“Reel Conversations” highlights filmmakers behind official Real to Reel Film Festival Selections.
On this episode of “Reel Conversations,” Thomas Manning speaks with Rebecca Kirsh, the co-director of the short film, “A Mind’s Eye.” A very personal project for Kirsh, she seeks to tell a story about one of her greatest fears: blindness. In this film, a man must somehow find his way out of the darkness, learning to appreciate his four remaining senses in new ways, and focus on the everlasting bond of love
Thomas Manning: Just to start things off, if you want to share a little bit about your background in filmmaking, and what has led you to where you are right now making “A Mind’s Eye.”
Rebecca Kirsh: I’ve been making films since I was nine years old, which mostly included home videos around the house and with my friends. Later on, I started taking classes with Movie Makers in Durham, North Carolina, with director/creator, Melissa Lozoff. So that team consists of a group of kids, all coming together and learning the various aspects of film production. At the time, I was really into acting, so I was kind of focusing more on that. But, when I started college, I decided to major in film, and started doing more behind the scenes work. And I really thought I had a knack for directing because of my interest in acting – I think it kind of goes hand-in-hand. They say the best directors also know how to act because they can communicate with their actors. So, I spent four years at UNC Greensboro, majoring in film. And since then, I’ve been freelancing (working full time now), shooting and editing commercials and similar videos. So that’s what I’ve been doing professionally, and then on the side I’ve been doing short films, like “A Mind’s Eye.”
Thomas Manning: Looking specifically to “A Mind’s Eye,” there is so much going on, at both a technical and narrative level. With basically no dialogue, it’s all visual storytelling, with phenomenal sound mixing and an excellent literal “needle drop” as well. What was the decision in choosing the music track here?
Rebecca Kirsh: This film was originally created for a contest a few years ago, and it featured music from Adam Young, of the band Owl City. But we had someone else (Noah Balamucki) come in and rescore the film for this cut. So in terms of the needle drop, this was done in post-production. Everything you hear is foley.
Thomas Manning: You oversaw the editing on this film as well, correct?
Rebecca Kirsh: I was one of the editors, but because we were developing this film for a contest, we had very little time in the editing bay. And [Director of Photography, Will Huang], actually did most of the editing for the original cut. Along with [Co-Director, Ben West], I met with Will and gave him notes for the edit. But on the second go-round in this recut of the film, there’s a scene that I added back in because it was one my favorites that didn’t make the first cut. I felt like it really belonged. So for this second cut in particular, I was essentially the assistant editor and was much more involved in overseeing the process compared to the first cut a couple years ago.
Thomas Manning: Your main actor, Jess Perry, produces an absolutely marvelous performance. What were some of the things you really appreciated about what he was able to bring to the table?
Rebecca Kirsh: You know, it’s funny because originally we had cast somebody else, and at the very last minute, he got a SAG gig, and couldn’t do “A Mind’s Eye.” And Jess was recommended to us by somebody that we knew, and he just jumped in there and did it with maybe a week’s notice. He’s just really talented actor and was completely prepared. I gave him a little talk before the shoot to just explain some bits and pieces that may have been kind of missing from the puzzle, because we hadn’t had an initial meet and greet the way we did for other actors. But he just knew his stuff. I really enjoyed working with him because he made my job really easy.
Thomas Manning: What does it mean to have the film festival circuit for you to showcase your film to a wider audience that might not get a chance to see it otherwise?
Rebecca Kirsh: It really means a lot to me, to have our films viewed by not only judges for film festivals, but also audiences. And even in the time of COVID, festivals are still finding ways to show our film, which is really fascinating.
Thomas Manning: Anything else that you want to share regarding the production of the film that maybe I didn’t get to?
Rebecca Kirsh: I just really enjoyed working on it. I tend to gravitate towards dark subject matter, and this was literally and figuratively a very dark story that I wanted to tell. I hope I can do more projects like this in the future.
Thomas Manning: And if people want to keep up with your work in the future, where can they find you? Whether it be social media or maybe a website you have?
Rebecca Kirsh: My website is Rebeccakirsh.com. Also, on Facebook, our film’s page can be found under “A Mind’s Eye.”
The Cleveland County Arts Council will host films like “A Mind’s Eye” for the 21st Annual “Real to Reel International Film Festival.” The festival will be fully online this year through Seed & Spark due to the COVID-19 pandemic, featuring official selections Sept. 9 – Oct. 9, 2020.
For over two decades, Real to Reel has showcased thought-provoking films from around the world and offers opportunities for cinema-lovers to embrace the independent vision of this unique art form.
For more information, visit the Real to Reel International Film Festival website.
Thomas Manning is a member of the NCFA, and also the co-host of the television show and radio program “Meet Me at the Movies.” He has served as a production assistant and voting member on the Film Selection Committee for the Real to Reel Film Festival. He is currently studying film, television, and English at Gardner-Webb University.