(post by Pauline Pechakijan)
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I interviewed Kathleen Sarnelli, a senior English major, and Manvel Kapukchyan, a senior Political Science major, on their journey together as a filmmaking duo. They have recently been working on their Los Angeles Drought Documentary with a number of honorable researchers in order to investigate whether or not El Nino could affect or mediate the severity of the drought. Read on to hear what they have to say about filmmaking!

What inspired you two to delve into the world of film?

K:  Well, I always loved telling and writing stories. I was always fascinated about other people’s lives so I usually would make up stories about them. Film allows me to tell the stories I create and share them with the world.

M: I always had many interests and could never decide what I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing. I found myself most interested in art, history, photography, computer graphics, and business, but directing was my main love. I believe directing is unique because it combines technical formal practices with art. It was this combination of technique and art which gravitated me towards film, as well as the emotional and political impact film can have on societies.

How has your work changed throughout the years? Does working with each other help inspire new ideas?

K: I learned how to develop my stories to be more in depth. Also, my stories have progressed throughout the years, as have I, and they have transformed with me through new experiences. Working with Manvel is great because he is blunt and will let me know of ways I can improve my work. His honest criticism has helped push my work to new levels of maturity.

M: It would be impossible to be where we are without each other’s support. Our work continues to improve as we learn the craft and hone in on our individual and collective skills. Kathleen comes up with the stories, and I find a method to tell that story in the best possible way.

What are you currently working on?

K: The L.A. Drought Documentary. I know this deviates from my traditional fictional story telling, but I believe there is a story board component to making a documentary. We had been hearing about the California drought and subsequently low water supply, but were not getting a clear answer as to whether or not El Nino would clear it [the drought] up. Thus, we investigated this question and decided to make a documentary.

M: Our largest project now is The L.A. Drought Documentary. It is a UCLA research project which will be presented in May at the Undergraduate Research Conference. We also hope to exhibit the documentary at various film festivals. The project explores the current water crisis in depth by looking at the past, present, and future of the drought in regards to science and politics. We are working with many experts from JPL, UCLA, the local government, and the Metropolitan Water District.

What would you say are the biggest challenges for up-and-coming filmmakers?

K: The biggest challenge is negative feedback from naysayers and the competition within the industry. Although it is highly competitive, persistency and consistency will pay off in reaching your goals.

M: The biggest challenge is staying hopeful and optimistic in the face of what may seem to be a far-fetched and outlandish goal. We always encounter people that diminish our efforts or tell us our goals are impractical, but this is what we want to do and we will do everything in our power to ensure that we reach them.

Do you have any advice for other students who would like to explore filmmaking?

K: Do not be afraid to pursue something new because, chances are, it will make you stand out.

M: My advice is to be persistent and not give up. It’s so hard to know if you are on the right path or if your work is being appreciated or noticed, but the most important thing is to keep on filming and creating, as ultimately, that’s what being a film maker is about.

Where can we find more on your current project?

K & M: For more information, you can check out our Facebook page which is the most active and up-to-date source. Also, be sure to check out our trailer for the documentary on YouTube and our Instagram page with some short clips taken directly from the project.
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