Senior Thesis Film: Director POV

Over this past fall break, I directed my Senior Thesis film. I’ve been working on it for the past eight months, and seeing it come to life was surreal – I’m still riding the coattails of the high it gave me. Once the project is edited and officially finished, I will write a blog post encapsulating all of my emotions and thoughts, so look out for that.

Cassandra, one of the amazing actors from my film, is also an Admissions Blogger. We interviewed each other about our shared experience. Check out her post here, in which she answers the following questions:

1. What initially got you into acting?

2. Have you ever acted in a film before?

3.How was acting in a film different from theater acting?  Which do you like better and why?

4. What was your favorite part about being on set?

5.What was your favorite line you said in the film?

6. What did you learn?

7. Is Charlotte a good director? …haha you don’t have to answer this…unless…

8. Future projects/dreams/career goals? What’s next?

A candid photo of me while Directing!
A photo from set. That’s me in the white shirt!

& here are my answers to her questions (which you can find in her blog post !) about my Directorial Debut:

1. My short film follows June, our reserved and mysterious protagonist as she navigates grief and tries to move on from something that has been holding her back. I was inspired to create something set in the graveyard because after passing it every day (sometimes multiple times a day) for the past three years, I found it extremely intriguing and oddly beautiful. When I decided the central plot would revolve around the graveyard, the rest of the screenplay came to me through many months of revisions, aided by advice from my Thesis Advisor (Jon Andrews) and my classmates.

2. This was my first time directing! Huge deal. It was encouraging to know everyone trusted me enough to want to be a part of this project.

3. Since I had never directed my own project before, I was a little nervous to lead my set. I was anxious about everything working out - let’s call it pre-shoot jitters - but on the first day of shooting, things started falling perfectly into place. I was also curious to see what kind of directing style I would embody. I found I really liked working with the actors, prioritizing time spent with them in order to extract their best performances, leaving most of the shot/camera decisions up to my cinematographer and confidant, Jake.

4. I think one thing a lot of directors wish for is more time - more time to work with the actors, more time to perfect each take, more time to fine-tune each camera set-up.  I wish I had more time for all of this, and because we were shooting over fall break, the few weeks leading up to shooting flew by. However, I think some of the best performances were products of the tight schedule, so maybe it wasn’t all that bad. 

5. I learned that I love working with the actors and creating a collaborative environment.  I definitely didn’t know the best way to do everything, and I am grateful I was surrounded by people who oftentimes did.

6. One of my main goals for this project was to organize a cast and crew that was collaborative, fun, and friendly. I know I accomplished this because watching everyone work together, I felt pure joy. I enjoy screenwriting a lot too, and the long-winded process of revising my script for months was ultimately very rewarding. It’s exhilarating to watch (or hear, rather) my writing go from the page to the # stage.

7. It’s hard to even put it into words. I felt so undeniably lucky, grateful, and fulfilled. This warm and special feeling of accomplishment and pride washed over me, knowing that everyone trusted my writing and directing to devote their fall breaks to this project.  Wow, I still feel so genuinely happy. Definitely one of the coolest feelings ever. One of my favorite moments was on Saturday night at our wrap party, watching everyone from the cast and crew laugh and enjoy each other. At that moment I knew I had accomplished more than just writing and directing this film, but had brought these great people together to hopefully foster lifelong friendships.

8. The biggest challenge I faced in pre-production were all of the University’s ever-changing Covid restrictions. Actors were not allowed unmasked without being in a strict testing cycle for weeks prior to shooting, so we ended up having to shoot the entire film outside. I will say this - sometimes things just really work out the way they are meant to, even if it seems like everything might go up in flames. We were blessed with gorgeous weather that made all of the shots turn out stunning. The cast and crew were full of creative problem-solvers, and because of this, we found some great, last-minute outdoor locations that allowed us to bring this story to life. 

9. Cassandra is a great actor and was super fun to work with.  She took direction well and asked specific questions about her character’s motivations, which made my job easier.  Beyond being a great actor, she’s an even better person, and her energy and enthusiasm provided the set with a sense of vivacious joy.  I’m really glad we got to know each other throughout this process – and excited to see where theater and acting take her!

10. Great question….that we shall leave a little open-ended.  Not sure what my exact post-grad move is, but I will definitely continue working in the entertainment industry.  Creating my Senior Thesis has truly made me fall in love with directing, screenwriting, and collaborating. Future career goals include Directing/Screenwriting, and I am optimistic I will begin to fulfill this in the coming years!