Junior screenwriting major Cori DeTurk recently released a short film entitled "Maybe I Don't Actually Suck." The eight minute film explores self-worth and self-love in a hilarious, creative and relatable way. DeTurk explained the behind-the-scenes of the film during a Q&A with the Loyolan.
Jordan Boaz (J.B.): What inspired you to create this film?
Cori DeTurk (C.D.): It was originally just a five-page scene I wrote in my Screenwriting 120 class. Our goal was to create a character, and then write a scene where our character meets another classmate’s character. I wrote Sadie, a depressed teenager who lives in the suburbs. Everyone got assigned a character that went along with theirs, but I joined the class late, so I got thrown in with my friend Kellen who had a multiverse mercenary named Jaquelin Carmichael. People chuckled when our odd pairing was announced. I had no idea how I was going to create a story with these two characters. As I was brainstorming, I came up with the idea that maybe Jaquelin, or Jackie, could be an elaborate manifestation of Sadie’s anxiety. Developing the idea was so much fun, and it was kind of therapeutic to turn my real insecurities into entertainment. My classmates really enjoyed the concept, and they gave me the confidence to take it into production. Their feedback also really helped me improve the script. My first draft was a bit all over the place, and they helped me narrow in on what the story really was.
J.B.: Can you describe this filmmaking process? How long did it take, and how did COVID-19 impact it?
C.D.: This was my first time directing a real project, so I didn’t know what to expect. It was a valuable learning experience with lots of panicking, problem-solving, improvising, asking for help and nervous singing. I think I sang more than I spoke on set. My friend and DP, Wendy Xu, really helped me plan creatively, while my friend and producer, Sabrina Darian, helped us on the business side of things — permission forms, renting equipment, feeding the crew, etc. There’s so much planning, so much improvising, and then some things just work out by accident. I’m a screenwriting major, and the experience has definitely confirmed my theory that production majors are supernatural beings. We shot for three days in November 2019 and started post-production in January 2020. When the pandemic hit, my post-prod team and I went home, so we were scattered around and had to work long-distance. After editing, coloring, composing, sound design and title design, we finished a year later. The project hard drive travelled all over California, like "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" (I think… I don’t really remember what happens). To be honest, I couldn’t enjoy the film at one point. After working on it for so long, I got sick of hearing my jokes. But now that it’s complete, I’m so proud of all the amazing work my friends did, it makes me really happy to see how it all came together.
J.B.: How do you want students to feel after watching the film?
C.D. My goal is always to make people laugh and cry, because those are my favorite kinds of stories. I don’t expect people to laugh and cry in just five minutes, but I do hope to get a few chuckles and a little spark of self-compassion.
J.B.: Do you find this film to be an act of social justice?
C.D.: When building a crew list, my friend Wendy and I prioritized asking women to join the project, especially for higher level positions that are usually given to men. It worked out really well. Everyone did a great job, and I ended up learning so much from my talented friends. Women, queer people and people of color deserve more power in filmmaking. All film students need to work together to make that happen in any big or small way that we can. The way I see it now, I think it’s impossible to leave social justice out of film, no matter what the story is about. If a filmmaker doesn’t value, or even consider it, then maybe they’re part of the problem. I mostly write female and nonbinary protagonists since I have those perspectives to offer, and since we need better representation. Stories about teenagers are also important to me. For a lot of us, those are the hardest years of our lives, yet so many movies and shows about teens are romanticized, sexualized or just inaccurate (I’m looking at you, Riverdale). While being a fun comedy, I hope the short film can still speak to people who struggle with anxiety and self-doubt. Especially teenage girls with all the pressure there is to be perfect. Finding a character that I could relate to meant the world to me at that age, but it was rare. And they were almost always lanky white men, as if loneliness and heartache were exclusive to one type of person. I’m honored to have this film led by two incredibly talented women of color. In the future, I hope to write more authentic, underrepresented characters that all audiences can connect with.