The talents of two Saint Rose student filmmakers were showcased at the Albany Film Festival.
Seniors Alexandra Mulligan and Gabriela Clarke, both communications majors, took a personal approach to their films, which were screened April 2. The festival is organized by the New York State Writers Institute at the University at Albany.
Clarke’s film, “Human,” a poetic film about living with a disability, was shown in the experimental category of short films. Mulligan’s “Imperfect,” which won the short documentary category, stars Mulligan’s mother on her journey to embrace her love for arts.
We talked to both filmmakers about their projects.
What prompted you to create your film?
Mulligan: This documentary originated as a project for my advanced video production class for Professor [Liz] Richards last year. The prompt was to take a deep dive into a place or person. As I racked my empty brain for ideas at my desk at home, I heard my mother cooking upstairs and thought, “Ah, she’s a person. Cool, how convenient.” My mom overcame the challenge of a huge life change. It is always scary to make a decision that you know will change your routine, income, and lifestyle, but she stepped out in faith and did it anyway. She has told me that she has spent time in prayer over the subject and felt led by God to take the leap and live a creative life. Implementing creativity and art into her lifestyle has been a dream of hers, and now she practices art as more than just a hobby but as a professional and as a human being who worships, relaxes, and has fun through art.
Clarke: I try to focus on mental health issues with most films I’ve made. A few students in my class had made a film about their disabilities, and I got inspired. I usually wouldn’t think to talk about my disability in a movie, but I thought I could try. We were working on our final projects for class, and an option was to create poetic cinematography. I had never done it before, so I wanted to figure out how to get my message across without directly saying it. My left arm was amputated after my birth because my mother’s umbilical cord was wrapped around it, stopping blood fl ow. The film illustrates what I see others do with two hands every day. Many people don’t think twice about the simple task they can do with two hands. However, I am always thinking of diff erent ways to accomplish a task with one hand. Many people, and even myself at some point, saw me as someone who needed to be fixed. For someone to assume I need to be fixed, they must first assume that I am broken. As I grow to love myself, I realize that God made me perfect in his eyes. I refuse to allow the world to tell me differently.
Who was the actress/actor? What was the motivation behind using them?
Mulligan: The subject of this documentary is my mother, Danielle. In recent years, I have witnessed her life change as she has moved from working as a front desk receptionist to embracing her love for creativity and implementing that passion into her lifestyle. She quit her job and started working at a custom frame shop, working with her hands. She then transformed our guest room into a fully functioning art studio and spends hours per day painting, drawing, and molding clay in there. It is very inspiring to me, and I wanted to articulate that story through film.
Clarke: All the actors are friends and classmates that attend Saint Rose. I would ask, individually, “Can you do something with two hands? It’s for this movie I’m making for class.” I did include myself in the film, but only through shadows and unfocused scenes.
What was your biggest takeaway from this experience?
Mulligan: My biggest takeaway is that it’s worth pushing through uncomfortableness to put your work out there. Any art you create can be kind of embarrassing to show people because it is inherently personal. Showing friends and family is vulnerable, but screening it to classmates, professors, and festivals is another level of yikes. I never had it in mind to enter any of my projects in festivals yet, though it has always been a goal of mine, but after screening “Imperfect” with my class last year, I was really encouraged by their feedback!
Clarke: My biggest takeaway from this experience is to have confidence in yourself. You never know what you might accomplish. Even if you don’t think you could, do it anyway.
Any future projects/plans with film?
Mulligan: I would absolutely love to have a career in film and be a professional in the industry. I have been approaching that dream one step at a time and will continue to do so after graduation!
Clarke: I have many projects that I am working on at the moment. More so just writing scripts than filming. I have so many ideas and stories that I’d like to share through film.