#MiddleCoast2017: Women Directors Share Insights About Their Work

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Middle Coast Film Fest August 10-12, 2017 Bloomington, IN

Fourteen of the women directors whose work will screen at Middle Coast Film Fest in Bloomington, Indiana this week responded to this question…

“Could you please tell us about a moment during the making of your film when you could feel your vision coming together or when you overcame a challenge in a satisfying way?”

Here’s what Alex Meredith (Daytrip), Alice von Gwinner (There is a salad standing between us), Cara Reed (Dreams), Emily Sheehan (Borderline), Jenna Bryant (Jenny Loves Satan), Kat Hunt (What’s Revenge), Kate Raney (Lingua Absentia), Kristine Gerolaga (Hit or Miss), Llanet Nunez (Timelight), Mylissa Fitzsimmons (That Party That One Night), Nelicia Low (Freeze), Rebekah Nelson (The Shoulder), Shayna Connelly (Every Ghost Has an Orchestra), and Yoko Okumura (Strawberries Will Save the World) had to say about their filmmaking processes.


Alex Meredith

Still image from DAYTRIP

Still image from DAYTRIP

Alex Meredith

Alex Meredith

The moment in the making of my short film, DAYTRIP, when I overcame a challenge was when we were shooting on Malibu Pier. I had spoken with the business owner of a restaurant on the pier where I wanted to shoot, but at the last minute, they changed their mind and wouldn’t let me shoot on their premises. I had also spoken with the representative of the Malibu Pier itself. He told me to just go ahead and shoot despite not having a permit.

On the day of the shoot at Malibu Pier, we began shooting and were questioned by two gentleman from the restaurant. They inquired if I had a permit to shoot. I felt I might have a heart attack as completing my short film was reliant on shooting in this location. However, I remained calm and told them that the representative of the pier had given me permission to shoot, which luckily they accepted. Another moment during the shoot in which I saw my vision coming together was in one of the last scenes. There’s a shot in which we see one of the leads growing smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror as our other lead drives away. I’m particularly fond of this shot, for its technical and emotional value, and because we got it in one take.

DAYTRIP – An aging woman shares a day at the beach with her son’s friend and makes a surprising revelation.

DAYTRIP screens at Middle Coast Film Fest…
8/11 – 4:00 pm: DRAMA SHORTS at Buskirk Chumley
8/12 – 3:15 pm: DRAMA SHORTS at Whikehart

Alex Meredith plans to attend Middle Coast Film Fest.  Follow Alex on Facebook.


Alice von Gwinner

We didn’t have any budget to make this film, but when I started to look for a team, so many talented people wanted to create this film with me. I was overwhelmed by the energy and creativity every single one gave into the project, so that the film became even stronger than the script indicated.

The best moment for me during the shooting was the moment when the really huge salad was lifted onto the extremely long table. This, together with the actors and the setting, showed without words, just with one look at it, the whole idea/morale of the story I wanted to tell. I love to find this one strong picture for a film story that summarizes everything. And I love to take our real life to the extreme with the help of filmmaking, to emphasize problems of the society but also opportunities/solutions.

There is a salad standing between us – The length of their dining table and the unreachable bowl of salad in the middle of it has become a symbol of their slowly freezing relationship. Today it’s finally time for a change of scene. But what do the portraits on the wall think of all this…

There is a salad standing between us screens at Middle Coast Film Fest…
8/11 – 4:00 pm: COMEDY SHORTS at Whikehart
8/12 – 3:00 pm: Preceding Lost in Paris at Buskirk Chumley

Follow Alice von Gwinner on Facebook, Instagram, TwitterVimeo, and on her website.


Cara Reed

Cara Reed

Cara Reed

This was not only the first project I worked on with all women—it was the first project in my 7 years of filmmaking working with only women. Which is super crazy. I had wanted to make a piece about the weird synthesis of nostalgia and the immense sadness that both exist in grief. I knew I wouldn’t really have words to articulate how it feels to lose someone, so I also knew this was a project that would require me to challenge myself and do something completely new.

