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Thriver: A Survivor Story - An Interview with Rachel Frank

1. Please introduce yourself and tell us about your education and your interest in cinema. My name is Rachel Frank and I recently graduated from the University of Central Florida with a bachelor of arts in film. I have known that I wanted to work in the film industry since I was ten years old. I remember one year I saved up all of my allowance money and bought my very first computer, with my dad's help of course, and I vividly remember the first time I opened it. I spent the entire day opening random apps that came on the computer and messing around with them. I spent a lot of time on paint drawing really bad stick figures, but then I stumbled upon Windows Movie Maker and instantly fell in love. I spent the rest of the day taking random photos from either online or family photos my parents gave me and I created basically a slideshow and added Disney music behind it. I then made my whole family sit down and watch what I considered the best thing ever created. From that point on I was mesmerized by the concept of editing and creating stories. I would write short scripts and have all the kids in the neighbor come over and act them out, have my parents record them and then I would edit them all together and make my family watch them. I was the designated person on family vacations who carried around the tiny camcorder or our DSLR around I would take all the family photos and videos and create home movies with them.

Since that day I haven’t wanted to do anything else with my life and I have studied film since that day. I was a part of the morning news at my middle school and I went to a high school that had a magnet program for TV Production, so I spent four years studying film alongside some of my favorite people to this day. I then went on to college and got a degree in film. I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life, and who knew it would all start with ten-year-old me and her allowance money.

2. Seeing and reading what works aroused your interest in this medium, and as a result, what works do you owe your education cinema to? I remember when I was really little and I watched Singing in the Rain by Gene Kelly for the first time and instantly fell in love. That movie brought me so much joy as a kid and I loved sitting down and rewatching it as much as possible. I remember always feeling inspired after watching it, thinking about how many people it took to bring such a film to life and how I can’t wait until I get to create a film of my own. A specific director that has been one of my biggest inspirations would be David Fincher. My favorite film of his is The Social Network, I’ve probably watched it in total at least fifteen times, but every time I fall more and more in love with it. I love how he can take a real-life story and turn it into a cinematic masterpiece through his use of camera techniques and lighting. 3. Tell us about your first project. What difficulties did you have in the beginning? My very first real project was actually this documentary. I started Thriver: A Survivor Story when I was a freshman in college and I spent my entire college career working on this film. I officially finished the film in its entirety a couple of weeks before I graduated with my bachelor's, which is crazy to think about. Thriver: A Survivor Story is a feature-length documentary about my best friend Brittney Beadle and her journey through her diagnosis. She was diagnosed with stage four metastatic breast cancer at the age of eighteen and was basically given a timestamp of how much longer she had to live. She has been through hell and back within the last six years and still manages to wake up every day with a smile on her face and love in her heart. This film gives an uplifting, in-depth view of her life to remind the viewers that although life can be difficult at times, you are stronger than you think and that every little thing will be alright.

There were definitely a lot of difficulties throughout the four years of making this film, but I think that is a normal thing when you spend so much time on one singular project, especially if it’s your first. When I started the film, I barely knew anything about filmmaking let alone how to make a whole feature film. I had just started my college career and all I wanted to do was create a film that showcased how incredible and brave I thought my best friend was. I never imaged it would turn into as big of a project as it did, and that was stressful at times. There was a solid couple of months in the middle of this project where I lost motivation due to struggling with my own mental health. Imposter syndrome is a huge thing in the entertainment industry and I struggled with it heavily for a period of time. I didn’t use any fancy gear on this film because I didn’t have access to any, and that definitely

