The Making of "Second Impressions"

Second Impressions -- FULL MOVIE

95 days of filmmaking

1, 495 dollars raised via crowdfunding

190 cups of coffee consumed (give or take…)

1 nervous breakdown

7 hours of footage

28 total interviews

14,678 words in the transcript

43 minutes of the final film

... ENJOY!!! 

Trash Talkin' Tarantino & Other Facets of My Internship

I'd add some  Pulp Fiction  quotes, but that'd take this post from PG to R real quick.

I'd add some Pulp Fiction quotes, but that'd take this post from PG to R real quick.

Let me begin by saying I love me some Quentin Tarantino, alright? Not only is Pulp Fiction one of my all time favorite films, but also Mr. Tarantino, I believe, has a true talent for storytelling. His multi-layered plots generate far more sophisticated stories than a lot of films I've seen. The dialogue is so well written and so sublimely acted by the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Christopher Waltz, etc. is it any wonder that such refined talent culminates to create such exquisite films? 
But naturally, talk to someone who knows someone whose uncle's doctor's son worked as a gaffer on one of Tarantino's films, and the dirt drudged up is no different than the gossip in the high school girl's bathroom. If there are widely read magazines like Cosmo or US Weekly or whatever else floats people's boat, then people in the biz (anyone else hate this phrase?) should have some shady outlet too. We could call it, "You Talkin' 'Bout Me? Weekly" or "Shaken & Stirred".

But I digress.

The reason this whole Tarantino post happened is because last night at the Arizona International Film Festival --which you all should go to! Support our industry here at home and enjoy a good movie in the process!-- the after-party consisted of a big table of film buffs talking about-- oh, you guessed it!--films! And luckily for me, this is one of my favorite things to do. Reflecting on the short films we had just watched, discussing which ones we liked or didn't like, why that was, and how they could be improved...these conversations are invaluable. You learn what resonates with people--the same people who one day will be your audience members. Listening to all of their different opinions and tastes inevitably will influence how you approach telling your stories. 

Reading screenplays last week...

Reading screenplays last week...

I'm very fortunate to be interning at Monsoon Production Services. The things I've learned both related and unrelated to film will stick with me for a long time. The people who work here are exceptionally skilled at what they do and genuinely care about their craft. The cavernous warehouse packed to the ceiling with grip gear is metaphorical for their vast knowledge and experience in the industry and beyond. The train that blares by every 15 minutes with its deafening "choo-choo" is something that (quite literally) comes with the territory. You gotta dig for a long time in the warehouse to walk out knowing everything. You gotta persevere past busted eardrums in order to get the job done. But it's totally and completely worth it.

  Look at all those women up there! Oh wait. 

 Look at all those women up there! Oh wait. 

Senator Steve Farley introducing the short films. 

Senator Steve Farley introducing the short films. 

A Post About Post

Production is over. Dead. Gone. Hasta la vista, baby.

And while that’s a serious bummer because I think getting a couple more interviews would offer more stories to choose from, at this point we have to stick to the schedule to ensure that Second Impressions is finished in time.

So that means that I have all of April to edit! Oh? What’s that? It’s April 10th? That's...............
There's over 7 hours of footage that need to be condensed into one hour. I gave us a D+ on diversity when it came to the variety of people we interviewed, (mostly white males in their 30s/40s) but I don't know how relevant that is since everyone has a unique story... It was just an observation while I was editing. 

Other than that, my internship is keeping me very busy (I'll write a post about that soon). Expected release date for the trailer is Friday, April 24th (two weeks from today)! Anyone is invited to come to my official presentation at the Oro Valley Library on Thursday, May 14 at 5:30pm! Hope to see you there! 

Actually Reading the Terms & Conditions and Other Lessons I Learned

I'm going to make fun of myself before anyone else can. 

I'm going to make fun of myself before anyone else can. 

You know that line your parents (or grandparents) always give you? The one where they're like, "Hey sonny! One of these days not reading the fine print or the entirety of the terms and conditions will come back to bite you in the patootie!" And then they wag their cane dramatically while you just roll your eyes. Yeah. Turns out, they're much smarter than they look! 

Let's talk about Kickstarter, shall we? I'm willing to take 95% of the blame for not fully reading the terms and conditions, but STILL this is America after all, and I will complain when I feel like it. We still have not received our funds from the Kickstarter campaign that we finished...oh... 6 weeks ago. They said that it takes "up to 14 days" to process the funds but noo take your sweet time, Kickstarter. No one will notice if it takes way longer. 

