BTS of New Short "Still Water"

Yesterday evening we wrapped on our newest work, "Still Water," a short-form horror film. 

Logline: A young girl takes some much needed advice from her mother on how to overcome her fear of the water... or so she thinks.

The idea for the film came to me after one of our writing groups with Christina & Kelsey. Location is always one of the toughest things to acquire when shooting on no budget. I don't like to restrict my writing to location, but when I thought of the fact that I could have access to a pool during the summer for a shoot, my mind began to race, grasping for ideas for a film in my favorite genre. I fell in love with the idea of a mother daughter relationship, where I could explore the horrors of how your imagination can be both your best friend and your worst enemy at such a tender age. I also wanted to delve into themes of parenting and the struggles of wanting to find a balance between being a "cool" parent and being an overprotective one. I'm not a parent myself, but I can sympathize with how they may want to give their kid the freedom they desire, while also smothering them at times, fearing the what if's if they were to turn their head for just a second.

We started the day a little late after a speed bump. Our AD, Matt Gershowitz, got a flat tire upon arriving to the location, but championed through the obstacle by quickly replacing it with a spare and working in some time to get a new tire during our lunch break. Principle photography began just after 9am. We pushed through the day with a skeleton crew of hardworking and lovely individuals, who all created an atmosphere that allowed me to thrive creatively as well as work through obstacles when they presented themselves.

One of the aspects of the shoot that none of us have had experience with prior, was shooting under water. Jeanette Sears (Director of Photography) and Christina (Producer) had the same thought in pre-pro to organize the shot list with the under water scenes last, as the lighting would be less affected as the sun changed. What I didn't account for was being down an HDMI, which Christina quickly thought to check my parents' television. We pulled the cable and used it to enable the monitor, but the amount of slack was minimal, as you can see in some of the pictures in the slideshow at the bottom.

Still, we worked with what resources we had, and pulled off a successful shoot! It was great to already have a working relationship with Jeanette as my DP, because when there were moments in the water where we couldn't use the monitor, I knew I could trust their judgement. I'd tell them to roll it three times and then go for playback as time became an issue. There were moments that it was tough to see the playback through the DiCAPac (underwater camera encasement) and when we were pressed for time, I'd give it a look over and have to make some quick decisions.

Still Water raw still.jpeg
Still Water raw2.jpeg
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When those restraints came into play with the addition of practical FX, that's when I knew we just needed to get as many takes as possible for options in the editing room. There were a lot of variables in achieving the image, even when something that will be on screen for the blink of an eye.

I was extremely happy with both of my actors. Colleen Slattery was an absolute pleasure to work with and Kaylin Hedges was a warrior, being in and out of the water so frequently can take much more of a toll on you than you'd initially think. Colleen would let me know if Kaylin or herself needed a break when I was focused on the monitor or making changes to the shot list, and having Kaylin's mother there to support and help out was essential to the work flow.

Through all the excitement and the chaos, I couldn't have asked for a better team to collaborate with. On this particular project, I not only had the aide of my film family, but my actual family. We shot in the backyard of my parents' house and they both did everything in their power to make it an enjoyable experience. I can't thank them enough for their love and hospitality.

Still Water BTS Group Photo.jpeg


The film will soon enter post production, where I'll work closely with Matt (also editing the project) and a post sound designer. I'm currently looking for someone with experience in post sound mix/design/editing on a micro budget, as this film is heavily reliant on its soundscape. If you have any recommendations or inquiries, you can email me at

Updates to come in the near future!

- Ryan

North Carolina Gay & Lesbian Film Festival Recap

Saturday was our North Carolina Gay & Lesbian Film Festival screening of About a Donkey and it was such an amazing experience. I honestly can't fully put into words how much I enjoyed it and am so grateful to have had the film programmed at the festival.

