Project Spotlight: 'After the Beep', To Drunk Call or Not To Drunk Call

Sonibel Rae is an Afro-Latina filmmaker from the Dominican Republic currently based in London. Thanks to her mother’s love of them, she grew up consuming a steady diet of romantic comedies. Writing funny, compelling, and relatable characters is her main goal as a creator. She hopes to one day be a showrunner and fulltime filmmaker, creating art that affects others as much as the art she loves has touched her. She shares with us one of her short films, a piece she directed, wrote and produced based off of one of her own experiences.

1. How did you discover film as a medium? Are you self taught?
I was around 15 when I realised that the world of film was a possible career path I could go down. I took a media class and learned more about what being a director and screenwriter entailed and I became totally in love with the idea of being a part of it. During this class I made video projects and was taught basic and shooting.  When on my kick of trying to become the next Harmony Korine, I enrolled in a 2 week summer filmmaking course where they covered directing, editing, producing and basic equipment. I continued to teach myself screenwriting through trial and error on a number of scripts. It’s been a mixture of both.

2. What roles do you enjoy the most in production? What would you want to explore more of?
I enjoy writing the most. There's a great sense of accomplishment in finally being able to translate all the snippets of images and brief bites of dialogue in your head into a coherent script people can use as a springboard for their performances. I would like to do more editing though, as I think its such a vital component of the filmmaking process that a lot of people overlook. For this reason I am committed for the time being to edit my own projects.

3. What inspired "After the Beep"?
The inspiration for After The Beep came from a distinct memory I had of a friend’s birthday party I attended when I was 16. I wasn’t having fun and had been sitting on a couch with a few girls who weren’t that into parties either. Even though we hadn't talked in forever, I had this sudden urge to contact my ex and ask him what he was doing. I planned to pretend I didn't care he had a new girlfriend. I wanted to tell him silly jokes only he would understand or laugh at. I wanted to commiserate on how weird the game of spin the bottle was. The short came from the hypothetical situation in which I did contact him and how realistically that ill advised series of calls would actually go (because who actually picks up the phone straight away?)

4. What were some challenges you faced during production?
Time was a big challenge in this production. It's extremely difficult trying to arrange things when everyone (including muyself) is working temp jobs and has so many other things to be concerned about. Our first day of shooting took a few hours but things got more complicated after I looked at the footage-- I felt so disappointed with it. After hours of attempts to mold something usable out of it I conceded and decided reshoots had to happen. Our brief 4 hour shooting time, became 2 so it was a matter of working quickly and efficiently and I was really lucky to have such an excellent team. It certainly wouldn't have been possible without their dedication to the project.

5. What did you learn while shooting this?
I learned that reshoots aren't a failure. I am somewhat of a perfectionist, always believing I need to get things right on the first try or I'm not talented or capable enough. I had to really ground myself and remember even big hollywood movies with massive budgets have to go back after months of shooting. I realized that expecting for my production to be a masterpiece after a few hours of shooting was very unrealistic. Reshoots are helpful and there's no shame in fixing things you're not happy with. Going back for those shots was one of the best decisions I made.

6. How long was production for "After the Beep"?
The production was very tight. We did it as part of the “Making Films challenge” headed by the exceedingly talented, organised and committed duo of Fumi Gomez and Juan Echenique. The challenge is to write, cast, produce, and edit your film within one month. If completed your film is part of a showcase at the end of the month. I find myself busy a lot of the time- making a lot of excuses and putting a lot of my creative endeavours off in order to make extra money. This is a conststant because London is very expensive.  his challenge gave me real focus and while doing it in a month was an emotional rollercoaster, it was also extremely motivational. No time for excuses and no time to be second guessing yourself to death.

7. What do you think the film industry is lacking right now?
I think the film industry is lacking a lot of things. Diversity, real diversity above and below the line. Inability to admit where they're going wrong.  I think the problem is not being able to admit that some people have limited views of certain subjects. That whitewashing is a thing to worried about. That while it may feel better to lash out when a hashtag is trending highlighting your mistakes that taking a breath and looking into why this is happening would be a better course of action.

I think there also has to be a change in film criticism and how we frame what is and isn't considered valuable subject matter in filmmaking. I don't at all want to diminish the work of men. A lot of filmmakers I've looked up to are male but I know now that that is largely because of what society has molded who's auteurism is considered to be worth rewarding. I would love to see women who also create stylized content that are traditionally considered "feminine" given the accolades they deserve.

I want more female critics, especially ones of colour to be published, hired and given the leg up they need they need so we can hopefully in the future eliminate this idea that certain genres are "schlock" or "guilty pleasures" and not the legitimate and well crafted works they are.

8. What kind of stories are you looking to tell in your future work?
I want to tell stories about relationships. These are the things that interest me most when watching films. A film can have the most intricate and exciting plot but I never enjoy them as much as things that deal with just how different people feel and interact with each other.

Keep up with Sonibel Rae via her Instagram