As part of a series titled “Film Feature”, 15 Minutes Max spoke to students who submitted videos to the 2017 competition. The following interview is with finalist Serena Lehman, a student at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York.
We hope you enjoy reading this as much as we did talking to her about her film, Kaleidoscope.
What inspired the films theme?
I wanted it to be a very honest look at depression and self-harm because I feel like a lot of the times that I’ve seen those things portrayed they’ll often shy away from showing it. I didn’t want to do that. I wanted it to be very real because it’s something that is very common, and a lot of my peers have gone through depression.
I’ve noticed my peers in relationships become dependent on a partner for happiness, especially women, so I wanted to show that and her internal narrative changing. It’s something I’ve been dealing with as well, and I think it helped in my own process.
Did you write the films script?
The argument was improvised. I basically gave them the concept of what I wanted and then they improvised it. Originally, I wasn’t even going to have dialogue there. I wrote everything else, and I also cast it.
How did you edit your film down to 4:16?
There were a couple things that I cut that I didn’t think were necessary. There was another memory scene with the boyfriend in it, but it didn’t add anything. It didn’t flow as easily and when I sat down to edit it I didn’t know how to transition into it and make it smooth.
I made a storyboard, but because I had never really made a film before I wasn’t sure how it was all going to work once I had everything. It was really just sitting down and trying to do it, and you just figure it out.
Are there any films that you think do a good job representing mental illness?
I really like Perks of Being a Wallflower. It doesn’t portray mental illness necessarily, but I think it does an honest job at looking at somebody who’s struggling with a lot of anxiety and past traumas.
As a theater major, did your knowledge of acting help you direct this film?
It helped me a lot. I know what I would want to hear as an actor to help get me to a place. Being on the other side as an actor, I’ve had directors who will try to tell me to say something a certain way but the way they’re directing is not helpful. It’s very common for directors to read the lines for you which doesn’t help and can often make an actor shut down or feel like they’re not doing a good job. It’s a lot more helpful to try to get them there themselves. They’ll also try to get it out of an actor by asking them questions or saying “I want you to do it exactly like this…” If you just say a feeling, it comes out more naturally because they’re getting there themselves and it’s more honest.