I arrived Friday afternoon and immediately got excited about the festival when a super sweet box office clerk named Key told me she thought that that movie looked fun & interesting and she was thinking of going to see it when I asked to reserve my ticket for the About a Donkey screening. When I told her she definitely should see it and that it's my movie, she got excited and promised she would. I then met the Women's Programming Co-Chair, Piper, who, when I thanked her for programming our film, told me the whole programming committee loved it and that it was such an easy one - "just an immediate yes." That really made my day. As we're hearing back from festivals, averaging a 20% acceptance rate, it's easy to start to question whether or not we'll really have a shot at reaching an audience outside our existing circle and if anyone objective will really get & appreciate what we're going for. So, to hear that the film resonated with the programming team and it wasn't even a debate ... well, I was just overjoyed. The VIP reception that evening was a nice event for mingling with other filmmakers in attendance & sponsors of the festival. Everyone was really lovely and welcoming.

At Saturday morning's filmmaker luncheon, Matt arrived and we got a chance to meet a few other talented filmmakers (who funny enough were all also New York based) and chat with more of the programming team, including Piper, her Co-Chair & wife Monique, and a teacher who was programming with the festival for the first time this year, Layla. I have to say, I really love this team of women (I'm sure the guys are great too but I only had a chance to engage with the women). They're so lovely and clearly care about the festival and the filmmakers so much. Just meeting them alone would make me want to return again & again. But that's not the only reason! Before I get to our screening though, one of my favorite comments from the luncheon was by Layla, who said that not only were we her favorite feature that she reviewed, but also she felt it had an inviting quality where she could show it to her homophobic mom and maybe see a little shift in perspective. That was so incredible to hear because engaging people who don't typically seek out inclusive content and trying to get a dialogue going with them is a big mission of ours with the film. 

After the luncheon, we caught a block of 8 shorts. I wish I had a chance to watch more because, based on the quality (both in story and production value), I think I would have really discovered dozens of new favorite films & artists - which isn't often how I feel coming out of shorts blocks at most fests. I really enjoyed what I was able to see at this one. Then we met another programmer, Marilyn, who was going to be our Q&A moderator. She told me that she and two other programmers fought over who would get to do our Q&A because they all loved our film so much (one of whom, Laurie, I only met very briefly but who also emphasized how much she loved our film and told us she couldn't wait to watch it again at the screening). That was so awesome to hear from Marilyn, who went on to explain that they get so much of the same kind of story (as an LGBTQ festival), and so it was so exciting for them to receive a film that was inclusive enough to meet their standards but wasn't specifically about being gay. They felt that it being about a family was so relatable and felt authentic, and just "so fun, and funny, and moving." I was moved to hear her talk about it with such enthusiasm. And, having recently been rejected by the 3 other LGBTQ+ fests we submitted to, it was especially nice to hear that our approach and mission were  appreciated by the community at this festival. 

Our screening was in the beautiful Fletcher Hall at the Carolina Theatre, which seats over 1,000 people. To our happy surprise, we ended up with over 100 people at our screening. The box office said we sold 101 tickets, which didn't include the programming team or volunteers that sat in to watch (again)! I can tell you, from traveling for my Seed&Spark job and seeing indie features at a variety of festivals, that is a GOOD turnout. This is especially so when you factor in our complete lack of names, connections to North Carolina, or marketing funds. Outside of one twitter connection who came out to support me (thanks Jim!), the audience mainly came out of interest from the festival's efforts. That's really something! So often, the audience is just the filmmakers in attendance. And with a feature, that can be a really tiny crowd. So, I'm truly grateful and impressed with the way this festival hooks people! As for during the screening, the image looked great (I was worried because I couldn't afford a DCP, so sent a blu-ray - but was pleasantly surprised by how solid it looked) and the film got a lot of laughs. I think that maybe some were expecting the central storyline to be more prominently queer, but I don't think that that stopped them from enjoying it. We heard some positive comments afterwords. And the Q&A was very engaged. We had 10 minutes, and they had to cut off the questions to get us out in time. (Watch below.)

