Julia Isoniemi, a sophomore double majoring in Theatre and Film Studies, and Ben Barber, a sophomore Theatre major, received a CREATE! Micro-Grant to produce a short film addressing mental health, loss, grief, and life transitions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The film, entitled Acceptance: Our Pandemic Story, covers the story of a student, Lime, who is going to therapy to process his experiences during the pandemic. Taking inspiration from their own experiences to develop Lime’s character, the protagonist experiences an array of challenges, ranging from loss and grief to transitioning from high school to college.
It felt so good to be doing something big and collaborative for the first time in over a year. It’s also such a good feeling when all the ideas in your head are suddenly brought to life on camera.Julia Isoniemi
“I’m very grateful that our project was accepted for this exhibit because I’ve gained so much out of this process,” Isoniemi said. “Not only have I learned a lot about filmmaking and leadership, but it has also given me a chance to use my art to connect with an audience of people who have also struggled this past year. I know that this project helped with my own healing process.”
Soon after they received the micro-grant, Barber and Isoniemi wrote the script and started filming in Chicago. After capturing original footage, they completed reshoots to enhance their footage, and Isoniemi spent the remaining time editing the film.
“My favorite part of the process was filming week,” Isoniemi said. “It was challenging and exhausting, but it felt so good to be doing something big and collaborative for the first time in over a year. It’s also such a good feeling when all the ideas in your head are suddenly brought to life on camera.”
Barber and Isoniemi relied on volunteer actors to star in the film and utilized accessible and easily available locations for their sets, such as Isoniemi’s house. Even with their resourcefulness and intent to spend as little as possible, the duo used the entire micro-grant for the short film.
“As an artist, I was able to work on my collaboration skills and scheduling,” Barber said. “There was so much preplanning and prep that went into this film that the audience will never see —and, more importantly, I will never forget.”
This project provided hands-on experience with film and theatre and marked Barber and Isoniemi’s first time working together, but both students say there will definitely be another future collaborative project as they’ve found a beneficial partnership and friendship through their collaboration.
As an artist, I was able to work on my collaboration skills and scheduling. There was so much preplanning and prep that went into this film that the audience will never see—and, more importantly, I will never forget.Ben Barber
“My favorite part about this project was having the opportunity to connect with artists in a large city like Chicago and working with people I really care about.” Barber said.
As Director of the film, Isoniemi learned a lot about leadership, time management, organization, and preventing getting burned out. She also was able to apply lessons in set and lighting design that she learned in an Intro to Digital Film and Media class.
“This is the biggest film I have ever worked on, and not just in terms of length,” Isoniemi said. “I’ve never worked on a film with dialogue before. This film was a huge learning process for me. I am definitely going to find more help in the editing room next time we do a film like this, especially for audio editing. Doing all the editing by myself was a huge challenge.”