Emerging Indie Women Filmmaker Review
By Elia Esparza
Avi Moreno has overcome the death of her mother, an absentee father, and now finally on the cusp of becoming an attorney, her life is turned upside down when the past catches up to her.
Out of the blue, a father she has not seen nor heard from in over two decades contacts her. Suddenly painful emotions she had suppressed resurface leaving her with the tough decision if she should see him or not.
It’s amazing how some filmmakers with micro-budgets as low as $5000 can still manage to produce a high quality looking film. The 15-minute short, 22 Years, is a perfect example of how to tell a story with limited funds and tell it without over packing it with needless scenes. The end result is a film that is infused with audience-connecting sensitivity.
Women support women. Films directed by women feature more women in all roles. There is a 21% increase in women working on a narrative film when there is a female director and a 24% of women working on documentaries. – Indiewire
Film Producer Dawn Noel had envisioned 22 Years as a film for several years. As an actor, producer and accomplished Broadway dancer, Dawn surrounded herself with an experienced cast and crew, and the end result is a film that unfolds an emotionally charged story of heartbreak, abandonment and forgiveness.
Award-winning Director/Playwright/Actor Fred Thomas Jr. (No Rainbow, 24 Hour Love, 12’x9’) took a simple script and turned it into a 15-minute complex film journey. Setting a perfect tone to match the film’s emotional rhythm is award-winning music composer Mike McKnight’s piano compositions.
Cast matters, a lot! Stirring performances from Kearran Giovanni (Major Crimes), Imagen Award nominees Roberto Sanchez (Lake Los Angeles, 2 Fast & 2 Furious) and Luis Jose Lopez (Modern Family, Major Crimes), and Jack Lucarelli, a veteran actor and producer best known for Django Unchained.
At the helm of the cast is Dawn Noel, who produced 22 Years, and she stars as the conflicted Avi Moreno, a woman who long ago stopped missing or needing her father.
22 Years feels and looks like a higher budget production. It is beautifully shot (especially the close ups) by cinematographer Sean McDaniel (En Route, Ostrichland), and J. Santos seamlessly edits with the same attention he dedicated to his feature film Lake Los Angeles, which has garnered awards at every film festival screened and was recently nominated for an Imagen Award in the Best Feature category.
A Conversation With Dawn Noel….
22 Years is the story of so many women. Was this your first film project?
Dawn Noel: This is the second short film that I’m producing. The first, Shattered Pitch, starring Chad Coleman, was a learning experience. Now that I know how to produce a short film– it was a lot easier for 22 Years.
What’s the biggest challenge?
DN: Raising the money. After that, the rest of it really comes pretty natural to me.
Did you rent out the restaurant for your opening scenes?
DN: No we didn’t. We were fortunate to find a restaurant in Altadena who let us film while they were open for business. Those are real customers you see. We bought tons of food for the cast and crew for lunch, and they let us use it for free.
Emotionally how has this filmmaking process affected you as an artist?
DN: Producing can definitely affect someone emotionally. You have to be the leader and the boss, and as a female, sometimes it’s a little harder for people to respect and trust you—especially when they’re your friends. I’ve lost friends because I chose to work with them. It can be difficult. I have a ‘go hard’ or ‘go home’ approach to my process. I expect everyone to give 100% whether they’re getting paid or not. I am very passionate about what I do and not a lot of people are like that. So at times I bumped heads with people I expect people to have integrity and follow through what they say they are going to do. I do not like a diva attitude around my production. We are all here to help and support each other. As a leader you have to deal with a lot of egos. I have to think about when I need to be passive aggressive, when I just need to lay down the law and when I just need to let someone go.
Would you consider directing?
DN: No I wouldn’t. I don’t think I have a natural talent at this time for it nor did I study or train in film school. There are people that have spent years studying… I wouldn’t feel qualified for this position—not at this point in my life.
What did you love the most about making 22 Years?
DN: I really love the process of creating and putting everything together and watching how magic turns out. I will definitely do it again but next time it will be a feature film.
22 Years is a simple story beautifully captured because of a well written script, a shrewd and frugal producer, who with an eye for details found a way to work within her super low budget.
Personally, this short film touched me deeply and the full 15-minutes move forward at an even pace one heartbeat scene after another. As a filmmaker, Dawn Noel triumphs by making a short that has earned the right to be developed into a feature film.
Follow 22 Years and Dawn Noel on Social Media:
Facebook: 22 Years
Twitter link: https://twitter.com/22yearsfilm
Dawn Noel website: http://www.dawn-noel.com
Story by Dawn Noel
Directed by: Fred Thomas Jr.
Produced by: Dawn Noel
Executive Producer: Meegan Spector Rubin
Co-Producers: Arlonda Washington, Renee McClellan, Trynell Williams
Associate Producers: Akil LuQman, April Magen
First Assistant Director: Marisa Thilman
Director of Photography: Sean McDaniel
Editor: J. Santos
Cast: Dawn Noel, Kearran Giovanni, Luis Jose Lopez, Roberto Sanchez, Jyllina Skye Rodriguez, Stephanie Arcila, Bashir Gavriel, Jack Lucarelli, Mike Rose, Akil LuQman, Valeria Soto