A Break, A Rediscovery

By Sonam Rikha ‘24

Throughout the entire first semester, all I had on my mind was the days I had left ‘til winter break.

Whenever I wasn’t doing homework or studying for an exam, I would fantasize about all the fun things I would do during break. I told myself that I would write a screenplay, finish writing a fantasy book I had started in the summer, apply to a bunch of internships, binge-watch all the TV shows and movies I didn’t have time to watch during the semester, and so on. While I was able to accomplish some of the things on my list, a lot of what I did during the break was unexpected.

One day over the break I got an ad from Instagram about a “What Sparks Your Soul Challenge” short film contest hosted by Disney and Campus Movie Fest, and I spontaneously decided to register. Contestants had to submit a 5-minute documentary about what they are passionate about. Sure, I didn’t have any fancy cameras or editing software, but I had my brain and my iPhone.

Editing in iMovie

I spent the first couple of days of break writing a script for the film and then shooting it on my makeshift tripod, which in reality was an unstable mess of cardboard boxes and books stacked on top of one another. After hours spent filming, I was excited to finally see the vision I had in my head come together. Uploading my video to iMovie, I was disappointed that my short film wasn’t the high-class award-winning content I was expecting. My old iPhone camera often went out of focus during some clips and the iMovie software couldn’t cover up all the flaws of my film. The excitement that once coursed my body was now replaced with frustration and annoyance. If only I had the $200+ cameras and expensive editing software I needed, I muttered to myself. Seeing the limitations of the editing software and the camera quality of my iPhone, I decided to not submit my work. I wasn’t satisfied with it and I didn’t want to submit something I wasn’t proud of to the public. Even though some would say I wasted my first couple of days of break, I found the process exhilarating.

An embarrassing alien film I made as a kid

It was the first time I’d ever seriously tried to plan and create a film. As a kid, I often made up skits with my friends, and we would act them out. Sometimes I would even direct or narrate the skits. My dad would also tell me about the plays I wrote as a child and how I made copies and passed them around to my neighbors. Looking back on my embarrassing but creative past, I was excited to re-spark this passion that I had pushed away the past couple of years.

Although I wasn’t proud of my end product, challenging myself to make a short film with my limited resources caused me to become even more interested in possibly going into the film industry. This short film was about my passion for preserving the Tibetan culture, forcing me to reflect on the ways I constantly stay connected to my culture and how to best portray those methods on screen. As an avid binge-watcher of YouTube videos showing the behind the scenes of movies and shows, it was interesting to witness first-hand what it was like to be both behind the camera and in front of it.  While the film I created was a documentary, in the future, I hope to write and direct fictional films that tell compelling stories with complex characters that aren’t usually represented. On-campus I hope to take advantage of Pomona’s loaner program and use actual filming equipment to create my own short films.