The festival apologized to me multiple times for the "bad time slot," 5pm on a Saturday; which I didn't realize was considered bad until I understood that we played before two centerpieces, the winning Women's feature Freelancers Anonymous at 7pm (which was delightful) and the Paul Rudd/Steve Coogan-starring Ideal Home at 9pm. I suppose non-filmmakers are unlikely to watch more than one feature per day, and definitely not 3 right in a row. So, considering that, I guess we were given a not-great slot. However, that fact just makes me even more impressed with the festival and the crowd we got. Not to mention, we were also programmed against 2 other screenings happening at the same time! So, that really says something about the crowd this festival draws! I'm so thankful to the people who chose to come to our screening - including and especially Key, the box office clerk who not only raved about the film afterwords but also encouraged other people to see our movie when they asked for recommendations, and even asked me to sign her ticket stub after the screening! It was just such a wonderful experience overall. The only downside was that Kelsey couldn't make it. But that's even more incentive to return in the future with another film!


Local Vegan Treat:

  • The Parlour makes handmade ice cream and always has 2 sorbets, a vegan chocolate, and a revolving vegan soft serve option every day. I lucked out in that Friday had almond joy mocha as the soft serve option. It was SO good! It's rare finding vegan soft serve anywhere. Definitely a must try if you're ever in Durham. (I also had the pineapple mango soft serve on Sunday, which was great, but more sorbet-ish than legit ice cream.)

Catch the film next at:

IndieWorks - August Recap

Tuesday was our August edition of IndieWorks. Despite a thunderstorm, over 40 people came out for our 4 films of the night. All the films were scifi in nature, but had very diverse styles & sub-genres, from drama to animation to experimental. All were visually-striking & thought-provoking. Overall, the night was a big success!

We'd just like to say thank you to everyone who came out to support the filmmakers and spend the evening with us & them. We hope all enjoyed the films and the opportunity to network with other filmmakers and film fans. We know some connections were made! 

We hope you'll join us again for our September Web Series Special on the 18th -  featuring a fun lineup of NYC-based webisodes.

See photos from the evening:

The Films of the night:

Greater Good (Directed by Andrea Ashton, Written by Candace Little & Allison Yuen)
When a pregnant woman receives an unexpected visit from two strangers she is faced with making a life-altering decision.  

Androktasiai (Written & Directed by (Lincoln) Yufeng Li)
A combat robot designed to protect good people from bad people. But who are good and who are bad? 

Rubber Ducky (Written & Directed by Sean Mannion)
After a fight outside a rock show Tara finds a Rubber Duck that changes her perspective.  

Back Page Ripper (Directed by Stephen Rutterford, Written by Stephen Rutterford & Jon Burkhart)
A girl must solve the mystery of who ripped the last page out of her mystery novel. 

Watch our Q&A Recap. *Please know there are some film spoilers - feel free to look for an opportunity to catch the films at a festival or computer screen near you & then come back to watch!

The awards go to...

At the end of the evening, we announced our winning filmmakers for both Audience Choice Award & Silver Whiskers Award. The Audience Choice Award is voted upon by all those in attendance, and the Silver Whiskers Award is judged by the CongestedCat Team based on a rating system of 8 categories:   StoryDialogue/WritingDirectionActingCinematographySoundEditing, and Production Value, along with a nuanced discussion focused on inclusion and originalityThe Silver Whiskers winner goes on to screen again at our end of year Best of Fest screening next April. 

The Silver Whiskers winner also receives $50 towards a crowdfunding campaign on should they use the platform and 50% off 4MileCircus' post-production audio cleaning service for a future project. 

For the August 2018 lineup, our winning films were:
    Audience Choice Award:  "Back Page Ripper"
    Silver Whiskers Award:  "Greater Good" 

Join us next month for our September edition on the 18th!