I was working with Hannah Crane at the time and knew she was a dancer. So I reached out to her and asked what she thought about working on a filmed performance and the themes and ideas. I was horrifically insecure in this moment—this project was really close to my heart. And it was the first public statement I made about my divorce, which already makes you feel like a failure.

But I pitched it to Hannah, and she said she’d do it. And that was it, that was when things started coming together. I got the talented and lovely Chaz Mottinger involved to shoot, because I was fascinated by her human portraits (they are stunning, you should really look at them if you get a moment), and then Jac Hadfield was the last piece of the puzzle.

I have never in my life been a part of such a supportive professional environment. The moment Hannah agreed to work on the project was the moment everything started to come together. We all really wanted to build off of each other and work together, and it was… freeing.

We ended up loving the collaborative aspect of it so much, we threw a release party in hopes of connecting other local artists together. Here’s the statement I made about it the following day:

“A huge thank you to everyone who came out to support us last night. We hope to keep the dialogue of collaboration going—Bloomington is a great resource for talented people, and we hope to see more local collaboration in the future. We had filmmakers, dancers, painters, musicians, designers, writers, photographers—it was sincerely amazing.

This project initially began as a way for me to process grief and express things in which words were not sufficient. However, it became much bigger than that. A large group of talented people came together, and made the art their own. It was no longer a self-focused project, but it became a way to create and give back and collaborate. I am so proud of the result and the people I was so privileged to work with. I am equally humbled at the show of support from everyone last night.”

Dreams – A dance performance that wrestles the tension between nostalgia and depression that comes with grief through exploring birth and death and time.

Dreams screens at Middle Coast Film Fest…
8/11 – 2:00 pm: MIXED COMEDY/DRAMA at Whikehart
8/12 – 5:00 pm: EXPERIMENTAL SHORTS at Firebay

Cara Reed plans to attend Middle Coast Film Fest. Follow Cara on Instagram and on her website. Follow Echo Dance Company on Facebook, Instagram and on their website.


Emily Sheehan

Emily Sheehan

Emily Sheehan

There is a very difficult scene towards the end of the movie, where my two paramedics are forced into a physically and emotionally dangerous situation. It’s an action sequence, with lots of flashing lights, fast moving elements and panic. It was very difficult to shoot. For one thing, we shot it at the end of a grueling shooting schedule. Everyone was exhausted, and since we were shooting in the summer, we had very little night to work with. The sun went down at 8:30PM and it came up at 4:30AM—so we had 8 hours to shoot two pages of pure action. It was intense. Additionally, we had to shoot it in reverse scene order for logistical reasons, which meant that the most dramatically intense sequences came first and the opening elements of the scene came last. In order to do this, we had to rehearse it a number of times from beginning to end, and then just roll with it. It was crazy difficult to pull off, but I’m very proud of the work.

Borderline – a short realistic drama that offers a provocative look at the consequences of addiction. Haunted by an abusive relationship with her mother, Esme struggles to keep her walls up around her new, perceptive partner Aaron, even as her world spins out of control.

Borderline screens at Middle Coast Film Fest…
8/11 – 2:00 pm: DRAMA SHORTS at Firebay
8/11 – 8:15 pm: DRAMA POTLUCK at Firebay

Emily Sheehan plans to attend Middle Coast Film Fest.  Follow Emily on Facebook.


Jenna Bryant

Jenna Bryant

Jenna Bryant

I was standing in an auditorium, surrounded by Satanists, and 6 more hours to get 17 more shots. The 1st AD had quit. And did I mention a goat needed to perform a high-action escape sequence on a glossy, wooden floor, not intended for cloven-footed animals? We had to throw out our plan for Terminator explosions and Rambo machinery (metaphorical) and lean into the limitations to play up the comedy. Our goat can’t run? Great. Cut to that at a moment of escalating intensity and we ended up with something really funny.

Jenny Loves Satan – a retro-inspired horror/comedy about a 12-year old girl who rebels by becoming a Satanist… only to discover that Satan is real!

