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08 February 2018

The Short Film Taking on Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Stance: A Guest Blog from Writer/Director Claire Fowler

Claire Fowler is a Brooklyn-based Brit who received funding from Shore Scripts to make her short film, Salam. In this guest blog post she shares with us her experience of getting the film fully funded and made – and how the election of Donald Trump made it even more of an imperative for her to tell this story.

Shore Scripts had been on my radar for some time before I successfully applied for the inaugural Short Film grant in 2016 with my script Salam (originally titled Lift). The previous year I had been lucky enough to win the Feature Screenplay competition with my script Little House. I’m a writer-director and it’s tough to find opportunities to finance films, so when I saw the email announcing the Short Film Fund I knew I was going to go all out to get it. I think it was a matter of being in the right place at the right time. I applied with quite a skimpy idea about a female Lift driver in New York City who just so happens to be Muslim– it was basically just a kernel of the script it later became (a script I am now proud of). But because I had already directed I was able to pitch what this idea was going to become, how it was going to look and feel, and to show past examples of my work to prove that I would actually be able to deliver a film of quality. When I applied to the competition I had been back living in the UK for visa reasons, but when I won I was once more in New York and so I wanted to make my film there.

Being given the grant from Shore Scripts was fantastic, but I knew that to make the film I wanted to make, I needed more money. I started investigating opportunities and managed to secure another small grant quite quickly. Meanwhile, Trump had been elected and had tried to pass the Muslim ban. This served as both a catalyst and an impediment to the project. Like many people, I felt quite hopeless, but at the same time it was more important than ever to make a film that countered the negative stereotypes of immigrants – specifically Arab immigrants – being churned out. So I pressed ahead, trying to raise the remaining funds I needed… but I could just never quite seal the deal. It was almost a year of “nearly but not quite”. Of finding myself on multiple shortlists, but rarely walking away with the prize. Of knocking on doors that were ajar, but never opened. I don’t need to tell anyone who works in the industry how intensely frustrating that is.

At the same time, I was turning down a lot of paid script supervising work to concentrate on my writing and directing, and quite honestly it was hard to not have much money too. In the end, I just said “Fuck it!”. I got a credit card for the deficit and set a date for the shoot at the end of July 2017. What happened in preproduction and production is a whole other story, but fast forward to January 2018 and we finally locked on picture and sound. Despite the chaos we made a short film that I’m fiercely proud of. Emerging from the other side and seeing the film completed, I’m again reminded of my original intention– to tell a story that countered the negative stereotypes of immigrants– and I’m grateful that it has found its way with integrity.

Watch the trailer for Salam here.
Visit Claire’s website here.


Apply to the Shore Scripts Short Film Fund

The submissions window for this year’s Shore Scripts Short Film Fund is currently open. The fund is open to writers from all countries. Find out more and apply here.

The regular deadline for applications is Saturday 31 March. The late deadline is Wednesday 2 May.

 

Still photography: Lars Elling Lund & Monet Eliastam
Salam Credits
Featuring: Hana Chamoun and Leslie Bibb
DP: Nicholas Bupp
Producer: Sophia Cannata Bowman
Editor: Alec Styborski
Production Design: Kelsey Alvarez
Costume Design: Missy Mickens