Rediscovering My Passion for Film
American Film Institute Film Festival
The weird thing about losing a loved one is that you also feel like you’ve lost a part of yourself. Lately, I’ve been questioning everything. “What do I enjoy doing?” “What actually brings me joy?” “Do I still like the same things, or should I explore something new?” Thinking about these questions can get overwhelming, but I've found that there's no harm in doing a trial run. Why not do the things you’ve always liked to do, and see if it still brings you joy. If not, now you’ll know, and you can have fun searching for something new.
Movies and my love for filmmaking have always been a constant in my life, but after moving to LA to pursue both acting and filmmaking, acting took over most of my time and resources. In the 5 years I’ve been here, I’ve accomplished quite a few of my acting goals: booking several commercials, becoming SAG eligible, and meeting a few celebs while background acting, to name a few. While all this is exciting, and are still things I’m passionate about, unintentionally my love for filmmaking has been cast aside.
I studied Radio, Television and Film in college, and I was a part of an amazing organization called, UNT Short Film Club. We would watch short films, and learn from different filmmakers, while giving our opinions and critiques. Every other weekend, we would work on our own film ideas/scripts, and make our own dope, short films.
During my senior year of college, I made my first short that was a passion project, and not just a class assignment. My short film, Fostered, went on a summer-long festival run, and did better than I imagined! It even won a few awards. This time in my life was pretty amazing! I loved how passionate and creative my filmmaker friends were, and how we held each other accountable to get our stories told. I remember how amazing it felt to be on a panel, and answer questions about my short film, knowing these people actually cared enough to want to know more!
Although acting in LA has given me new forms of excitement and pride, I realized I miss filmmaking. Plus, the reality is, the rejection that comes with acting, and the hustle mindset you have to have to survive LA can burn you out. Now add grieving, and let me tell ya, a girl has been feeling numb and uninspired. After crying over my college/short film club “glory days”, I realized I had been neglecting a big part of who I am. Then it hit me!
My love for film will always be a part of my identity
Who says I have to give up one passion for another? (Especially when acting & filmmaking go hand in hand)
Film festivals still exist… I can find that passion again!
And that thought brings us to this self-love date, attending the AFI (American Film Institute) Film Festival! Shoutout to my Instagram algorithm, and the spies in my phone for having an AFI Fest ad pop up on my feed, ‘cause it was just what I needed! And y’all guess what? Since I’m a Budget Baddie, and this festival also showcases students' work, a girl got to go to a short film conservatory screening for FREE! I did want to go to the cool premieres of the Oscar nominated films and red carpet screenings with well known celebs, but those have been sold out for months! Besides, in this current economy, free is always the way to go!
Self-Love Date Tip: If you’re a cinephile, or filmmaker looking for some inspiration, film festivals are perfect for you! For 3 days (sometimes more) you get to watch new films, and listen to panels about how the films were made. Most festivals have free events and screenings, especially if there’s a student submissions category. You can have a fun day at the cinema, all while supporting an independent filmmaker.
The Conservatory Showcase block I attended was made up of 6 short films. I can't remember if I read all the films' synopses, but several revolved around the topic of loss and grief. A bit on the nose for this blog, but hey, clearly my subconscious needed this.
List of films I watched: (Film synopsis written by filmmakers)
Aro's World - After losing his father, Adi, a grief-stricken, preteen boy, befriends sock-puppet, ARO, who mysteriously operates from his hand while his older brother Marcus becomes his caretaker.
Cherry Kompot - A family dramedy that follows Lev, a stubborn Jewish-Ukrainian senior, who refuses to sit shiva in the wake of his wife Sonia’s death. When his growing hysteria drives all the guests away, he is confronted with his truest fear: to find himself alone.
Backbone - Cole, a teenager with a broken back, lives with Len, his domineering alcoholic mother who cannot retire because of his condition. Cole will have to deal with the consequences of her actions at the expense of his own health.
The Garden of Edette - An elderly Creole woman’s life is bound to her flesh-eating garden. When Edette unexpectedly befriends a young girl before her next sacrifice, she must choose between killing her new friend, or dying alongside her beloved garden.
Lucky Market - After years working at a small, Asian grocery store, Min has agreed to move in with her son’s family several hours away. On her supposed last day of work, she takes stock of the home and family she has built, and realizes that she is unable to leave.
Mis-Assignment - Roberta Statero is a burnt-out engineer in charge of the humane destruction of misaligned androids. When she encounters Ved-A, an android with a severe case of misalignment that includes self-harming, Roberta’s routine is disrupted.
What stuck out the most to me about these films were their unique ways of interpreting loss, and their character's different responses to grief. Aro's World was dark, and felt like a horror film, while Cherry Kompot was a comedy with some dramatic moments. While both films touched on mental health after a loved one dies, I thought it was interesting how different a child vs. a senior deals with grief and letting go. It reminded me that both reactions are valid, and equally a part of the grieving process. One day, grief can feel like it's an overpowering monster sucking you in, and the next, you can laugh about old memories of the person you miss. The Garden of Edette also touched on this topic. Rather than letting go of her lost child, she sacrificed others, and her own life to keep the memory of her alive.
Grieving Tip: Like everything, you need balance. It's ok to use memories to keep your loved one with you, but you must also make strides to learn how to continue life without them, so you don't get stuck in the past.
Lucky Market was my favorite film of the bunch! It was well shot, well acted, and equally endearing and heartbreaking. Plus, it touched on the topic of gentrification, and being forced to change a way of life you've always known. I connected with the feeling of forced change, since that's been my own experience these past few months.
Overall, all these films impressed me! The diversity of the filmmakers and cast was refreshing! Each story was unique and told with care. And don't get me started on the production value! Mis-Assignment made a whole dystopian world with androids look legit! It was also just fun being at a film festival again. I enjoyed the Q&As with the filmmakers, and overhearing the hipster, "cinephile bros'" comments and critiques. It was held at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood, so being around all the historic film memorabilia was pretty dope, too! But by far, my favorite part was feeling inspired again! I realized that filmmaking still brings me joy, and I no longer want to deprive myself from such an important part of my life. So look out world, 'cause my creativity has been ignited, and I've got some stories to tell!