“Beautifully written.” “Emotionally moving.” “Absolutely wonderful transitions.” “Very visceral.” These are just a few of the many praises students sung after watching this year’s endowed film “Lift” at the first screening and wrap party held Thursday evening.
Every year, Regent cinematography students compete for their original film script to be chosen for the “Endowed” grant. This October, writer, director, and editor Jared Esteban (‘23) found out that his script, “Lift,” was chosen to receive the grant of $15,000 to bring the story to life. Originally pursued as a solo project when Esteban was a sophomore, “Lift” was picked up in the fall semester of his senior year. This dramatic short shares a heart wrenching tale of loss, love, and redemption that was both a challenge and a joy for students to work on.
In an interview after the screening, Esteban fondly called the 50+ “Lift” crew an “all-star team.” He described them as crew members who always had his back, were up for any challenge, and had the perseverance and patience to adapt no matter the circumstance. One unexpected difficulty that they faced pertained to the shooting location. The film was shot in two locations, and one of the areas they originally scouted was supposed to be made up of dry rock. However, when they arrived, all of their shooting spots were under water, as the river had risen. Rather than reschedule the shoot, they decided to incorporate this unexpected obstacle into the script itself. The high tide was “a blessing in disguise,” Esteban shared, and brought movement and life to the scenes. This is just one of the many ways that the team applied their creativity and learned to adapt while executing this project.
Another challenge they faced was the temperature during the shoot. The cold and rainy weather led to multiple sound equipment issues, including rapidly dying equipment and constant battery swapping. Nolan Leonard, the second assistant director and pre-production assistant, spoke to the team’s ability to rally together through these setbacks: “Our sound team really pulled it together and worked coherently, quickly, and efficiently. [Despite these difficulties], we ended up with some really good sound quality.”
Although some aspects of the production were challenging, others seemed to fall into place effortlessly. Cast members Allen Williamson (Jim) and Taylor Lyons (Lily) beautifully exemplified the raw emotions of love, grief, and recovery. They connected on-screen seamlessly, likely due not only to their talented acting skills but also because they are actually married to each other off-screen! Esteban expressed that Williamson and Lyons’ genuine connection and chemistry as a married couple contributed to the decision in casting them as Jim and Lily. By the end of the short, the pair brought audience members to tears.
This response was something that thrilled producer and first assistant director Leila Haddad (‘23). She expressed that “it’s hard to make [drama] not feel cheesy,” but this crew really “nailed it.” Haddad’s role was to keep the crew on time, handle logistics, and work with the city of Chesapeake and Richmond to make the film happen. Through this, she was able to see “people band together and really feel motivated,” an outcome inspired by Esteban’s dedication and focus as a director.
Anna Christina Taylor, also spoke to Esteban’s leadership and writing abilities, sharing that it was a pleasure to work alongside him. As the art director and production designer, Taylor worked closely with Esteban to ensure that all the locations, costumes, and props aligned with his vision for the film. “I love that Jared’s script really gave so much,” Taylor stated. She noted that there was so much subtext in the script that aided in the fulfillment of her role and contributed to the depth of the story.
This compelling short will be played at Regent’s Annual Student Film Showcase this Saturday, April 22nd. Don’t miss the opportunity to support Regent student filmmakers and see the results of their efforts by purchasing tickets here!