Date of Submission
Film and Electronic Arts
Project Advisor 1
At the end of my junior year, I was working on a project for my Advanced Documentary class, when I found a style of documentary filmmaking that I really enjoyed: no script, and no talking heads. I found a love for bringing the camera with me, pressing record, and letting my own instincts guide me from there. As it turns out, most of my shots ended up being unscripted and happened spontaneously. When it came time for my senior project, the idea I had was to make a documentary about my life, observing the way I interacted with others in an observational way. As I reached Fall of 2022, I was very excited about the idea and wanted to use this methodology for my senior project, however what I realized was that even the concept of figuring things out on the go requires some planning. This is where the writing came in, because although I took some shots especially towards the end of October, I realized the concrete structure of the idea was still missing. I began to make lists whether it be in a journal or on the notes app on my phone, sometimes about meaningful things like conversations I wanted to remember, and other times about things that I needed to remember to do or basic daily tasks.
It was around winter break, where I found myself stuck, I was lacking motivation and I wasn’t sure about the idea anymore, it had lost sustenance in my mind. It was during a trip to Washington D.C. to visit my best friend, who is in fact featured in the film, where I realized what was most important to film for me, were my relationships. The emphasis then shifted from being about me to being focused on my friends and girlfriend. It was from here where the idea really developed into something I could feel, and made me tick. I began shooting at a much faster and more successful rate during the second semester, and early on I added in a voicemail that my grandmother had left me many years ago. I had saved messages from her on my phone so I could remember the sound of her voice clearly in my head, and when I paired it with some of the shots I had taken of my friends, everything began falling into place and the idea of using voicemails really took off. I asked my girlfriend and an assortment of friends to send me voicemails, but getting results was much harder than I had envisioned. Originally, I had planned for up to 10 friends’ voices to feature in the film. However, four people really stuck with me through the process and contributed significantly: my friends Khadija Ghanizada, Jack Loud, Henry McCullers, and my girlfriend, Narges Ghaznawi. The voicemails ended up being the most important part of the project, guiding the shots carefully and creating for me: a depiction of memories, and for the audience, a deeper look and understanding of my relationships and shared memories with these four people.
During this last year making this film, I did learn a lot about myself, but not so much about what skills I have necessarily. The most important thing I learned is that telling a story isn’t all about your intentions, it’s about your delivery. You can tell the same story with the same message many different ways, and sometimes less is more. I also learned that sometimes, no matter how hard you might want to, you can’t do everything yourself, and getting help is very important when you need it. I started the year thinking the shots I took were going to play the biggest role in my final product, but to my eventual surprise, the voicemails did instead. There are plenty of gorgeous shots that I brought in to my advisor weekly, but they didn’t make the final version. My friends ended up being the most important part of my project, a coming of age story for me, ending this part of my life as a college student as I try to hold onto these memories forever.
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Purvis, Samuel Martin V, "Replay" (2023). Senior Projects Spring 2023. 193.
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