of films when they come out so I don’t regret what I did. I chose filmmaking because it seemed so magical to me and I’ll continue talking risks, hoping that I’ll make it some day

The Power of Film and Writing

These weeks of quarantine have been rough for me as a film student. Most of the time, I’m taking care of my family and then I have my classes. In all the time in between, I have no motivation as I’m just tired and fatigued. I was so exhausted that I did not realize an important day come and go. 

That day was March 26. Now you may be wondering “well ok, who cares?” And honestly the day doesn’t have to matter, it’s something that I’ve always kept to myself until now. March 26, 2013 was the day I decided that I was going to live. I think I’m pretty dramatic at times but in this case I was serious. Life really sucked then. It was the first time I ever saw death and at the same time I was being coerced by my peers in some weird drama. With both events happening at the same time, I became extremely depressed and those were the darkest moments of my life. 

I don’t know how it happened that day, but I was watching some films and it was the first time I was able to purge all my bottled up emotions and cry for the first time. Not even in the funeral was able to cry and I was right in the front of the entire wake, mass, and burial. In that year, I did not have something to turn to so film became my comfort. It was that day I realized the power of film. 

Now I’m not saying that watching films cured my depression because it did not. I’m saying that it was a great help in me coming out of that darkness. I was able to see some hope in the stories and characters portrayed. Looking back, it was great that I made that decision that day because a few months later, life just went downhill completely for nearly 3 years. 

I held in my heart that I would study filmmaking. If film changed my life and gave me some motivation to live then I would give back and hopefully do the same for others. That was true then and it still is now. From that point on, I began writing seriously.

When I started the horrors of my unusual high school years, I would write almost every single day developing stories. Besides writing in school, I would write in bed through the night and in church. I always carried a little notebook with me everywhere which has now been replaced with the notes app on my phone. The compilation of stories of those three years are some of the darkest, horrifying and most painful stories I’ve come up with. Even now looking back, I’m scared of it.

It was a weird process in that time. I would write stories to try to escape my painful reality and in turn I have content for films of all sorts. Now when I develop stories and even poems, I sometimes try to go back to that mindset of those 3 years to help me. It does help but unfortunately it takes a toll on my mental wellbeing because it was a traumatic time.

Click the image to see the short film on Instagram!

Even though I have developed my story style because of what I went through, I still have trouble seeing the good in those moments. But anyway, films are an art and sometimes a very powerful art. It helped me get through some dark moments and in turn I was able to write stories. I would say pick up a pen (or the notes app) and just start writing. Even if you are battling the toughest moments, I promise you, it can help and you may be able to have a film script bloom from it.

Trying to do Art in Quarantine

This past week has been rough for all of us. The coronavirus has spread so much and is so overwhelming that now we’re all in quarantine (away from everyone hopefully). This extreme change in lifestyle is necessary but has honestly been a stressful and strange event. 

This past week was my spring break. I had plans, as did everyone, and they were cancelled. I spent the final Friday before quarantine walking around with my friends in quiet empty streets. That felt so surreal.

I had my final train ride in a nearly empty train. I just looked out the window to enjoy the sun. In that moment of hopelessness I felt scared and so empty as if this was the end. I stood between the tracks with my friends and we said goodbye. As I stayed there, I was thinking what was I going to do. Everything felt so meaningless. 

Yes, I know, I’m a little dramatic. However, quarantine means to be at home till this deadly virus is eradicated and being home is the worst thing for me. School has been my escape. Being at home is the death of motivation and (some) creativity. Everything is so chaotic and stressful. 

I did attempt this week to be creative, but being at home has been the perfect opportunity for chores, chores, and more chores. In the minutes I could steal away, my sister and I started filming a new project. I loved that my sister would be helping me and getting her shot at filming something. 

The house has such an oppressive vibe. Filming felt so difficult because of the high stress. I would not quite get the shot I was looking for. The white walls and large windows full of light gave such a washed out look. I would lose my train of thought wondering what to do with the script. 

Click the image to see the short film on Instagram!

We would film a few scenes then run and put everything away before my parents walked in the door. We took off our costumes, wiped off our makeup in seconds and stashed the camera and tripod quickly. We acted like nothing happened. 

The rest of the semester starts today. What a relief somewhat. There is now some meaning to life. I have some film classes that require camera work and that will probably be the most difficult of the courses to accomplish in this quarantine.

I don’t expect this virus to end in the very near future. Staying at home will be the greatest trial for my mental health. I’m scared that my depression will come back but I’m really hoping that things will come back to normal and that people will recover from the virus. 

Hopefully I’ll be able to finish this short film soon. There’s nothing that makes me happier and gives me motivation than crafting a story. 

My Parents and my Art

Since I was probably born, I have been surrounded by medicine and science. Many times I say some sort of medical term or a medicine’s name when my parents forget sometimes. Needless to say, it was obvious what kind of future my parents wanted for me. I was fed this idea for a potential future so I always said when I was younger that I wanted to be a DO (doctor of osteopathic medicine), one of the cool doctors, like my mom. 

Yet despite all this conditioning, my parents failed to realize their own art genes that passed down to me as well as my sister. I don’t know how much my parents have noticed but if it weren’t for their medical careers, I believe they could have been good artists. They don’t quite have an eye for my strange art but in their own way they have an eye for art. I enjoy looking at my mom’s really old artworks and it shocking to remember my dad’s acting and to now see some direction skills in skits, photography, and such.

