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 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.