Interview with Filmmaker Olivia Adelman (BOXED)

BOXED was the winner of BEST FILM at the September 2020 Dance & Music Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

While I was studying abroad in a foreign country, I was sexually assaulted. For months I was unable to truly process what had happened. Over time, I grew to become much more aware of sexual assault and harrassment in my life, whether that be on my college campus, through catcallers, or within the experiences of my peers. I developed this film not only to cope with my own experience, but also to facilitate greater awareness of sexual assault in society.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

BOXED was completed over an eight month period. I came up with the concept late in the summer of 2019 for my Senior Comprehensive Project and spent about three months refining the logistics. Upon doing so, I assembled a crew and shot the project. I completed the film in April of the following year, in accordance with Occidental College’s Media Arts and Culture syllabus.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Interpretive healing.

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

The biggest obstacle I faced when creating this film revolved around my own fear of sharing a piece of myself to my film cohort – the reason I wanted to make this film. It wasn’t until I finally did that I realized how many people have experienced sexual assault themselves. It touched me when my peers and professors contacted me individually to offer their unconditional support.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I was blown away by the kind, supportive and encouraging words from the audience. Even moreso, I was honored that they were talking about MY FILM and that many audience members had a visceral, intense connection to the documentary.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

I came up with this idea after a lot of self-reflection and an honest analysis into how I was feeling after my time abroad. I had many unresolved feelings and wanted to find a way to process everything, which ended up transforming into a sketch idea for my Senior Comprehensive Project at Occidental College. I had not talked about my feelings for a while and it felt as if I were carrying this heavy box of emotions with me. From the start, I had imagined a person telling the story, as an individual separate from myself. Upon research, I noticed that many documentaries, TV series, PSAs, music videos, etc demonstrate sexual assault or incorporate B-roll quite literally and explicitly. When watching these depictions, I felt myself becoming uncomfortable and wanted to find a way for the audience to learn about sexual assault and its prevalence in a less triggerring manner. Thus, I decided to incorporate a poetic, performative, dance interpretation into my documentary. I also wanted to create a symbol of destruction and emotional baggage, such that Barbara’s memory of the assault itself could be tangibly presented within a structural object — this led me to the box. Upon refining this concept, I worked to really stress that the message and meaning of the box is limitless, such that it may embody a unique experience for each viewer.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

INCEPTION, by Christopher Nolan, is probably the film I have watched most in my life. I enjoyed dissecting every little detail that he so painstakingly refined in that movie.

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings about the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

I really enjoy using the FilmFreeway submission platform. The ability to have a majority of the film festivals accessible with one click as well as having the option to filter your festival choices is incredible. I found the interface to be very clear and simple to follow.

9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

I’ve probably listened to George Michael’s “Careless Whisper” most times in my life.

10. What is next for you? A new film?

I am so inspired by the people around me and the people whom I have connected with over the last few years. I feel so lucky to have met Barbara Handel and to have found my passion creating artistic documentaries with the purpose of empowering women and sharing their stories. I am currently collaborating with a singer/songwriter to explore bipolar disorder within women, understand what it looks like, and spread awareness about women’s mental health issues.

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