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“The Pressure In-Between”: the vision, making, and premiere

Subsequent photos by Rebekah Grace de Guzman

After four months of hard work, I premiered my first ever short film “The Pressure In-Between” on January 25th in front of an audience of over 50 students. The film chronicles four different pressures teenagers experience, how they are affected, and how they overcome them. As pizza was given out and Eagle Bucks spread out to the middle schoolers who attended, it was a fulfilling moment that I’ll remember as a filmmaker for the rest of my life. But, how did we get here?

The vision

Let’s start in August of 2023: my first month of being a sophomore. At Eagle Rock High, every sophomore has the responsibility to complete the IB Personal Project: the culmination of the Middle Years Program. Just the summer prior, I participated in a program called Girls’ Voices Now, in which girls from all around LA are taught how to make films for social change. Among the valuable skills that were taught, I learned how to work the camera, audio, lighting, and editing. Along with some of my other classmates, we created a short documentary that can be viewed here.

After that experience, I knew I wanted to apply my new skillset to a new project. The Personal Project gave me that opportunity (along with its “It’s for school!” quality that’d come in handy when I needed an adult– no, really my parents– to help me with it), and I went for it despite knowing how demanding it’d be for me. So, I started immediately.

Luckily, the decision to make it about the different pressures teenagers experience was a no-brainer. I knew that since 1, the Personal Project has to benefit the community in some way and 2, I wanted to collect interviews from Eagle Rock students, the topic for the film had to be a universal experience that could be used to lift stigma over the topic and increase understanding of it. Though pressure is so fluid and manifests in different forms for everyone, I can say confidently that the main pressures I focused on encompass a general landscape for teens. They are the following: pressure to succeed academically, pressure to change your appearance, pressure to please others, and pressure to hide your identity.

With that settled, I had to find who I would interview. By hanging up posters in the classrooms of some of my teachers, I could redirect students' attention to a survey. The survey’s purpose was to collect data on these pressures, their effects, and individual triumphs over them, but also to find people interested in being interviewed. From there, I found my four wonderful interviewees.

Initial storyboards

As I started talking to the interviewees and scheduling dates to film these interviews, I coordinated with our school’s video production teacher Mr. Walters, as well as the Eagle's Scream’s own Mr. Hicks to get the equipment and place I needed to film respectively. Along the way, I did creative planning by coming up with different interview settings to differentiate each interviewee and therefore pressure, given that it’d be the only real way I get to express my creativity due to the nature of documentary filmmaking.

Once I had my game plan set, it was time to get the show rolling.

The making

And roll it did. The final film is only around 15 minutes long, and you probably only see about four minutes of each interviewee– but these interviews lasted up to 30 minutes. And each one was so thoughtful and eye-opening, and I thank my interviewees so much for being able to open up about something so personal to them.

Yet, there will always be things that go almost wrong. I learned that the lights in the main building automatically turn off if there isn’t any motion sensed, and that gave me a heart attack when my camera only had about 10 minutes left to roll and I couldn’t waste any time on that current interview. Additionally, when filming the b-roll (which is supplementary footage over the dialogue of the interview), I almost forgot the SD card at home and the battery was almost dead in that camera, too. But, I promise: my lesson is learned. I’m too young to have a heart attack, anyway.

Editing process

After gathering all of the interviews and b-roll, I had to create the paper edit for the film. Essentially, this is taking the transcripts of your interviews and compiling certain parts of them so you know what to refer to when editing the film together. What’s intimidating about this is that you’re editing without knowing if the cadence of the speakers’ voices flows well together, which can be quite stressful. But once you have everything put together, you speed through the actual editing process. And that’s what happened, besides the occasional hiccups in the problematic voice flowing I mentioned earlier and dropping 65 dollars on the stock footage and music that’s in the film. Yikes

But, before I knew it, I was done with it. Though the making was hard, the hardest part was up next: sharing it.

The premiere

I remember sitting on that stool at the front of Mr. Hicks’ class, getting angsty as the bell rang for lunch and people started to flood the halls. Then people started arriving. We eventually needed to bring out chairs from the side room so everyone had a place to sit. Soon enough, some resorted to the floor. And more and more people came and I realized that this was real… and that people wanted to see my work.

After introducing the film and pressing play, I found myself watching the audience more than the film itself. Besides the quarrels over the pizza (that wasn’t sliced twice which I’m still SO UPSET OVER– to those who came and didn’t get a slice, I’m so sorry), it was quiet. Everyone was experiencing and reacting to this thing I created all at the same time. When it ended and my name appeared under “Directed and Edited by,” the applause was enormous. And I couldn’t have been happier.

"The Pressure In-between" premiere. All further photos by Mr. Hicks

People started to leave following the Q&A. Some came up to me and gave me their congratulations, their questions, and their feelings: one of my friends most notably stated: “Are you trying to make me cry?!” I went, “...Yes?” because what else was I supposed to say to that? Yet, we laughed and hugged. I want to affect people in that way with my art, always. Something teetering in between bitter and sweet, because that’s what life is about. And it’s stuff like that that’s reaffirmed why I want to do this for the rest of my life.

The Aftermath

Now writing this approximately a month later since the premiere, there are many things I would’ve wanted to do differently, such as filming more of my own b-roll with the interviewees or coming up with more backup plans if one of those camera batteries did end up dying out on me. Nonetheless, I’m fulfilled. I couldn’t be happier with “The Pressure In-Between,” and what it means to me and hopefully so many other people.

For any other new filmmakers who are reading this and are thinking of pursuing their first project, PLEASE go for it. This world needs more film and art in general as it can spark a change not only in you but those around you. And in my opinion, that’s the best part of it all.

If you want to watch “The Pressure In-Between,” click here and enjoy! Please be sure to fill out the Screening Questionnaire after watching and follow me on Instagram to keep up with my future projects!

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