I do believe they haven’t noticed. If they did, they would probably see the same in my siblings and I. It’s a difficult situation because I would have hoped that this art career (and definitely my artwork) would sit well with them. I do understand the whole stereotype of the starving artist and that they’re very nervous. 

A lot of my artworks are hidden under my bed, shoved in drawers under clothes or stuffed in books and folders. I never expected them to ever like what I produce. I constantly have to make an excuse or lie on what I’m filming or photographing so they won’t ask exhausting questions and give me a look of concern. There’s only a handful of people whose opinion matter too much to me and two of those are my parents. So to protect my mind, I just try my hardest to hide. 

After showing my parents one of my freshman final films, my mom told me not to forget my morals. I was already scared in the corner, my face so pale. The color probably went back to my cheeks because I got slightly angry at that statement. There was nothing I was going to lose or forget. This inspiration was given to me somehow and these are the stories that have been collecting in me from years ago to recently. I’ve always wanted to be a storyteller and I know I will lose myself if I don’t create stories. 

My parents may or may not accept my direction of art. I would say that’s ok. They have supported me this far and even happily got me a camera. Some of their thoughts and guidance are misguided but they will come around, I’m sure, even if it takes years. Yes, they cringed at the makeup and artwork in my midterm photos, they jumped at my final film, but never the less they support me in their own way. It exhausting, annoying, frustrating, and stressful (you will always catch me complaining) but this will probably make for great stories in the future 😉 . 

A Beginning to Writing Stories

The most important part in creating any project is creating a great original story. Yes, everyone says that over and over again but it’s true. You can make anything look beautiful but will it be cohesive? 

Now I’m no stranger to being stuck, having no source for ideas, and having writer’s block. As a film student, those deadlines mixed with other unrelated classes definitely have a slight negative effect on the story process, but it’s still great practice. Here’s some tips that have helped me that I hope will work for you. 

The main thing that goes through my mind is “where am I going to get this story from?” Stories can be derived from many things but for me at this time, I mainly take my stories from events in my life as well as dreams. I take an event in my life and alter and exaggerate it as much I can. I feel like this makes the story more personal. I’m not saying that other creatively made stories can’t, but I think that this is a great stepping stone in starting to create films since you know how your life event began and ended.  

No one really has a boring life. Life is exciting and thrilling in different ways so never feel like you don’t have any content to extract. I would say that my life is boring in the sense that I’m not allowed to do anything but I have experienced some strange, unusual and vicious events. These non-boring events in my life have become a great source of original stories and ideas to help other stories. 

Another outlet I have for creating stories is my dreams. I tend to have nightmares all the time and sometimes they don’t make sense but they’re effective in showing me fear. This bizarre experience makes for great content as well as alter or help stories. A music video I made for an assignment last semester was derived from a strange dream that I had. 

Besides films, I also write stories that could potentially be made into films. When I was in high school, I would put myself in the mindset of my characters for a long time to kind of feel what their motivations would be. That was extremely exhausting and stressful but in the end, it does help enhance the story. 

Your creative spring can be anything and as a storyteller, creating a story that captivates and has the audience mesmerized becomes such a rewarding experience. But don’t just make the story for others make it also for yourself. You are your worst critic, so use that to your advantage. It is always great to consult your friends but also look within yourself for changes and new ideas. This is something that once you show the world will always be attached to you so make it the way you want it in the best way that you can. 

Entering the Film World

It was late 2017 when I started applying to film schools. My decision to pursue a career in film was not so well received in my family. I always knew that my parents would have wanted me to enter a career in medicine since they’re both in the medical field. I was always studying science and dissections were kind of my thing. Growing up, I was always open to the idea of studying medicine but there was just something missing in that dream. The ironic thing is that my parents inadvertently instilled in me the love for film. I was raised watching so many films of many different time periods and genres. I also watched many international films and films in different languages. I would say that my parents love film as much as me. 

Something that occurred during my application process was the rise of the Me Too movement in Hollywood following allegations of sexual assault. That was a terrifying moment. How difficult would it be for me a woman to survive in this industry when so many women were treated like less? I was scared and my parents were especially scared. I saw it in them that they wanted me to switch career goals immediately but I just couldn’t. There were so many arguments but I knew in me that it was important that women join this industry. 

During all the horrors of this and the stress of applications and finishing school, I became extremely sick which hindered my work. I was not strong enough to complete the material for some applications and that was very disheartening. However, I was accepted to a number of schools.

This battle of entering film school was not yet over. I wanted to attend a school in New York and as someone who was raised in the same two cities in New Jersey, my parents were extremely worried. Finally after so much struggle, I enrolled at the New York Institute of Technology, which was my mother’s alma mater. Because of that, I felt that things were coming full circle. I entered college scared but eager. Even though it was a new environment and a different kind of studies, for the first time I felt extremely happy.

Throughout all of the worry and stresses, I’m content with the support and direction I’m heading. My parents are proud and happy with what I’m doing now and that is a definite relief. It’s been nearly three years since the Me Too movement started in Hollywood and I’m still worried of my career ahead. I’m still sick with this mystery illness, but that has not hindered my work at all. The end goal is still pretty vague and the journey there is terrifying to me however, if this is meant to be, I’ll work my hardest to get there.