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Runtime: 7 min
Director: Sam Felman
Placement: Award of Excellence
Competition: March, 2021
Synopsis: As she enters the witness protection program, a young woman (Jennifer Robyn Jacobs) struggles with her identify, aided by a US Marshal (Kevin Reeverts) who sees each person he helps as a job. In the end, they each discover humanity in themselves and one another.
FILMMAKER Q&A – Sam Felman – Writer, Director, Production Designer, Co-Producer, Editor
GS: What was the inspiration for your film?
SF: The mystery surrounding witness protection fascinates me and, as a filmmaker, I like telling stories that connect with regular people. “Choice” is a short film about a regular person, played by Jennifer Robyn Jacobs, who is thrown a curveball most would never experience by entering the Witness Protection Program. Her experience could happen to anyone, which is why I chose to focus on some of the seemingly minute struggles she faces in reconciling her previous life with the identity she is given. Her journey is set against a desert backdrop with a humorless US Marshal, Kevin Reeverts, as her guide.
GS: When did you conceive the idea for your film and how long did it take before it was realized?
SF: Our co-producer and lead actor, Kevin Reeverts, came to me to direct a scene for his actor reel. I said, “Why not a short film?“ and he said, “Why not?” and the rest is history. It took a little while to uncover the character dynamics seen on screen, but it was worth the wait, because both actors truly embody their characters and neither are like them in real life.
GS: What was the most challenging aspect of working in a short film format?
SF: From a producing standpoint, our limited budget was the most challenging aspect, but it helped us come up with stronger solutions that ultimately helped our film. For example, the confrontation scene in “Choice” was written to take place at night outside a run down motel in the middle of the desert. Due to budget constraints, we had to use natural light and couldn’t afford a real motel location. The solution we came up with was much more interesting and aesthetically captivating: two strangers arguing at sunrise on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. Personally, I think the scene is beautiful because of its simplicity, and I can’t think of the last time I saw this kind of imagery on screen. Our story is better for it too. If given the chance to go back, I wouldn’t change a thing.
GS: What was the most challenging aspect of your production?
SF: The most challenging aspect of our production was the sky in our confrontation scene. Because of the changing light, I had to use computer graphics and motion tracking to create the redness in the sky, and alter the shadows on the ground and on faces to give a consistent and natural look. This scene alone took up the bulk of our rendering. To put in perspective how much VFX work was done on this scene alone, the “hero shot” of our lead actor, Kevin Reeverts, was shot in almost broad daylight, though it blends perfectly with the first shot we filmed of our lead actress, Jennifer Robyn Jacobs, about an hour and half earlier.
GS: Do you have any advice for first-time filmmakers?
SF: My advice for first time filmmakers is to keep going as long as you love it. The industry is hard but as long as you have a passion for film, nothing can stop you. Cameras are cheap, friends are free and stories are meant to be written. Do it… and feel free to reach out to me at www.SamFelman.com if you need help.