Jenny Loves Satan screens at Middle Coast Film Fest…
8/11 – 11:30am: COMEDY SHORTS at Buskirk Chumley
8/11 – 8:15pm: DRAMA POTLUCK at Firebay
8/12 – 9:45pm: MIXED GENRE SHORTS at Buskirk Chumley

Follow Jenna Bryant on Facebook, Instagram, and on her website.


Kat Hunt

Kat Hunt

Kat Hunt

The process of making this film was utterly unique, I think, and probably crazy. 🙂

The plot of the film was guided by how we were personally responding to making it— so, it was both our reaction to confronting feelings associated with revenge, as well as to putting ourselves in a film, and of course, the journey of our friendship throughout the film’s creation. We were often challenged by how vulnerable we were willing to be. We’d always discover— over and over again— that telling a story about the truth of our experience would solve narrative issues and was more interesting!

On my third day ever of directing, we were doing a moving vehicle shoot on a rented bus. We had had two difficult days prior, with a very steep learning curve for me. As we shot the close-up of Erica’s face, I remember just starting to cry. The image had lived in my head for so long and it was actually happening before my eyes. It was more like a dream coming true. I had always wanted to be a film director and now I felt I was one.

What’s Revenge – Director Kat Hunt compels her friend Erica to take revenge on the men in her life in this experimental, docu-fiction comedy. An innovative hybrid work, WHAT’S REVENGE, adapts elements from 70’s pulp revenge cinema to address the problems and pitfalls of relationships in the modern age.

What’s Revenge screens at Middle Coast Film Fest…
8/12 – 4:00 pm:  FEATURE SERIES at Buskirk Chumley

Kat Hunt plans to attend Middle Coast Film Fest.  Follow Kat on Facebook, Instagram, and on her website and on the What’s Revenge website.


Kate Raney

Kate Raney

Kate Raney

My process is really different on every film, so it’s always exciting to me to think about how it evolves. Lingua Absentia was the first time I’ve really collaborated on a project every step of the way with someone, in this case my husband Jeremy Bessoff. We divided up some of the shots and some we did together. One that was particularly challenging was the final collage which I wanted to be like a really scary Busby Berkeley number. I had shot several individual parts (the head, the rotating tongues…) and could not figure out how to put them all together. It was one of those creative problems that was on my mind for about a week with everything I did. Eating dinner, doing laundry, watching movies, it was just always in the back of my mind. I cut out all these little circles to be glowing cigarette butts. Then shot them and was playing around with how they layered and looped and something just clicked. Jeremy & I watched those red circles looping and dancing on the screen for at least 20 minutes totally transfixed. Then he had the idea for the cigarette kick-line and all the other pieces for the sequence just fell into place.

Lingua Absentia – A mother helps her schizophrenic daughter, Abby through severe cancer treatment. Simplified cut-paper animation versions of the world implode into colorful blotches where teeth fall from the sky, and faces peel apart as Abby’s mental illness overwhelms her ability to comprehend what’s happening to her.

Lingua Absentia screens at Middle Coast Film Fest…
8/11 – 6:15 pm: DOCUMENTARY SHORTS at Whikehart
8/12 – 2:30 pm: DOCUMENTARY SHORTS at Firebay


Kristine Gerolaga

Still image from Hit or Miss

Still image from Hit or Miss

Kristine Gerolaga

Kristine Gerolaga

When making my short film, I really started to feel my vision coming together when both my real life Muay Thai instructor Ming and my classmate Sherry immediately agreed to be a part of the project without any prior acting experience! I made this short for YOMYOMF and Justin Lin’s Interpretations 2.0 Asian American Filmmaker Initiative (where we ended up as a TOP 15 Semi-Finalist!) and we had to work fast so as soon as Ming and Sherry came on board, everything else quickly fell into place. We were able to shoot at the Muay Thai gym where Ming trains and because the contest required that all film submissions be a maximum of 3 minutes with the same four lines of dialogue, we were able to shoot the project in half a day. The challenge in making this short was in the limitations placed on us by the contest, but those limitations paved the way for a lot of creative freedom once I figured out what story I wanted to tell. Hit or Miss is specifically about overcoming challenges, so completing the film was extremely satisfying and I couldn’t have done it without my small but mighty team!

