On Thursday, Dec. 2, Brown Motion Pictures held their Fall 2021 Premiere at Avon Cinema on Thayer Street. The event consisted of screenings of four short films made entirely by student members of Brown Motion Pictures, addressing issues from mental health to LGBTQ+ representation.
Among the short films was “I’m, Very, Very Sorry,” directed by José Martinez ’23, about a blogger who faces public outrage after making an incendiary comment online. “Spiral,” written and directed by Catherine Kasparyan ’22, follows a young woman’s crippling anxiety surrounding a pregnancy scare. Alex Poe ’24’s “Deadbeat Diaries” chronicles four post-adolescent burnouts as they rely on dark humor to process their emotions while preparing for their friend’s funeral. “Sunshine,” directed by Jason Goodman ’24, portrays a stereotypical gay best friend who is left without a purpose, or personality, in the absence of his “rom-com protagonist roommate.”
Each film was about 15 minutes long, and each displayed the adeptness of the student directors, producers, actors and crew members as well as the effort that went into creating the films. Each stage of the process — from the conception of a script to the silver screen — was meticulous, starting with a biannual screenplay competition that usually yields around 70 to 80 scripts, said Managing Director Rehaan Kaul ’22. The screenplay coordinators chose 10 of these, which the Executive Board of BMP eventually narrowed down to four.
In making their decisions, screenplay coordinators “will take notes on the various elements, like character developments, plots, world building — all of these aspects that go into a successful script,” said Managing Director and former Screenplay Coordinator Josie Bleakley ’23. “A lot of people are coming in from a fiction-writing point of view and so they don’t take into account that film is a visual medium, so another characteristic becomes revealing plot points visually and writing your screenplay in a manner that deals with images instead of just internal thoughts,” Kaul added.
After the selection of the script and a series of interviews, producers and directors are chosen and matched with projects. They then proceed without much mediation from the managing directors, allowing them to realize their creative visions. “I think what’s cool about being a director is that everyone on the team is so good at their specialized jobs, and the role of the director is to make sure that each little piece is put together in a way that makes a cohesive film,” Kasparyan said.
“Spiral” was Kasparyan’s first directorial endeavor outside of class. BMP encourages students of all levels of experience to apply for these roles. “We have workshops and trainings for the specific crew roles because we’re trying to stress that you do not need to have past experience to get in, because historically people have been intimidated by that,” Kaul said.
Putting together this event was not without its challenges. For Bleakley, this involved adapting to BMP’s in-person operations for the first time. “I had only been a part of BMP during COVID, and I had never gotten to experience what things were supposed to be like,” she said. “So it was both a challenge and a joy to get to learn on the job and see what the Brown filmmaking community is like in person.” On a directorial level, there were “challenges related to finding locations, to figuring out shots and to some of the technical details. We had a smaller crew at the beginning of the process, too, so a lot of people were doing a lot of different roles,” Kasparyan said.
But the time, effort and rigor that went into making each of the films paid off at the premiere, not only evident in the full theater but also in the audience’s enthusiastic reactions. Sam Caplan ’22, an audience member, came in support of his friend involved in the premiere. “The acting was brilliant. The writing was brilliant. I’d say all the technical aspects seemed on par with any real film,” he said.
This year’s films aim to expose people to different perspectives on complex issues, Bleakley said. “Something that I hope the audience comes away with is connecting with the media, but also feeling inspired or like they’ve learned something.”
Aside from aiming to provide the audience with a thought provoking experience, managing directors expressed the importance of celebrating the work that went into the short films.“You sacrifice a lot of weekends, you probably don’t go out to party as much and you don’t get to meet friends as much. You’re spending five weekends on set. So it’s just about the feeling of seeing your work on the big screen and celebrating all the people who put in that work,” Kaul said.
Beyond the recognition of their work, the cast and crew also found a sense of community that was cultivated in the filmmaking process. With COVID-19 restrictions taking a heavy toll on production, the premiere brought a lot of the crew together, Managing Director Isabelle Yang ’22 said. “A lot of the underclassmen … who haven’t had any previous experience being on crew were able to get involved and make friends through that.”
Ultimately, the BMP team members The Herald spoke with were not only proud of the work they had done, but also grateful for the process and for being a part of something that every individual on the team cared so deeply about. “You see the amount of people who care about the project grow throughout the semester,” Managing Director Katia Rozenberg ’22 said. “Each of them plays an important role in making it happen, so knowing that this many people will dedicate their weekends to this is really rewarding.”