TRFT Aluma and Students find Screenwriting Success
Saila Kariat, an alumna of San José State University’s Department of Television, Radio, Film, and Theatre, recently premiered her first feature-length film, The Valley, at Cinequest. With more than 900 people filling the California Theatre opening night, The Valley received a great deal of positive feedback, making Saila’s directing debut a success.
Set in Silicon Valley, The Valley focuses on the aftermath of a young girl’s suicide and its impact on her father, an Indian-American entrepreneur. Shaped by Saila’s observations and experiences, the film speaks to the ever-constant pressure on children, especially of immigrants, to succeed in a highly competitive area. Having raised her own two children here, she witnessed the impacts of this pressure first-hand; she saw an opportunity to craft a piece that would address these issues and bring them to light.
“I feel like it’s very powerful,” Saila explains. “It’s timely, and it speaks to something that needs to be revealed in the modern world which a lot of Hollywood movies don’t address. On the one hand, these kids are told they have everything,” she continues. “On the other hand, they’re feeling so much pain that they’re feeling that suicide’s the only choice they’ve got. The tragedy of it, and the irony of it, is inescapable.”
Filming entirely in the Bay Area, Saila recruited actors from Los Angeles, India, and Pakistan as well as local Bay Area crew members to bring her story to life. She strove to address the conflicts that exist in an environment that encourages ambition and competition as Silicon Valley does, and questions how human connections are formed in a technologically driven society. To achieve this goal, she involved herself in every detail of the film’s creation, from the writing to the directing to production. Elaborating on her process, she highlights some of what she learned over the arc of the film’s creation: “If you’re both the writer and the director, you have a huge advantage in a creative project like this because there are mistakes that you make in the writing that you can fix in the directing, and there are mistakes you make in the directing that are caused by the writing; it’s very interdependent, and if you do both, it gives you a totally different viewpoint than if you’re only doing one or the other.” After seeing The Valley through to its premier, she recognizes that there is always more to learn and more to improve, remarking that working in any career is a work in progress.
“The main thing I think is to make something you’re proud of, and then to find an audience. That’s what you make it for. It’s not for your friends and family, you want people to see it. And there’s so much to learn in this endeavor, I’m sure even the greats are learning constantly.”
In addition to screening at Cinequest, The Valley also showed as a part of the Los Angeles Women’s International Film Festival on March 25 in the Regal LA Live, one of LA’s largest venues. Celebrating the cinematic achievements of women from the around the world, the LA Women’s International Film festival serves as a platform for women filmmakers worldwide to share their unique stories and cultural experiences with Los Angeles’ diverse audience. This premier is an important step to furthering the success of The Valley and spreading its message to broader audiences.
For those searching for ways to get involved in creating feature-length films, Saila recommends taking things step-by-step. “Start out as a production assistant on a set, and work on several different sets,” she remarked. “You learn a lot by watching other people, by watching different directors and how they direct, and observing their directing styles. You see their mistakes, learn from other people’s mistakes. I would not take it lightly, I would learn it carefully, and if you really want to do it, you’ll figure it out somewhere along the line.”
TRFT is also proud to announce that, once again, their talented students have distinguished themselves in the nation’s largest and most important student screenwriting competition: the Broadcast Education Association’s Festival of Media Arts.
Dylan Sargent took Second Place in Feature Screenwriting with his science fiction script Romancing Destruction, which tells the tale of a murderous stalker aboard a spaceship who is willing to destroy Planet Earth to dominate the woman he desires. In the Short Subject Screenwriting category, two of our students received Awards of Excellence: Chris Wilson for The Interrogation, and Nick Harstrick for Frat Pup. All awards will be presented in Las Vegas at the annual convention of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). The Broadcast Education Association (BEA) is the nation’s largest association of Radio-Television-Film academic programs.
SJSU’s Department of Television, Radio, Film, and Theatre has a long history of student success in the BEA Festival, last year having taken first place in Feature Screenwriting, a feat the department looks forward to repeating again next year.