Hit or Miss – An amateur fighter must learn to work through her grief in the middle of a sparring session.

Hit or Miss screens at Middle Coast Film Fest…
8/11 – 4:00 pm: DRAMA SHORTS at Buskirk Chumley
8/12 – 3:15 pm: DRAMA SHORTS at Whikehart

Kristine Gerolaga plans to attend Middle Coast Film Fest. Follow Kristine on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and on her website.


LLanet Nunez

Llanet Nunez

Llanet Nunez

When I began working on this project, I had no idea what I wanted. One rainy day gave me all the answers.

While driving in the rainy street, the traffic lights, lamp posts and everything else was being reflected by the water on the ground. The lights were so beautiful! I decided to take a time lapse of my commute on my iPhone. Therefore, it became a Timelight. 🙂

Timelight reflects on my rainy day vision during my commute in a car.

Timelight screens at Middle Coast Film Fest…
8/11 – 6:30 pm: EXPERIMENTAL SHORTS at Firebay

Follow Llanet Nunez on Instagram and on her website.


Mylissa Fitzsimmons

Mylissa Fitzsimmons

Mylissa Fitzsimmons

The film is based on me and my friends. It’s about a night we had in High school, so casting was important for me. It’s not easy to “cast your 16-year-old self” but during the final scene Melanie Neilan—playing me—opposite of Evan Crooks—playing Cole a boy I had a crush on during HS—I took a step away from the monitor to watch the scene play out. As I watched and listened to him speak to her I saw her natural mannerisms play out and didn’t even notice that at the same moment my own awkward mannerisms were doing the exact same movements. It was as if I was suddenly this awkward 16-year-old girl again standing next to the boy I had a crush on, shaking leg and fidgeting hands. I was so caught up in that moment that I forgot to yell, “Cut!” and the actors just kept going, making it all up. I had to be nudged by the AD and eventually yelled, “Cut.” But I did end up using that take in the film.

Another time during the shoot we only had our parking location for a certain amount of time. As always things were running a little behind schedule. The producer informed me that we only had about 30 minutes left of use but we still hadn’t shot the ending. We all knew we wouldn’t make it. I asked for 5 minutes alone so I could figure out a new ending that we could shoot. I took a step away and thought about what might oddly work by still staying true to the scene, the film and the characters, then came back, made a few line changes, spoke with the actors separately to tell them what it would mean and how to play it out, and shot a new ending with minutes to spare.

That Party That One Night – It’s the last week of high school and socially and sexually awkward Melissa has just been ditched by her friends at a party and finds herself alone with her crush.

That Party That One Night screens at Middle Coast Film Fest…
8/11 – 8:15 pm: LONGER FORMAT at Whikehart
8/12 – 7:00 pm: DRAMA SHORTS at Firebay

Follow Mylissa Fitzsimmons on Instagram, Twitter, and on her website.


Nelicia Low

Nelicia Low

Nelicia Low

It all came together for me when we shot that last scene when she locks her brother in the freezer. I started writing this script, which was a long, painful and personal process as my own brother is also autistic, with that final scene being the very first thing I wrote and knew to be terrifyingly true to myself. We only had an hour to get the scene.

On the fourth take, when the freezer door closes, the lead – played by the wonderful Emma Hung, a non-actress who is extremely talented and has an autistic son herself, whom I met by complete fate – looks at the closed door containing her autistic brother, hesitates. Then she slowly starts to pack up her things, but Emma then did something that was not in the script. She was only supposed to slowly leave the room and shut the lights and the door behind her.

Instead, before leaving, she looked up at the heavens above and smiled. It was chilling, as if she was thanking God for giving her this terrible opportunity to do this horrible thing. It was wonderful for me, the writer-director, to watch, as I felt in that moment that this must be what it is like when the director and actress have such a strong mutual trust, and the script touched something so deep and terrifying within both of us, that on set, something wonderful and yet completely unplanned and in the moment happened. Magic.

