Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Out of Many You Have One People

Out of Many, You Have One People

By Nathan Falstreau

Oakland filmmaker pushes through tragedy to release first short film Two Weeks From Monday

Societal norms and expectations are so familiar it is easy to forget what it feels like to dream. Even more important, it takes someone with some serious vision and guts to actually follow those dreams. For filmmaker Carissa Weir, this is exactly what she has done.

An immigrant originally from Jamaica who now calls Oakland her home, Weir has experienced more than most in her life; and through her struggles has realized the most important thing for her and for her soul is to tell a story through film. In 2006, she cashed everything in and founded her own production company, Cacao Films, with the help of a bank loan and savings.

Where it all Began

Like many, after high school Weir worked several unsatisfying jobs to make ends meet. She even enrolled in a local community college and completed general education requirements, but as a person with many interests had difficulty finding what she intended to do with the rest of her life. Her breaking point came at age 25 while working two jobs in the business world. Weir claims, “I knew that I needed to do something else but I didn’t know what it was. Something just wasn’t right.”

A Call to Act

After talking to one of her mentors about her situation, he began to ask her to remember what she liked to do most as a child. Weir recalled enjoying acting in her younger years. After being persuaded by her friend to look into theater companies, she eventually found her home at the American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T) “This is where I discovered myself,” Weir states. “I used to never even laugh out loud in public before. Then I took a clowning class and was surprised at how much I had changed as a person through acting.” Through A.C.T. she received screen work on several major films, including Sweet November, the Matrix, and Twisted. More importantly, she found that she learned the most just from being on the set. “I absorbed everything that I could while on set. I watched the producers, the directors, the actors, everything, so that I could understand the process,” says Weir. Her business background and passion for the entire world of art was a perfect fit for the production side of the film industry.

Tragedy Strikes

Her dream of acting and making films came to a halt with the death of her younger brother from complications due to Muscular Dystrophy (MD). “His diagnosis was unexpected and the disease spread through his body quickly,” Weir remembers. “My mother is a single mother and has never driven a car so I was responsible for taking him to his appointments and much of his general care. It was tough. I had to put my dreams on hold indefinitely at that point.” It wasn’t long before it was clear that her brother was dying. He passed at age 13.

The death of her brother was the final breaking point for Weir, she realized that she needed to get back on track and follow her dreams. “I had something to say,” She states. “I bought a laptop and just said to myself, I am going to do this.” In December of 2006, Cacao Films was incorporated.

Pushing beyond Fears

Weir talks about society and humanity in her work and most interestingly incorporates the concept of fear in very subtle ways. “Some people battle with what traditional society wants but I have noticed creative people battle with the fear that they won’t make it trying to follow their dreams and cling to what traditional society expects of them.” Her first short film, Two Weeks From Monday explores this very topic.

Two Weeks From Monday Debuts

On January 16, 2010 Weir hosted a screening of her first project, Two Weeks from Monday, at the Delancey Screening Room in San Francisco. This film was inspired by her brother’s death from MD. This event was also a fundraiser for the MD Association. While the film was only 20 in length, the powerful message invoked a sense of purpose. Weir sums up what it means to live in the moment and to the fullest. “Life is temporary. Time is sacred. Having a choice is a gift," says one of the lead characters.

I left the screening room feeling inspired. The room was buzzing with a sense of admiration by what Weir had accomplished; as many of us let dreams and ideas lie dormant. All of the attendees received a T-shirt with the name of the movie title on the front and the word “Crew” on the back. I will proudly wear this shirt, believing I am now part of the crew of doers and not just dreamers.

When asked about her audience, Weir states, “I write my films so that they can be appreciated by any audience regardless of ethnicity, age, or creed. In Jamaica, there is a code of arms that states, ‘Out of Many, You Have One People.’ That’s what I want people to remember when viewing my films.

Look for Two Weeks From Monday at various film festivals around the country.

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