Shanna Becker began writing the script for her film, Brink, when she was in high school. At the age of 32, Becker was able to present the film, which was shot in a variety of locations throughout the Mohawk Valley last year, to an audience of about 125 people at Fulton-Montgomery Community College on Sunday.
The screening was for those who participated in the film and their families. The purpose was to give them an opportunity to view the project they had worked on, and to provide their feedback for the film before Becker and Supervising Editor Bo Smith, lock in the final edit of the film. Following the screening was a question and answer session with Becker, Smith, actors Mu-Shaka Benson, Michael Daniels, and James Davall, Casting Director Frank Leavitt, and Director of Photography Marty Hardin.
Brink follows the separate story-lines of multiple characters within a small town. Each character is locked into their own private struggle, and the characters lives intersect in a dramatic climax.
Everyone in attendance was given a questionnaire to fill out after the film. Viewers were asked to rate the film overall, how likely they were to recommend the film to others, and various elements such as characters, audio, editing, clarity, composition, the score, and the uniqueness of the story.
They were also asked to write brief answers to questions such as “Which scenes were your most and least favorite?”, “What about the film would stay with you on your ride home?”, “What, if anything, was confusing about the film?”, “How would you describe the film to someone else?”, and “What did you think the message of the film was?”
Becker said that she decided to have a test screening because “you become so biased about your own work.” The screening gave her the opportunity to “get the input of all of the people involved as well as an impartial audience.”
The film as presented on Sunday had a run time of one hour and 54 minutes. Becker is looking to trim the film down to about 90 minutes. Smith said, “At the moment the run time has to come down, so there are actually scenes that are already still in that have to come out. Things still have to be edited, so there are scenes that will go back in as well. At the moment, what you saw isn’t the final product.”
During the Q & A, one person asked Becker how she developed the story and if she drew from her own experiences. She responded, “Almost every single character in the film is me in one way or another. I think there are different sides to every story, and a lot of us have within us many different people all at different times kind of coming out and breaking free in their own right. And all of those experiences as well, though they were dramatized in some ways, a lot of them were very real and so the experience both for writing the film and directing the film, being a part of the film, was very emotional.”
She was later asked what statement she was trying to make with her film, to which she responded that she wasn’t trying to make one particular statement rather than that she was trying to shine a light on and explore various issues. She said, “Everything from gun violence to the broken home, divorce, abuse, drug use, things like that. I wanted to put that out there. Let’s talk about it. The bullying, all of those things.”
“I think that that’s really what good art does is it makes people talk. It makes people take a look at something in a different light, maybe from a perspective that they might not have imagined once before. That’s more or less what I would do with this film as far as what my statement would be, would be stop, think, listen. Let’s see what’s happening.”
At one point in the film, Mu-Shaka Benson’s character Aeden has a chance encounter with another character, witnessing a moment in which he could have intervened, but chose not to. Benson was asked whether he thought that Aeden could have changed the other character’s path had he intervened. Benson responded, “It may have set him on a different path. That’s all it takes really is one person to switch gears for you.”
Becker added, “I do like how that particular moment in the film inspired the question about the chances you don’t take, which I think is very important. Just to realize that he turned around he took a moment, he acknowledged what was happening, but never said anything. What might have been different if he had? What might be different in your life if you had?”
Becker said that she was nervous prior to the screening and sat in the back of the theater so that she could see the reactions of the audience. She said, “So far the feedback has been really good but also constructive. I’m very comfortable receiving constructive criticism. If everyone tells you ‘Good job’ all of the time, then nothing will get better.“
Following the screening, Becker planned to scan the questionnaires into her computer so that she could share the information with her crew so that they could consider what changes to make.
Though the film is not yet complete, Becker has begun submitting the rough edit to festivals. If the film is accepted, she would then send the completed edit prior to the festival date. She plans to submit to 16 festivals total. Becker hopes to show the film locally and would like to host a regional premiere at some point in the future.
WorldsApart Films & Media released a trailer for the movie in December.
(Photos by Ashley Onyon)