Three CSUN students embarked on an improvisational journey in the independent film, “A Short Film about Letting Go,” that deals with the universal themes of loss and acceptance.
The film, completed a month ago, was shown at the Independent Theater in Los Angeles, Sept. 24, to an audience of more than 100 people. The film is now being considered for review for the Slamdance Film Festival in Utah, and the South by South West Film Festival in Texas.
J. Erik Reese, a 21-year-old pre CTVA major, was the writer and director of the film. Reese said he came up with the idea when he was hanging out at Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica with Daniel Carmody, the producer and writer of the film.
“We wanted to tell a story that was versatile, that everyone knows,” Reese said.
Carmody, a recent CSUN graduate, said real life experiences inspired the plot of the film.
“When Erik and I got together to write this short film we wanted to write about things that we knew about, which was letting go, forgiveness and acceptance. This, of course, made the film very personal for both of us,” Carmody said.
The dialogue of the film was almost entirely done in improvisation. The two vignettes, one depicting the unraveling of a relationship, and the other depicting the formation of a new one, was unscripted.
Reese said the lack of scripts brought out the truth behind the theme.
“It comes off more truthful, more organic,” he said. “If you know a story, you don’t need lines … you just need to know the essence of the story.”
Carmody said that improvisation allowed the actors the freedom to explore their own feelings and emotions about dealing with loss.
“The acting is very authentic, truthful; it comes from the actor’s real emotions and experiences. This made for an amazing experience on set. It felt real, not like the lines were being read from a script,” Carmody said.
The writers brought in their personal experiences to the film, said Carmody, and seeing those experiences played out on the screen gave him the opportunity to look at his past situation as an outsider.
“It was quite surreal watching actors experience the emotions and situations that I have been in. It allowed me to watch from an outside perspective and let go and move on from certain aspects of my past. It was quite therapeutic,” Carmody said.
Joshua Nitschke, a 22-year-old pre-CTVA major, was the cinematographer and editor of the film. The two vignettes were shot with subtle differences, to symbolize the uncertainty of relationships.
The vignette of the relationship between the “Boy” and the “Girl” was shot with a shoulder mount camera, which produced shaky footage. This effect symbolized the unstable relationship between the characters, Reese said.
The other vignette, between the “Father” and the “Son” featured still shots, to suggest a relationship moving along a path, said Reese.
The film was shot for a total of four days, but the editing process took about a year.
During that time, Reese left for Sweden. Carmody and Reese communicated through Skype to work on the edits. “The editing process was completely different than anything I have ever seen in my life. It took a very long time. It’s not like a normal film where you edit to a script. Josh edited to find the most truthful beats, or scenes. It is like finding a new story in what was shot on set. It’s a long process, which can leave you multiple stories. You just have to pick one that feels truthful, authentic and captures something you want to convey with the audience,” said Carmody.
Reese said that he preferred to take his time with the editing process.
When films are edited under deadline, it tends to get butchered, Reese said.
“It takes a lot of molding and shaping to get it to its very best,” Reese said.
Kevin Shah of Sabi Pictures, was the executive producer of the film. Sabi Pictures is the studio where the film was produced.
Sabi Pictures is a production company that specializes in “provocative, original films for the mass-niche audience that is starved for meaningful, artistic films. We work with several interdependent collaborative artists to create our films, and get the word out using social media platforms, grassroots screenings, and our Web site,” said Shah.
Shah was directly involved in the making of the film from start to finish. Since Shah had experience in producing improvisational films before, he provided guidance in helping produce this film.
“It was important to myself and Zak Forsman of Sabi Pictures to make sure the filmmakers understood from the very beginning that the words on the page were entirely flexible, and could be tossed out for the honesty of what happens on set and in the moment. It was important for us to convey to Dan, Erik and Josh that the director was a guide, the screenplay a blue-print, and the crew was the support team that would bring the experience to life,” said Shah.
Shah was pleased with the finished product.
“I and everyone else at Sabi Pictures is very proud of this film. It was the result of an interdependent film collaboration that revealed a more honest experience for the characters and filmmakers behind them. It will for the audience as well,” Shah said.
The film and the filmmaking process was a journey, Reese said, especially since the cast and crew worked together to produce the film that did not have a mapped destination.
“I didn’t have on paper where it would end … we were constantly exploring where it would go,” Reese said.
It was exploration of the human emotion that led to the end product. Film replicates and emulates life, Reese said, and capturing the pivotal moments in a person’s life about letting go is something everyone could relate to.
To view the trailer or to find out more information about the film please visit http://sabipictures.com/lettinggo/. DVDs of the film are on sale for $6 at www.sabipictures.com.