So blatant negligence is definitely a challenge that we ran into. Aside from that, I'm happy to say that the documentary has been going very well! We wrapped up production this week, and now I have all of April to edit. That sounds like a lot of time, but in the editing world there's this notorious black hole that sucks away all the daylight. It's definitely a phenomenon that I'll have to ask the Physics department about sometime (any ideas, Mr. Lee?) 

I received a good piece of advice to challenge myself to dig deeper into the interviews with people. When they tell me that they'd rather not answer the question or share that particular story, I leave it at that rather than dancing around it to find something that they'd be willing to tell me. It's truly a subtle art to draw that information from people, and that differs throughout each interview. I think back to that scene in The Breakfast Club a lot lately where they all share with each other their secrets and their fears and everything that makes them weaker in their eyes. That line (photo attached) is so accurate. Every single person we've spoken to is so inherently unique and yeah, a little bizarre. But the underlying commonality is that everyone we've spoken to is different. There's an irony in that the thing that connects us all is how different we are. 

Pancho (who is a real person, by the way. There's been a lot of speculation on that. I promise. He's real.) and I drove to Bisbee for the day and interviewed some seriously cool people! I'd love to share more about the interviews but I feel like I'd spoil them. I've been posting snipets on the Facebook page, but I really can't wait to share them in their entirety with you all.

Marketing, Social Media, and Reasons Why I Don't Read Books Anymore

Lately this is me... 

Lately this is me... 

There is a stack of books on my bedside table that have been collecting dust for weeks now. "Oh Soraya, it must be so nice to not have school anymore and start summer 3 months early." No. No. No. It's not like that at all. 

Making a feature film takes time. A lot of time. It consumes my entire day and my thoughts 24/7 (seriously, I had a dream last night that somehow I managed to drop all of the footage in a raging river in TUCSON. WTF, SUBCONSCIOUS. AT LEAST GET YOUR GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATIONS RIGHT!) Don't get me wrong--I love it. This is me in the zone. But wow, how remarkable it is that the hours seem to tick by faster and faster every single day. 

Anyways. Back to the point of this post: Marketing. Social Media. An essential tool to build your audience well before the film (or any product) is finished. Today that manifested itself through the film's Facebook page:

I love how his smile mimics the rottweiler (but Jeffrey is waaaaay more friendly, I think!) 

I love how his smile mimics the rottweiler (but Jeffrey is waaaaay more friendly, I think!) 

The model is similar to Humans of New York because I'm posting pictures with quotes next to them, but different in that it's just a teeny tiny, itty bitty snipet of the conversation we've had with that person. Take Jeffrey, for example (he's the man with on the FB cover photo with the Second Impressions banner behind him). Jeffrey is a truly special character. When we talked to this man, our emotional reactions to his stories--both happy and sad-- is indicative of how skilled he is as a storyteller and how powerful his stories were. Posting a photograph with a quote next to it doesn't come close to experiencing the boom of his laugh or the wisdom in his eyes that the interview offers. On the 4th Ave Street Fair this weekend, Pancho (who is a real person) and I were lucky enough to run into Jeffrey again and talk to him for a bit. We're considering doing a follow-up interview with him or changing the film's dynamic in some way so that he carries a more prominent role. 

A lot is still up in the air with the plot of this film (as anticipated from the start) but naturally, I will keep you all posted. 

Putting the "Pro" in Production

Six wonderful people with an infinite number of stories.

Six wonderful people with an infinite number of stories.

Last Thursday, after working at Misty's (had an absolute BLAST organizing an email contact list by the way...oh the glamorous life of internships), Pancho and I set out to conduct 10-15 interviews before the sun set. 

We ended up interviewing six people--just over half of our goal. And at first, that really stressed me out. My SRP Syllabus says that I should already have 50 interviews! 50! Five. Zero. Like, the number of states there are in America. Like the age at which everyone calls you "over the hill". Like my average grade in Physics (Ha! Not such a big number now...) FIFTY! What in the world was past-tense Soraya thinking?! 

Needless to say, we've got a ways to go until 50 interviews are completed. Having said that, I am very, VERY happy with the interviews we got. Each one takes give or take 10 minutes, and as expected, I'm blown away with the stories people carry and are willing to share. I would rather spend more time documenting quality interviews over interviewing as many people as possible. 

