Watch: This Award-Winning Short Shares a Secret Worth Telling
The latest Vimeo Staff Pick Premiere delves into tough questions and even tougher secrets.
One of the many great avenues into the medium of the short film lies in posing questions through your own uniquely personal experience. Whether or not you choose to answer these questions is entirely your own call.
In her short, Cross My Heart, director Sontenish Myers has found a way to challenge one of today's most troubling issues. An American teenage girl visits her family in Jamaica and uncovers a secret that changes the way she sees the people she loves. This film explores the culture of silence amongst women, the kinds of secrets we keep, and who they're actually protecting. The short masterfully navigates through delicate questions regarding trust and loyalty when they’re thrown into turmoil following an act of sexual abuse.
Myers was honored with the latest Vimeo Staff Pick Award at the Hamptons International Film Festival. Vimeo's curation team attributed the honor to the film's "outstanding performances from its two young leads and a nuanced directorial approach."
As a part of the prize package, Myers also received a premiere on Vimeo’s Staff Picks. No Film School spoke briefly with the director after her win at the Hamptons International Film Festival as part of our ongoing series exploring the benefits of having a simultaneous online and festival release.
No Film School: What was your inspiration for creating this film?
Sontenish Myers: I wrote Cross My Heart in the summer of 2016, when I myself was filled to the brim with secrets, discovering how many people I know and love are burdened with secrets of their own. This film asks the question, “What do you do when someone you love hurts someone you love?” Determining the right thing to do can be maddening. How do you honor someone’s experience and be a warrior for them?
NFS: Did you face any challenges when making this film?
Myers: There were some personal risks involved. No one outside of the crew knew what the film was about until it was already made. The subject matter was all I could think about, so I had to make this film. I sought permission from who I felt I needed to, and then worked on this film with an incredible group of human beings. The challenge was putting the personal stakes aside and being present with the story we were telling. It wasn’t easy. A lot of sleepless nights. But again, one of the gifts of filmmaking are your collaborators. Zamarin Wahdat (cinematographer) and Elizabeth Charles (producer) and the rest of the crew were so integral in making this film what it is.
NFS: What is your best piece of advice to aspiring filmmakers?
Myers: Don’t seek permission. "Do you." Aim high and see where you land. Gravitate toward what you like and what energizes you, what excites you. Then investigate it. What thing(s) do they have in common? Most likely, that “thing” is who you are. That’s your voice. Those who gravitate toward that voice, they are your tribe. “Build it and they will come.”
NFS: What’s the value of displaying your film at a festival versus releasing online?
Myers: I think both are equally but uniquely valuable. I love watching films in movie theaters. I always have. It’s been a gift to observe various audiences experiencing this film in real time. The sighs, the reactions, the gasps..it’s so gratifying! The community I have found on the festival circuit has been invaluable. When I think of releasing online, the first word that comes to mind is access. So many people still don’t know what a film festival is, or that it is something they can participate in. There could be a reputable film festival happening right in their own town and locals have no idea. The fact that my auntie in Princess Anne, Maryland or my cousin in Saint Elizabeth, Jamaica can see this film easily online is everything to me. The last thing I want is for my work to be inaccessible to the people I make it for: the people who motivate me to live and create and overcome.
NFS: What does the Staff Pick Award mean to you?
Myers: I remember when I uploaded my first short film to “this website called Vimeo.” I watched it grow as a platform over the years, using it as a tool to teach myself and to discover other voices. To me, the Staff Pick Award is a way to support and elevate voices in short form storytelling. I’ve dedicated myself to spotlighting the inner lives of women and people of color in my work, to explore and expose our humanity across genres. Cross My Heart was written, directed, produced, edited, and shot by women of color. For this film to be selected for the Staff Pick Award is not only an honor but a meaningful and tactile way of supporting our storytelling both in front of and behind the camera.
NFS: What’s next? Any upcoming projects?
Myers: I am currently developing my first feature, Stampede, which is a period and science fiction film. I am also directing my first music video next month for a talented emerging artist, Temi Oni.