‘Always” Short Film Interview with Director Sam Zapiain and Writer/Producer Melissa Del Rosario


By: Amanda Guarragi

The 2nd Annual Desertscape International Film Festival in St. George, Utah is a festival that celebrates filmmakers around the globe. People are encouraged to submit their short films and student films to the festival. The festival normally runs from July 29th to August 1st. This year, the short film Always has been selected for the program. I spoke to the creators of the film, Director Sam Zapiain and Writer/Producer Melissa Del Rosario ahead of the festival.

Always is a short film, based on real life experiences. It incorporates horror elements to cope with the illness of diabetes. There is an urgency in the storytelling because no one really discusses the struggle of living with diabetes. Its experimental use of painted images and rough editing, combined with the haunting score, make this a truly special film.

The importance of making this film for Zapiain comes from a very personal place. He wanted to address the struggles of those who live with diabetes in a very realistic way. “About three years ago, I was diagnosed as a Type 2 Diabetic, and how I handled the symptoms that surfaced out of the blue and out of control felt like a horror story. Out of control.” It is a film that shows the numbness and fatigue through painted images, that come to life in the depths of Alex’s (David Kurtz) mind.

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The sketches were placed in Alex’s apartment to show that he was an artist and his designs allowed him to explore his inner thoughts. It was a spur of the moment idea, right as they were about to begin shooting the film Del Rosario says, “Sam had this idea right before we are set to shoot. I got some paper out and started sketching immediately and I’m happy it all worked out.” Zapiain also wanted to use the sketches as a creative outlet for him to understand what was happening to his body, while trying to understand the symptoms of being diagnosed with diabetes.

The most challenging aspect of filming this piece for Zapiain was learning to accept and acknowledge the presence of a disease. “For quite some time it was the idea of it being behind me, and somewhat in a state of denial or disbelief. Creating the film meant I knew it was here to stay, and it would make a statement on my life.” Zapiain also thanked his producer Del Rosario for helping him recognize the story, writing it, and gathering such a wonderfully talented cast and crew. “In a way, the people behind the film were my therapy. They helped me accustom.” 

It was important for Del Rosario to take on a project that was so personal to a close friend of hers. “For me, as someone who is not diabetic, I decided to learn more about this condition because someone I care about has it. It was truly terrifying to learn about. I believe it is important to raise awareness about this condition and the symptoms others may be experiencing.” It was a project Del Rosario wanted to work on because there are millions of people in the world that are diabetic, with many of the not knowing they are, undiagnosed.

The focus on the horror elements also enhanced the storytelling. Zapiain wanted to incorporate his love for horror and he did this through the use of repetition, quick edits and stunning monochromatic sequences vs the scenes with insulin that were in colour,

“From a technical standpoint, it was a field day for us to play with shadows, and utilize the horror aspect, exaggerating hallways, dark rooms, silhouettes, etc. Colour meant the reality of the situation. Realizing these horrifying images are in the main character’s perspective, (black and white), and what actually exists in color.

There’s such richness in these tones and the lighting was also extremely effective to punch up certain textures. It is a beautifully shot film and there are certain images that will stay in my mind for a while.

The film feels like a journey in such a short period of time. The repetition, rough cuts and haunting (but stunning) images are all utilized to properly highlight the struggle of living with diabetes. Always is very well written and executed, it’s a personal story and everyone should watch it. To learn more about the struggles of living with diabetes, go to the American Diabetes Association website.

 

How The 2021 Oscars Will Look, If It Doesn’t Get Postponed


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Every year there are films lined up for Oscar season and some films that are sprinkled across the year, hoping to be standouts in order to be in the running. In 2020, the world has faced a global pandemic which has changed the way we live. It has also changed the way most industries operate. The Entertainment Industry has definitely felt this shift, due to the fact that movie theatres are now closed and it is unclear as to when they will reopen. Everything is up in the air and only a handful of films will be released this year, so the big question is… how are the Oscars going to work?

In a recent Variety article, Marc Malkin says that the Oscars may be postponed. The sources, who chose to remain anonymous, stated that “Definitive plans are far from being concrete at this juncture. The telecast is currently set for Feb. 28, 2021, on ABC.” The sources, who have been close to the subject, said that it will most likely be postponed. There could be potential new dates but they haven’t been fully discussed yet or properly mapped out. There were new (temporary) rule changes for Oscar eligibility released in April because of COVID -19.

“The board of governors approved a temporary hold on the requirement that a film needs a seven-day theatrical run in a commercial theater in Los Angeles County to qualify for the Oscars.” says Marc Malkin from Variety. As long as the film had a planned theatrical release, it is still eligible for an Oscar nomination. It doesn’t mean that any film premiering on a streaming service is eligible. With this shift in the moviegoing experience, it seems fitting to change the guidelines temporarily, so films that had a planned theatrical release and are currently going straight to VOD, can have the same chance in getting nominated.

