an AFI thesis film
a film by Jeanine Frost
Ellen's traumatic miscarriages get in the way of supporting her adopted daughter's passage into womanhood.
Ellen succeeds well at keeping her past and shattered self perception at bay by focusing on her freelance producing job, away from her family. But on Mother’s Day, when Ellen discovers her adopted daughter Lilly has gotten her period, the trauma from her miscarriages begins to seep into her consciousness and she is no longer capable of sustaining the balancing act. As their already fragile tie is gravely compromised, she must risk vulnerability to save their relationship.
September 19, 2016 was the due date of my second child. But earlier that year, on a crisp February morning, I noticed spotting . Again. A nighttime ER visit had counted me safe two weeks earlier, but now it was over. We no longer heard a heartbeat. I waited two long weeks for the dead fetus to be expelled from my body naturally. At ten weeks it had already started taking the shape of a miniature human but now this innocent life came out with pre-labor Braxton Hicks for several hours while I sat sobbing on the toilet. I found sense in writing a poem while staring out the window at the barren Vermont trees. I took a picture of this delicate blob for my husband, and a week later we planted a peach tree to commemorate this lost life - and the loss of a little bit of me. And then life goes on. We survive. We cope. But how? In a myriad of subconscious ways.
One in every four pregnancies statistically end in a spontaneous abortion and this miracle that will sustain he human species goes nearly untouched in visual storytelling! When I started openly talking about my experience with friends I discovered so many had silently suffered through it. Alone, we were all deeply effected by lingering guilt, shame and dark shadows of envy. I for one couldn't look my pregnant neighbor in the eyes for 8 months! Research showed me that PTSD from miscarriage is common and as it is with most cases of PTSD it impacts our ability to interact, our relationships and our self worth. It acts beyond logic and reason. All signs for the need to share the experience and heal.
In my work as an artist I am drawn to exploring the psychological effects of trauma. Intrigued by my own irrational behavior as a consequence of the miscarriage, I became interested in writing an intimate portrayal of a relationship between a mother and a daughter on the cusp of being splintered by the mother's traumatic past. I wanted to explore the courage it takes for Ellen to share the unwanted feelings of jealousy and to be vulnerable with her closest ones. MORS DAG shows the graphic reality of miscarriage and touch aspects of the psychological effects of infertility and subsequent adoption. It is my quest as a filmmaker to give voice to the unsaid; to challenge stigmas by using this powerful visual medium to give insight and encourage conversation with the hope to heal. I encourage fighting against being defined by our wounds but rather be empowered; informed on how they effect us and use them to create empathy and community.
As a Danish/American filmmaker, Jeanine seeks to create naturalistic, intimate and honest psychological portrayals of characters navigating life in the face of trauma. She wants to expose the underrepresented and taboo themes while framing the female condition. Her debut short film NO MORE about partner violence premiered in the Film Heals program at the 2016 Manhattan Film Festival. She is currently a full-time Directing Fellow at The American Film Institute and acting graduate from The American Academy Of Dramatic Arts.
Erin G Wesley
As a storyteller, Erin G, Wesley aims to create visual experiences that inspire freedom, purpose and imagination. She values connectedness and firmly believe that through storytelling, our shared experiences emerge. Her commitments are to provide inclusive, boundless, imagery that represents who she is and depicts the world we share. Wesley is a graduate of FISK University, with a BA in Business. For 4 years, she served as Executive Assistant to the industry’s leading commercial directors and producers at RSA Films. Erin’s music video, “ A Kiss Goodbye”, was featured in the LA Music Video Festival and NewFilmmakers LA in 2015.
Originally from Moscow, Elena Aksenova is a Los Angeles based producer and production manager. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she studied Film Producing and Business of Entertainment. Elena has produced over a dozen short films that have been selected in 100+ festivals and have won 21 awards worldwide. She is a recipient of the Movie Magic Entertainment Partners Producer Award for Outstanding Achievement. Elena is currently developing a thriller feature film "Be Careful" that explores a mass murder event and its effect on those involved including psychology and motives of a killer.
Geenah Krisht is a producer and writer from Little Rock, Arkansas. For the last four years, she has freelanced in commercial, television, music video, short, and feature film production. Before that, she was an in-house producer for Dallas-based indie film company Dreamfly Productions. In 2017, Geenah was a producer on feature film 1985 starring Cory Michael Smith, Michael Chiklis, Virginia Madsen, and Jamie Chung. It premiered at SXSW and hit theaters in October. In the last year, Geenah has produced for clients such as Amazon, Uber, Paramount, NYDJ, Estrella Jalisco, ACLU, among others. Geenah is a graduate of Southern Methodist University where she earned her degrees in both journalism and film and media arts.
AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE
Located in the heart of the entertainment industry in Hollywood, the AFI conservatory places a strong emphasis on narrative storytelling and personal expression. It is consistently recognized as one of the world’s top film schools. A dedicated group of working professionals from the film and television communities serves as mentors in a hands-on, production based environment nurturing the talents of tomorrow’s storytellers.
Established in 1969, the two-year Master Of Fine Arts program provides training in six filmmaking disciplines: Cinematography, Directing, Editing, Producing, Production Design and Screenwriting. Admission to AFI Conservatory is highly selective, with a maximum of only 140 graduates per year.
Notable Alumni include Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman), Andrea Arnold (Transparent), Darron Aronofsky (Black Swan, Mother), Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life), Rachel Morrison (Fruitvale Station, Mudbound) Robert Elswit (There Will Be Blood), Janusz Kamiński (Schindler’s List),