My goal today is to get the film's Facebook page up and running so that I can draw audiences from any where. Tomorrow is another day at Misty's and another day of interviews! As they say in the biz, STAY TUNED! 

Conversations in Coffee Shops

There I was, sitting in a Starbucks in Tahoe, California drinking some delicious green concoction. It had just started snowing and it was absolutely magical outside. I wasn’t skiing because I had gotten hurt the day before, and I sort of wanted an excuse to start interviews. A woman walked in with her beautiful baby girl. The little girl and I got carried away playing a quality game of peek-a-boo that I almost forgot why I was sitting there in the first place! I asked the mother if she wouldn't mind being interviewed, and we ended up speaking for almost an hour! 

The next man I interviewed seemed less inclined to divulge his personal information with me, mostly because I think he thought it was a random survey or something like that. Once I started asking him more personal questions, his answers were so interesting. Though this conversation was much shorter than the first interview, it was definitely insightful!


At some point, I'll post sneak peeks of the interviews for you all to see what the conversations feel like. 

Here’s what I’ve learned so far from interviewing:

  1. Approaching strangers and asking them questions like, “What’s your greatest struggle right now?” “When was the happiest moment in your life?” “Was there ever a time you had a hard time forgiving someone?” makes them feel vulnerable. 
  2. People don’t like to feel vulnerable. It’s a survival reflex to want to protect yourself and your personal information. Who am I to randomly approach people and ask them to share that with me? But remarkably, some people will! Some of the shyest people can gather enough courage to speak out about who they are and what they’ve been through. It’s almost easier to tell someone you’ve never seen before information you would not otherwise.
  3. Offering the people I interview an opportunity to reflect, to confess, to give me an impression of themselves on a clean slate, is cathartic for them. My behavior is key in making sure that they feel comfortable enough to do so. I can’t come off as too overbearing and I have to constantly make sure that they’re paying attention to talking to me and not my camera. 
  4. Behind every broad answer is a killer personal story. For example, if I ask someone to tell me a piece of advice and they say something generic like, “Take risks,” or “Be confident,” I know that they’re feeling uncomfortable. Those are safe answers. “When was a time you took a risk?” “When was a time when you weren’t confident?” “How has that affected you personally?” are examples of follow-up questions I might ask. These follow-up questions then take away any safety net because suddenly the answer shrinks from broad to specific. Specificity means that we’ve reached a more personal level of conversation. That’s where the juicy, original stories are. 
  5. Emotionally triggered questions like “When was the scariest moment in your life?” usually draws more interesting stories. We remember highly emotional events more vividly and can recreate them much better. 
  6. It’s very difficult (impossible) to interview people while holding both a shotgun microphone and camera (tripod was in Tucson) and expect quality shots haha! I need my cameraman! 


This is what I look at practically all day. Let's examine, shall we?

  • Macbook Pro: I do everything on this. 
  • The Digital Filmmaking Handbook: aka The Holy Book  
  • Humans of New York: my inspiration
  • Coffee: to survive
  • Glasses: to see
  • Earphones: to block out the haters
  • Notebook/Binder/Pen: to make my workspace look more sophisticated 
  • Hard Drive (2TB): if you never know what to get the filmmaker/photographer/etc. in your life, give them space. And by space, I mean buy them external hard drives. Seriously. There is almost no greater gift you can bestow. Except maybe hugs and cookies. 

    (Not pictured: my camera, my equipment, the avocado I'm eating, and my cameraman, Pancho. Where is that kid anyway...)

Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy

$1,110. Wow. Thank you SO much to everyone who donated and helped me reach my goal. I can't wait to get this film going and show you all the finished product in May! 

I don't think crowd funding is typically supposed to be that easy... but I had three things that really helped me:

1) Truly amazing friends and family members. Your generosity and support is unparalleled. Thank you.

Who needs words when celebratory Stephen Colbert gifs exist?

Who needs words when celebratory Stephen Colbert gifs exist?

2) A reachable goal of $1,000. We have to remember that most films cost way more money to make, and this budget is remarkably tiny in comparison. 

3) Excellent advice from the ever wise Jason Brubaker and his site Seriously--whether you're a filmmaker or not, this website is definitely worth checking out.

24 days are still left on the clock if you would still like to donate! That extra money will allow me to enter my film into some festivals and buy higher quality gear. 

To roughly quote the Black Eyed Peas, 
let's get it starrrrttedd in heeeeeerrre