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Student Work Wednesdays – Break Point

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What is the premise of your film?

Yeri Kim (Director): An easygoing bond between siblings is threatened when the brother catches up with his successful younger sister over a tennis match and confronts her about a hurtful incident from their past.

Ethan McDonnell (Producer): Two Siblings meet on the day of a Major American Eclipse and slowly realize they might not know each other as well as they think.

What was the Pre-production process like entirely online?

Yeri: In terms of coordinating with team members, it was pretty smooth. However, holding casting sessions online was difficult. Video calls don’t have the best audio/video quality and it was strange not being able to see any of the actor’s auditions in person.

Ethan: Definitely a challenge, it was much harder to coordinate with people that you couldn’t see in person, and there were more emails than you can imagine. It worked out fine in the end, but it was definitely full of obstacles to overcome.

From Left to Right: Ciara Hutchinson, Yeri Kim, Ethan McDonnell, Amy Nietes, Ashely Dean

How many crew members did you have on your film? How many were on set?

Yeri: We had 6 crew members and 9 people on set total.

Ethan: We had seven crew members total, and we had six on set, our editor Harold working from home.

What was it like working with a small crew?

Yeri: It was challenging, but overall a great learning experience. We had to condense the crew down to absolutely essential positions and most of us were wearing multiple hats. It was a juggling act so it took some time to find our rhythm, but I’m so grateful to our crew for taking it in stride and pushing through.

Ethan: Like most things with this intensive, it definitely presented a challenge to work around. While each person had more to do in order to make our film happen, the flexibility of a small crew was definitely refreshing and almost necessary for the COVID world.

Break Point Cast and Crew

How do you think this experience has helped prepare you for the professional world?

Yeri: Being able to experience the entire film process from start to finish has given me an even greater appreciation for everything that goes into a film. We tried to do what it takes a village to do with 10 people, so a lot of us were taking on various roles and doing all sorts of work. Respect and empathy go a long way in helping you be a better collaborator, and this experience gave me the opportunity to work with several different roles and disciplines which will help me be a colleague people want to work with professionally. It also taught me the importance of preparation and problem-solving, which are two foundational professional skills that also go a long way in collaboration.

Ethan: While I wouldn’t say this experience mirrored professional sets, I do think it was the perfect primer for making films on your own – Guerilla Style. Working with such a small crew, budget, and with numerous restrictions forced us to work outside the box and overcome problems just like we would have to if we were to shoot our own film after school.

Which part of the process was your favorite? Why? (Pre-pro, Production, Post-pro, Modules)

Yeri: Pre-production. I love the anticipation at the nascent stage of a film. It’s like when the weather starts to get warm at the end of a long, cold winter and the trees start to bud. You see these little slivers of color and you know you’ll see a full bloom soon. There’s such excitement when you start with an idea, turn it into a script, and watch it take on life as you explore the possibilities.

Ethan: Pre-Pro, while it is also probably the most difficult part of the process, I feel it is the most rewarding, and there’s nothing better than seeing things start to come together and begin to resemble all the pieces of the film.

Amy Nietes and Yeri Kim

Which part of the process was the most difficult? Why?

Yeri: Production was definitely the most difficult for me. To be honest, I had a lot of insecurities going into filming. It was my first time directing, and because I was a transfer student in my first year with the program when COVID happened, I had only been on set once before which was more than a year before the shoot. We also had to film under some unusual, tight restrictions and on top of that, it rained during our shoot. I questioned myself a lot on set. Am I doing this right? Should I do this or that? Was that too much? I should’ve thought of that. In hindsight, I wish I had relaxed and enjoyed myself more. My crewmates were and the actors were really gracious and I learned a lot from them on set.

Ethan: As I said above, Pre-Pro for sure, just due to the unique challenge of coordinating with people inside and outside the department in a totally remote environment.

What was the most rewarding part of this experience?

Yeri: The most rewarding part was looking back at the difficult stages and realizing that I learned many lessons that I couldn’t have learned without this experience. I asked for and was given a lot of advice going into filming, but it’s one thing to know something as an idea and another thing to really understand through practice. When I look back at what professors and fellow filmmakers told me, I see it in a completely different light. It feels so rewarding and satisfying to look back and see some of their advice really sink in. I really get what they meant, and I feel all the more motivated to work on the next project with everything I learned in mind.

Ethan: Probably Production after having put the work into Pre-Production, seeing the film actually being put into the can is certainly something very special.

What advice would you give to students who take this course after you?

Yeri: There’s a lot I can think of, so here it goes: Be a sponge. Take advantage of every opportunity to learn what you can, not just for yourself, but so that you can be helpful to others, and the kind of person that elevates your crew and film. Strive to be as excellent as you can be. Be realistic. Know your strengths and weaknesses, and be okay with your limitations. Be confident. Be okay with making mistakes while you have the guidance of professors and the safety of a film program. Don’t be discouraged and compare yourself to others. Take care of your mental health. Have empathy and patience. Be kind.

Ethan: Stay Frosty and shoot the damn movie.