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Alumni Blog: Louis Yeo

Alumnus Louis Yeo stands in front of an SVA BFA Film Step and Repeat holding flowers smiling

Alumnus Louis Yeo (2023) on the making of his thesis film and the transformative power of storytelling.

 

 

The director and crew watching the footage on set

As I embarked on my journey of creating a thesis film,

little did I know that a chance encounter with a real-life family would become the catalyst for my thesis film, What We Have, a poignant exploration of the human spirit in the face of adversity. The seed for my film was planted one summer day when when I saw a family of four working as food delivery drivers outside my apartment building. Two children sat in the back of a car while their mother went inside the building with the food. The father retrieved a beverage from a cooler in the trunk of the car. The juxtaposition of their roles intrigued me, sparking a profound curiosity about the stories that lay hidden beneath the surface of their daily lives.

Thus, What We Have was born –

a narrative woven from the threads of resilience, familial love, and the determination to create moments of normalcy amid a nomadic existence. The logline encapsulates the essence of the film: a family of three, eking out a living as food delivery drivers, unexpectedly receives a generous tip that becomes a catalyst for both celebration and revelation.

Bringing a story to life can be filled with emotional rollercoasters and creative challenges. The toughest challenge I faced, alongside my talented casting director, was finding a lead child actress that fit the part. We were very fortunate to encounter an actor who mentioned his daughter’s recent interest in starring in films, which could not have worked out better for us.

Film crew from Luis's shoot shooting a car scene with an actor in the front seat.

Principle photography took place in January 2023, in Staten Island.

Fortunately for us, the weather was on our side and my crew and I didn’t have to suffer while shooting outside. I discussed with my director of photography how I wanted to emphasize the confined space of the family’s car, and depict the intimacy and isolation of their nomadic lifestyle. As the camera rolled, I watched the actors embody their characters with a depth that transcended mere performance. Jina and Dan, the actors playing the parents, skillfully conveyed the quiet desperation of their situation, while Riley, playing the daughter, brought an unexpected layer of emotional complexity to the narrative. Riley stunned the entire crew because of her amazing performance even though she was fairly new to acting. She also managed to develop a fanbase amongst the crew members because of her positive energy and enthusiastic personality. After screening the film, many people from the audience approached me about Riley and her stunning performance.

 

Filmmaker and crew group photo

As the final cut of What We Have came together, I began reflecting on the transformative power of storytelling.

What began as an observation evolved into a cinematic exploration of the resilience inherent in the human spirit. The unexpected windfall that drives the plot becomes a metaphor for the resilience we find within ourselves when faced with adversity – a testament to the strength of the human connection and the lengths we go to create moments of normalcy in the most challenging circumstances.

 

The journey of creating What We Have was not just an academic exercise but a profound exploration of the stories that surround us every day. It reinforced the idea that, in the most unlikely places, narratives are waiting to be uncovered and shared. As I take pride in sharing my thesis short film, I am grateful for the unexpected inspiration that propelled me to dive deep into the heart of the human experience, bringing forth a unique story.

Filed Under: Alumni News