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. 🙂

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 😉 . 

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.