Freeze – We all do terrible things when we think that no one is watching. When her distant husband cannot give her the love she desires, the lonely and insecure Hui will do anything to feel loved. Caught in an unusual love triangle with her autistic brother, Hui has found a constant source of comfort.

Freeze screens at Middle Coast Film Fest…
8/11 – 8:15 pm: LONGER FORMAT at Whikehart
8/12 – 8:00 pm: MIXED SHORTS at Whikehart

Follow Nelicia Low on Facebook and on her website.


Rebekah Nelson

Still image from The Shoulder

Still image from The Shoulder

Rebekah Nelson

Rebekah Nelson

Moment when it all came together:

Making the choice to cast 2 brothers to play opposite one another.

There was an unwritten language and playfulness already established between the two, which reads organically on screen.

The Shoulder – A young man kidnaps his older brother and drives him cross country to wean him off heroin. Based on the stage play Hugging the Shoulder by Jerrod Bogard.

The Shoulder screens at Middle Coast Film Fest…
8/11 – 4:00 pm: DRAMA SHORTS at Buskirk Chumley
8/12 – 12:30 pm: DRAMA SHORT at Whikehart

Rebekah Nelson plans to attend Middle Coast Film Fest. Follow Rebekah on her website.


Shayna Connelly

Still image from Every Ghost Has An Orchestra

Still image from Every Ghost Has An Orchestra

Shayna Connelly

Shayna Connelly

The route to this film was circuitous. EVERY GHOST HAS AN ORCHESTRA was in the can and I was having a difficult time editing it myself. I had an 18-minute cut of wall-to-wall talking, which was not what I wanted. I scrapped the interview altogether and approached it from the visuals, starting with b-roll footage from Ogilvie train station in Chicago. The end result was a 5-minute experimental film called SIGNALS: WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?. While SIGNALS is ghostly in its own way and has played well in festivals, I still didn’t have a solution for my original idea, so I shelved it. Two years later I was talking about the film to an editor I admired, Justine Burchall, and we had a joint epiphany. We almost didn’t need to verbalize an agreement that she would edit the film, because it was plain as day to both of us.

Still image from Every Ghost Has An Orchestra

Still image from Every Ghost Has An Orchestra

Every Ghost Has an Orchestra – Paranormal researcher and experimental composer Michael Esposito explores purpose, legacy and what our work says about our identity. His explorations straddle the line between spiritual and material. Music communicates to its audience, but to whom do ghosts sing?
Every Ghost Has an Orchestra screens at Middle Coast Film Fest…
8/11 – 6:15 pm: DOCUMENTARY SHORTS at Whikehart
8/12 – 2:30 pm: DOCUMENTARY SHORTS at Firebay

Shayna Connelly plans to attend Middle Coast Film Fest.  Follow Shayna on her website.


Yoko Okumura

Yoko Okumura

Yoko Okumura

I always knew I had a special subject in my Mom but the moment the movie itself started to come together is when the magical original music, animation and sound design was created.  The film really came alive and gained a personality at that time and I’m so grateful for my collaborators Ihui Cherise Wu and Alexander Noice for the music, Isabelle Aspin for the animation and Sean Hines. The magic of films really occurs when you’re able to harness the talents of other artists and bring it together in one piece.

Strawberries Will Save the World – Yuko Okumura is the biggest strawberry enthusiast living in Bloomington, Indiana. A member of an online community of strawberry lovers, she shares her strawberry collection and obsession with friends from around the world. Yuko has big plans to show the world the power that strawberries hold and happiness they can bring to humanity.

Strawberries Will Save the World screens at Middle Coast Film Fest…
8/11 – 6:15 pm: DOCUMENTARY SHORTS at Whikehart

Follow Yoko on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


If you’re around, come downtown in Bloomington on Thursday – Saturday to experience these and other films… and meet many of these and other filmmakers.

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Barbara Ann O'Leary

Inviting the world to fall madly in love with films #DirectedbyWomen.

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