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.

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! 😉