If the Academy already changed the guidelines, because they sympathized with the filmmakers, who worked so hard in getting their film out there and making the conscious choice to STILL release it on VOD, why are they planning on postponing it? What was the point in changing the guidelines, if you’re about to change the game entirely? How does postponing the Oscars benefit any of the films/filmmakers?

These are the questions that I’m curious to know the answers to. There are films that have been (and will be) released this year that are eligible and “worthy” enough of an Oscar run, so why not give them an even chance? If they choose to postpone the Oscars, won’t there be double the films to choose from, in order to hand out that golden statue? Are the categories going to include 10 nominees, instead of 5, because there are more films to cover? It doesn’t seem like the best move.

These are the films that could possibly be nominated for Oscars for the 2021 season:

  • Emma 
    Best Actress: Anya Taylor Joy
    Best Cinematography: Christopher Blauvelt
    Best Director: Autumn de Wilde
    Best Adapted Screenplay: Eleanor Catton
    Best Original Score: Isobel Waller-Bridge & David Schweitzer


  • The Way Back 
    Best Actor: Ben Affleck
    Best Director: Gavin O’Connor
    Best Original Screenplay: Brad Ingelsby


  • The Invisible Man 
    Best Picture: Jason Blum & Kylie du Fresne
    Best Actress: Elisabeth Moss
    Best Director: Leigh Whannell
    Best Original Screenplay: Leigh Whannell
    Best Original Score: Benjamin Wallfisch
    Best Editing: Andy Canny


    Best Visual Effects:
    The Invisible Man 
    Wonder Woman 1984
    Tenet
    Dune
    Sonic the Hedgehog


  • Never Rarely Sometimes Always 
    Best Actress: Sidney Flanigan
    Best Original Screenplay: Eliza Hittman
    Best Cinematography: Hélène Louvart
    Best Director: Eliza Hittman


    Best Animated Feature: 
    Sonic The Hedgehog
    Onward
    Scoob!
    Trolls World Tour
    Soul



  • Tenet 
    Best Picture: Christopher Nolan & Emma Thomas
    Best Director: Christopher Nolan
    Best Actor: John David Washington
    Best Supporting Actor: Robert Pattinson
    Best Original Screenplay: Christopher Nolan
    Best Original Score: Ludwig Göransson
    Best Editing: Jennifer Lame


  • The French Dispatch 
    Best Picture: Wes Anderson, Steven Rales & Jeremy Dawson
    Best Director: Wes Anderson
    Best Original Screenplay: Wes Anderson
    Best Original Score: Alexandre Desplat
    Best Cinematography: Robert Yeoman


  • Capone 
    Best Director: Josh Trank
    Best Original Screenplay: Josh Trank
    Best Actor: Tom Hardy
    Best Supporting Actress: Linda Cardellini
    Best Cinematography: Peter Deming


  • Da 5 Bloods (Netflix)
    Best Picture: Jon Kilik, Spike Lee, Beatriz Levin & Lloyd Levin
    Best Director: Spike Lee
    Best Cinematography: Newton Thomas Sigel
    Best Original Score: Terence Blanchard
    Best Editing: Adam Gough
    Best Adapted Screenplay: Danny Bilson, Paul De Meo, Spike Lee and Kevin Willmott


  • Mank (Netflix) 
    Best Picture: David Fincher, Ceán Chaffin, Eric Roth and Douglas Urbanski
    Best Director: David Fincher
    Best Adapted Screenplay: Jack Fincher
    Best Actor: Gary Oldman
    Best Supporting Actress: Amanda Seyfried
    Best Original Score: Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
    Best Cinematography Erik Messerschmidt
    Best Editing: Kirk Baxter


  • Dune
    Best Picture: Mary Parent, Cale Boyter, Joe Caracciolo Jr. and Denis Villeneuve
    Best Director: Denis Villeneuve
    Best Adapted Screenplay: Jon Spaihts, Eric Roth & Denis Villeneuve
    Best Actor: Timothée Chalamet
    Best Supporting Actress: Rebecca Ferguson
    Best Supporting Actor: Oscar Isaac
    Best Original Score: Hans Zimmer
    Best Cinematography: Greig Fraser
    Best Editing: Joe Walker


This list that I have compiled is solely based on what I believe to be possible Oscar contenders. Majority of these films are highly anticipated and have been adamant in not moving their release date, due to COVID 19. This is all hypothetical and if the restrictions are still in place from September onwards, they need to make the decision to send it straight to VOD or postpone their film entirely. I personally think it’s not the right decision to postpone the Oscars because all of the films listed above should be given the fair chance to be nominated, based on the slate of their year. If the Academy combines the 2020 & 2021 slates, it will be too much for anyone to handle.

“It is still unclear if postponing the Oscars will also mean that the Academy will allow films released after the year-end deadline to qualify for the 2021 Oscars.” says Marc Malkin for Variety. It is a very difficult decision to make, but it is also very premature to even consider postponing, if we are only half way through the year. At the end of the day, you don’t make pictures for Oscars, as the wise director Martin Scorsese has said, but it’s sure great to get recognized for your work.