Filmmaker 5 with Kasey Elise Walker: Hoop Dreams
Fifth-grader Savannah fears speaking in front of the class at school. Witnessing her mother’s strength, she steals her mother’s gold hoop earrings to wear on the day of her speech, believing in the magic of the hoops. Donning the hoops, Savannah transforms into a world of imagination, only to be brought back down to earth and the realization that the power she needed was within her all along. Her Hoop Dreams are her own to achieve.
Written, directed and produced by actress and director Kasey Elise Walker, Hoop Dreams is a Sink or Swim shorts feature during the 2022 Tribeca Festival and is available for viewing via Tribeca At Home.
Our Classic Couple Academy Filmmaker 5 with Kasey Elise Walker follows.
Filmmaker 5.1: How did your own work as an actor inform how you directed your actors in Hoop Dreams?
It’s important for me to get to know my actors on a personal level because you can’t direct everyone the same. I know what it’s like to be in front of the camera. There are so many things going through an actor’s head. My job as a director is to ease their minds and encourage confidence. You get the best performance from actors when they feel the director understands them and their process.
Filmmaker 5.2: You are also the screenwriter of this film, using a poetic, lyrical style of narration. How did you arrive at this storytelling choice?
Hoop Dreams started as a poem that I wrote a couple of years ago. I had plans to make a children’s poetry book but something about that process wasn’t as exciting to me. I love film. When the Soho House Shorts competition came up in my email I thought why not turn it into a short using the poem as a voiceover.
Filmmaker 5.3: In what ways does Hoop Dreams reflect your own experiences or those you have witnessed?
The story comes from an experience I went through when I was a child and it always stuck with me. I actually stole my mother’s hoop earrings with the intention to show off at school because the kids would always bully and tease me. I struggled with self-confidence issues and felt I always had to put something on in order to be liked. I notice this with a lot of children and still see it in adults.
Filmmaker 5.4: How did working with children to tell a tale from a child’s perspective help the film evolve during production?
Working with children was the best part, but also the most challenging. They are such sensitive souls with beautiful natural emotion. I didn’t want to direct them too much because their instincts are far better than what I could come up with. There was a moment when I talked through the imaginary sequence with our lead actress, Madison Southerland, and when it came time to perform she was all in her head and everything felt so mechanical. Then I realized I just needed to encourage her to be herself and that’s when the magic happened. I was behind camera jumping around, playing and laughing with her. There’s no way you can fabricate a child’s essence. It’s magic.
Filmmaker 5.5: What do you hope viewers of Hoop Dreams take away from experiencing the film?
That there’s nothing you can put on that would make you magical. It all comes from within.
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