Interview With a Student Filmmaker
Portals Magazine Artist Spotlight featuring Rachel McDonald
We had the opportunity to speak with Rachel McDonald, a CFCC student who is multi-talented in the realm of writing and filmmaking. Listed below are the questions we asked and her answers.
How involved are you in the filmmaking process? From scripting to filming to editing?
“Personally, I write it, I direct it, and then I edit it. I just recently did my third (film) like a few weeks ago. So that’s my process. I love it so much (that) I will join anyone else’s project just by nature of it being a film project. I’ve worked on a lot (of films) I’ll just involve myself however they want me to be, wherever my skillset fits with the vision of that project. For me, I like to be involved with all of it. I really enjoy working with other people and seeing all of the different steps through to the end.”
Would you say you like having a lot of creative control over what you work on – especially when you’ve written the story?
“Yeah, I would. I love collaboration, but when I have an idea, I want to see it all the way through (the process).”
We noticed you have a Youtube Channel called “Rachel Films”. Is this where you primarily post your short films?
“Yes, so that’s where the two that I’ve already done are posted.”
And the title of those?
“The first one is Live Yourself, which I directed when I was thirteen years old, so it’s interesting *laughs*. The other one is called My Name is Enoch. The next one I’m doing may or may not be posted on the Youtube channel because I’ll be sending it to festivals. Long-term – Youtube isn’t the goal, but for now, it’s a way for people to see them.”
So you submit your work to film festivals? Tell us more about that.
“It was only like 7 or 8 months ago that I first submitted My Name is Enoch. For me, that was always the goal. I wanted to have a film I felt I could put out in festivals. My Name is Enoch is a way of getting to that point. I’m not expecting anything from it. It’s more so that (if it gets accepted to a festival) I’ll get to go, meet people, and have that experience. It’s less about winning. I’m more concerned with getting my foot in the door. For example, I have this other short film Jupiter Bug which I have the rough cut done, and I’ll be going to a festival the first week in May, so I’m hoping to have a teaser or something to show people. So that’s my goal with festivals, to build those circles. Connections are so important. Finding people you work well with and have a good relationship with is honestly, maybe the most important part.”
Why film? What was the catalyst that made you start creating your own films?
“I’ve always been an artist, I knew I was going to do something with creativity. In 2015, I was eleven years old and I was at an arts summer camp. I decided to take one of the film classes they offered, but I had like, no prior interest (in film). The experience of just like – chaos might not be the right word – but everyone working together to make something, pulling strings, stressed, running out of time, something about that atmosphere is just where I thrive. I became obsessed with it. You have to write, cast, dress the scene, pick the shot, and then cut it together, to briefly summarize. I immediately started writing Live Yourself right after that. I actually teach that same class at the arts camp now, so that’s a very full-circle moment. ”
How long have you been making films? How many projects have you completed?
“About 8 or 9 years. It depends on what you mean by projects. Including the unfinished Jupiter Bug, I’ve done 3 short films (solo projects), but as I said, I’ve worked with other people a lot. And I have written countless screenplays.”
As a filmmaker, and as a writer, do you have a sort of “mission statement” or goal when you create?
“I want to be a light in the world. I really want to help people. But, at the same time, I cannot write a happy ending to save my life *laughs*. I am always drawn to sad endings, surprising endings, twist endings, that sort of thing. I do still want to help people by telling my story. Everyone has something to share, the more people who share, the more people can feel understood. I don’t mean to pick on anyone here, but I don’t want to be the person who makes blockbusters to make blockbusters. I tend to write from emotions I’ve had. Otherwise, it’s not authentic. I want to share a story in a way that only I can tell.”
Does your background as a scriptwriter influence the other things you write?
“The things I write for film do influence the way I write other things because that’s what’s at the forefront of my mind. Some of the stuff that I’ve written for classes have come from the stories I’ve originally written as films. The classes I’ve taken here at CFCC, like creative writing and poetry, have helped me as a writer, with the “warmups” we’d do in class being helpful for my creative process.”
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to start making their own films?
“Well, first of all, I would say, you can do it. You really can. Even if it seems like you're not making connections or it’s hard. As far as advice goes, put yourself out there and meet people. Have a conversation with people who have similar dreams to you. Get out your iPhone and make something with your friends. Just make some stuff, learn from experience. Just start!”
Rachel’s My Name is Enoch is listed as one of the student films selected by the International Christian Film and Music Festival, which she plans to attend in Orlando, FL in May. Rachel is also credited as the script supervisor for a feature film she helped work on titled Fabled, also in the festival.
You can find Rachel on her Instagram @rachelfilmsofficial with the link to her Youtube channel “Rachel Films” in her bio.
Written by Mia Kelly of the Portals Staff