When you look back on your life so far, what are the most important moments you remember? What made you happy? What made you sad? Which moments will you think of when your time runs out? Who is going to stay on your mind forever?
These existential questions are very common for writers and directors who want to find original stories and inspiring material. Digging deep is important to connect to an audience and make them feel what you want them to feel. My final assignment of the ‘Directing Workshop I’ class at UCLA Extension last year was a mood film to a piece of music, which was a great opportunity to dig. I immersed myself in music for a day and tried to find a 2-minute piece that I could use as a foundation for my short film. I stumbled upon an instrumental piece called ‘Looking Back’, which I listened to in a loop for days, triggering my imagination.
Listening to the piece, I felt melancholy paired with thankfulness, just like ‘looking back’ on a fulfilled life. So I started to ask myself questions about my own life and built characters based on feelings and images that were triggered by the music. What would a fulfilling and happy life look like that I would look back to thankfully? This is where I took the route of fiction, diverting a little from my own biographical history. ‘Looking Back’ became the story of a man who, after an accident, is looking back on the most important moments of his life with his wife and dog.
Being a class assignment, creating a whole lifetime in a day of shooting is certainly a challenge. Changes in costume and hair were key, supported by different locations at different times of day in order to have a variety in lighting. It was refreshing to move from place to place and recreate life’s small inspiring moments together with the two actors Matt and Laura Drago. And it was a good lesson in improvising and staying open minded, especially because we shot with a puppy who are usually unpredictable, even if they are trained well.
This shoot really made me value my preparation in pre-production, because once I knew exactly what feeling I was going for, I could let all the plans go in favor of embracing what happened in the moment. I am proud of accepting the challenge and with the help of my trusted team, consisting of first assistant director Tom Saunders, make-up artist Jax Moreno and camera assistant Stephanie Smith, I was able to create an short film that will hopefully take you on an emotional journey.