played a role in feeling like my work wasn’t going to be good enough and that I couldn’t possibly have an impact on anyone with my film if it wasn’t good enough. I learned after all of this that isn’t the case at all. Regardless of my lack of equipment and the fact that I started this film when I barely knew how to properly make one, I have impacted so many people through this one documentary. One of my closest friends Joe found out he had testicular cancer two days beforeThriver: A Survivor Story had its very first private screening in Orlando, Florida. I remember sitting next to him at the screening and seeing him cry throughout the film. I found out a few weeks later about his diagnosis. He told me that watching the documentary inspired him and made him feel better about his own diagnosis, reminding him that he’s not alone and he doesn’t have to go through all of this by himself. Since the original private screening, I have had multiple people reach out to both Brittney and myself talking about how this film has impacted their lives and how the message in it is such a powerful one that needs to be shared. 4. Is it more important to have a budget, or to have the mind to find salvation solutions in critical situations? I think you can create a film with a very small budget or even no budget at all. I didn’t have any budget while filming most of Thriver. I raised money near the very end to help with post-production and festival submissions, but for at least three years of filming, it was just me and my camera. I didn’t buy any fancy lights or any fancy audio equipment but instead used the gear that I already had access to, which wasn't lot. After all that, I was still able to create a film that has inspired so many people. I personally think all you need to create a film is passion and imagination. Having the mindset to find salvation solutions in critical situations is an extremely important aspect of filmmaking. Although the money is always nice and it definitely helps create an amazing film, you can still create a masterpiece with passion and drive and the ability to find solutions in critical situations. 5. Do you think film festivals help filmmakers? I think film festivals are extremely important and help filmmakers out a lot. Film festivals are the easiest way to get your films across to a larger audience and reach a larger platform. It’s a great way to share your stories and your visions with the world. Without film festivals, I would never have reached such a large audience for my documentary and I would never have gotten the chance to share my best friend’s story with the world. My main goal in life is to inspire people and having this film showcased in film festivals around the world gives me the opportunity to do that. 6. Tell us about film production companies. Can one, as an inquisitive filmmaker, count on production companies? I think film production companies help out a lot in the industry and I personally love working alongside them. I work alongside two very closely here in Orlando, Florida and I love it. They help me get most of my gigs at the current moment and I have learned so much working with them. 7. How much of the future of cinema do you think is in the hands of powerful companies like Netflix? I think companies like Netflix and HBO Max hold a very powerful hand in the future of cinema, especially after these last two years revolving around a global pandemic. I personally love sitting in a movie theater with a bag of popcorn in my hands enjoying the lasted films on the big screen, but I think streaming platforms will slowly take over the future of cinema. I hope movie theaters stay a thing for as long as possible, but it is so much more convenient to turn on your television at home and open up Netflix to start playing the latest films that have been released. 8. Is cinema, as some say, dead, and should we expect television and Internet broadcasts to be gaining more and more power? I don’t think cinema is dead, nor will it ever entirely be dead. There are always going to be people out there creating films and there’s always going to be people who want to watch films in theaters. Currently, cinema is on the rise again due to people finally being able to leave their homes and watch movies in theaters again. The majority of people have remembered how much they love watching films on a big screen while being surrounded by their friends and family. In my opinion, as long as people continue to make films, people will continue to watch them in cinemas.

9. What skills do you think a filmmaker needs to have? Is it necessary for the filmmaker to personally understand many specialized subfields?

In my personal opinion, in order to be a great filmmaker, although you don’t need to have many specialized subfields in the industry, you should be able to understand and do the job of different subfields. For example, my ultimate goal in the film industry is to become a first assistant director and in order to be the best possible version of a first AD I believe I need to have a decent amount of knowledge in every department that I would be working alongside with on a production. Film sets work so much smoother if you understand how each job is done and why it takes so much time to do a certain task. I know some people prefer to only specialize in one specific field and get incredibly good at it rather than trying to specialize in multiple, but I think having that knowledge of how the entire production works would be extremely beneficial.

10. Tell us about your next project, please.

My next film that I am working on is called My Intrusive Thoughts. It is an experimental short that compares and contrasts the realities versus the societal views of mental health, including but not limited to anxiety, eating disorders, suicide, and depression. I am currently in the preproduction phase of this film and plan on filming near the end of February. We actually have a crowdfunding campaign that we recently launched that is active until January 9th at

This film is extremely important to me because it’s based on my own experiences with mental health and the different situations that I personally went through when I was struggling. When I was in this really bad mental headspace, I felt like I was all alone and I was never going to get over it. On the outside, I came off as extremely happy and bubbly, but in reality, I felt like I was slowly dying from the inside out. I hated feeling like I was all alone in this world and that no one could possibly understand how I was feeling or what I was going through.

My goal with this film is to make people feel a little less alone in this world and remind everyone that even when you feel all alone and you think no one could understand what you’re going through, there’s always someone out there who has either gone through the same thing or is currently going through it. You're never truly alone.


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