Overcoming Obstacles on Senior Projects

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Overcoming Obstacles on Senior Projects

by Josiah Lerman

As principle photography for senior thesis projects Dead and Playing Ourselves wraps, cast and crew reflect on the teamwork which allowed inconveniences of the shoots to be overcome.

DEAD, a senior thesis film directed by Andrew Clancy, and written and produced by Tian Kok, wrapped principle photography over the weekend. This film is a “psychological drama about a character who after he has successfully committed suicide, is confronted by an old friend who did the same and he has to justify himself to her,” stated Clancy. The film’s Director of Photography is Michael Uyehata.

Despite the heavy themes of the film, the set was kept incredibly lighthearted. Kok explains that “Everyone was really cheerful, which is something that I wanted because it is a really depressing subject matter.” Kok also states that the production has gone very smoothly. Catalina Rojas was a co-makeup artist and a body double on set. She said, “Honestly, despite the topic of the shoot, it was probably the most calm and friendly shoot I’ve ever been on. Even after a take for a difficult scene, crew would check on each other and get right back to it.”

Photo by Thomas Herbold

The only large hiccup was a last-minute change of one of their locations due to unforeseen requirements from the city of San Diego. Producer Sara Litke explained that they worked closely with the city and followed all of their instructions, but they continued adding restrictions to the shoot. “It came to the point where we couldn’t possibly comply with all of their rules and on top of that it was costing us money.”

Litke said that it felt that they were in the “all hope is lost” moment that they learned from Professor Riley. “Our problems with the city of San Diego probably stems from a lack of understanding. I don’t think the film office understood the scale of our project and what it meant to us, which is nothing against them. This isn’t my first time having to work with business people who don’t realize what it takes to make a student short film. In cases like this, it’s important for us [JPCatholic] media students to introduce them to our world of storytelling,” she said. The team ultimately decided to switch the location to Lake Hodges Bridge in Escondido in order to save money, time, and not risk losing the actors.

Photo by Thomas Herbold


Playing Ourselves is a thesis film written and directed by Nicolas Alayo that questions where the line should be drawn between the artist and their art. It follows two actors who, according to Alayo, “struggle to keep their stage relationship and their actual relationship separate from each other.” The film’s Director of Photography is Brigitta Sanchez-O’Brien.

Playing Ourselves shot for six days over two weekends. Alayo and the film’s producer, Meghan Woodard, commented that the shoot went fairly smoothly other than a few unexpected events.

Photo by Gabriel Zanoff

One such event included an actor dropping out with little notice. The team was able to quickly replace him with JPCatholic senior Julius Medrano. “I was really surprised that they asked me to be a part of a senior project,” Medrano said. “It’s a big deal because usually they ask LA actors to feature on their films. When I heard they needed someone to replace one of their actors, I was really nervous at first. I don’t consider myself as an actor, but I guess they believed that I can do this supporting role.”

One of the filming days was cut short when Christian Sullivan, the lead male actor, broke his nose during their first weekend. PA Gemma Hotovy described what happened, saying “He was very into the moment, and when he was supposed to break a lamp, he went to step on it and ended up kneeing himself in the face, breaking his nose.” Thankfully “nothing was halted or totally ruined by his injury and he was [able] to continue filming the weekend after we rushed him to the ER,” stated Alayo. Marielle Cuccinelli, Assistant Director, said, “It could have been catastrophic for the production. Fortunately, though, we were on the very last take of the last shot in the scene, and we had gotten all the footage we needed.” If his nose was broken badly enough, they would not have been able to film the following weekend. “We got lucky again,” said Cuccinelli, “He was fine within days, and was an incredibly good sport about it.”

Both Alayo and Woodard expressed how much they love their team. Alayo said, “it’s one thing to work with people who you like and it’s another thing for those people to be incredibly talented and driven as well.” Woodard adds that “we had a lot of long days on set and each team member never complained…they were always happy and willing to help.” Medrano also noted, “Everyone was helpful, supportive, and the other actors and I built a great bond. I’m just really thankful they thought of me for their part when I think so many other people could have played the role.”

Photo by Gabriel Zanoff

The next phase for both thesis projects is post-production. Clancy states that “one of the advantages of having shot pretty early on in the production quarter is that it gives us a lot of time before we even get to the quarter that is laid aside for post-production.” Woodard comments that they are excited about production so far, and “even more excited to see it all put together on the big screen in September.”


Photos courtesy of Thomas Herbold and Gabriel Zanoff

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