Hannah Kaylor is a recent grad and filmmaker who started working with us just a few months ago. In January, she moved to France to teach and work on her series “FRANCO.FILM” about the french language’s influence on film from the dawn of the industry through today. But before she was jet setting to Brussels and instagramming croissants, Hannah was a humble Calvin College student in Michigan making short films.
One of her stand out shorts is “iWish,” a story of a young man who finds a random phone on the ground that turns out to be a device that grants three wishes. It’s a modern twist on the genie and the lamp or the monkey’s paw. But movies are far more than a high concept idea. The time and effort to organize, film, produce and edit a film is what separates the strong from the weak. So I reached out to Hannah to learn all about her experience creating this film.
Q: When did you make this film?
H: I wrote and directed iWish in the spring of 2016, which was during my sophomore year of college.
Q: Did you write and direct it with help from anyone else?
H: I wrote the first few drafts of the script by myself, but once we went into production we had several rewriting sessions as a crew. The crew was myself, our producer Erin, director of photography Chris, and production designers Daniel and Zach. I was the only director, but I certainly wasn’t working alone!
Q: How many films did you direct before this one?
H: This was the first actual short film I had ever directed. I’d done a few in-class directorial activities, but those were all generally pretty low-stakes, so this was my first “film” film. I felt incredibly unqualified going into the project, but luckily I had an amazing cast and crew to work with.
Q: What was the hardest part of the process?
H: I’d say the hardest part was reshoots. We ended up having to rework several scenes due to a lack of planning, which meant we wasted a lot of time that we could’ve spent on post-production. In the end, those scenes benefitted from that additional attention, but I wish (ha) that we’d just done it right the first time.
Q: Did everything run smoothly while shooting?
H: Does it ever? I think for the most part, we managed to avoid any major turbulence while shooting. There’s a restaurant scene that was tricky because we were at the mercy of the café we were using as a set, so we had to shoot the whole scene in about two hours. The room they’d given us was tiny, so the actors and extras took up most of the space while the rest of the crew (and equipment) were all crammed into a corner. We pulled it off, though!
Q: Is there any scene, shot, or line of dialogue that you are most proud of?
H: I’m a big fan of the opening scene. I think the ambiance of the street at night works really nicely. Chris, our DP, did an amazing job with the cinematography. The whole scene is kind of a quirky way to open the film, too, with our protagonist finding the phone on the ground and the genie immediately jumping into the three wishes. It’s definitely the scene that most resembles what I had in my head as I was writing the script.
Q: How did making “iWish” prepare you for your latest work FRANCO.FILM series?
H: “iWish” gave me the tools to be able to envision a final cut before filming even begins. With any project, it’s vital to have a solid idea of how you want everything to end up; without that, you run the risk of losing all creative control. As writer/director, I saw “iWish” grow from an idea I jotted down in my notebook the night before the pitch was due to a full-blown short film. Following the project for so long allowed me to really see how important it is to keep the end goal in sight, no matter what.
Q: Do you ever want to quit and how do you make yourself keep going?
H: I don’t remember ever wanting to quit, but there were certainly some tough times. I think the largest motivation to keep going was the fact that I had a cast and crew that were relying on me to perform my job to the best of my abilities. Filmmaking is not a solitary art form. Each role is a block in a precariously-stacked tower; if someone falters, everyone goes down. So my motivation to continue was mainly to support and be supported by my cast and crew.
Q: What advice do you have for young filmmakers looking to make their passion projects?
H: As a young filmmaker myself, I don’t know how qualified I am to give advice, but I can say this: work with people who tell you the truth. Honest communication is incredibly important when you’re working with a team. I’ve worked with crewmembers who would promise they’d do something and not follow through, or tell me they’d accomplished a task they hadn’t even started. If the people you’re working with are truly dedicated to making the best project possible, they’ll prioritize honesty over saving face.