Cinema Bandit is devoted to supplying young and new filmmakers with resources, articles, and interviews to help artists develop themselves creatively and professionally.
Actress and producer Kristi Roosmaa shares the unforgettable story of a young immigrant pursuing her dreams in the new heartfelt short film, Wildflower. The film had a Special Preview Screening presented by New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT) as part of their 2018 Women Filmmakers: Immigrant Stories Screening Series – Women Actors Turn Filmmakers, which was held on May 17th at the Museum of Moving Images in Queens, NY.
She talked with Cinema Bandit about her project:
What is your background as a creator?
My name is Kristi Roosmaa, I’m an Estonian born actress, singer, and producer. I got my start at the age of five performing at a bread factory and have ever since then been hooked with the entertainment industry. I love creating, and I really believe that I was put on this Earth to entertain.
On a more formal note, I have two very contrasting educations, a law degree from Tartu University Institute of Law, a diploma in the performing arts from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy and a dance certificate from the Broadway Dance Center. I have been very lucky to have a versatile career, including performing at Carnegie Hall, acting in off-Broadway shows and indie films, recording music, and shoe modeling. Currently, I am the cast member of Johanna Telander’s new musical, “Kalevala.”
Can you talk about your project Wildflower and your inspiration behind it?
The idea behind Wildflower is to remind everyone it doesn’t matter where you’re from, who you are or what’s your background. We’re all human beings going through life with our ups and downs, and there are themes that are common to all of us. It’s a movie about love and loss and showcasing what culturally unites us all.
Wildflower is a short film about a young immigrant singer who moves to the other side of the world to pursue her dream and in the end discovers what true sacrifice is.
What was pre-production like?
This is my first time producing a film. It has been exciting, challenging, surprising, soul-touching and a very rewarding process. To see my idea come to life has been beyond incredible to witness. It’s been challenging because this is my first time producing and as a perfectionist, it’s hard to accept that everything won’t be perfect. It doesn’t work that way in filmmaking. You may plan it out perfectly in your head but then something unexpected happens. That’s the beauty of filmmaking too because that’s when a lot of magic can happen.
It’s been very surprising because I thought I had an idea what it means to produce a film, but it’s so much more. It’s incredibly detailed, complex, and time-consuming. I got very lucky with the team, and I don’t know how to thank them enough for their hard work and dedication.
I feel like I went to a film school and was surrounded by wonderful filmmakers who helped me to create something meaningful that I hope will touch people’s souls.
So who were some of the crew members and creatives that you worked with?
My cast and crew was 44 people with an all-female creative team. Wildflower’s writer Susan Cameron is someone that I’ve known for a while. She’s a beautiful writer who just won the Artemis Women In Action Film Festival Screenplay. Susan told me about director Celine Rosenthal. Celine Rosenthal is a young Tony-nominated producer and rising director who currently works as an Artistic Associate at the Asolo Rep. She’s absolutely brilliant. So the moment I met Celine Rosenthal, it was a no-brainer, and it was very clear that it was a perfect match and it will be a great collaboration. I asked Celine if she likes to work with any cinematographers, and she told me about Charlotte Dupré, a multi-cultural French director of photography. The way Charlotte captured everything is even more beautiful than I could have envisioned. My co-producer is an experienced producer and director Natalie Schwan who was recommended by another friend of mine. So, as you can see, the core team formed through referrals.
I also wanted to be sure that my team is well-functioning and likes each other. I’m all about teamwork. I think that’s when things come together and happen.
I posted ads to mandy.com to find an editor and several other positions. I received about 80 applications for the editor’s job. I reviewed everyone’s reels and material. I narrowed it down to 40 people and then rewatched everyone’s material. Then I narrowed it down to 10-15 people and shared their work with the creative team. Together we chose 5 editors that I and Celine interviewed. And this is how we ended up with Anthony Muzzatti who has edited for Amazon, Sundance TV, Hulu, Showtime, and is currently working on Warrior for Cinemax.
For the cast we held castings and a few people got direct offers.
Did you oversee post-production?
Yes, I was involved all the way through.
I think it was the most challenging part of the process because, differently from pre-production and production where you work very closely with your team and have a timeline (production dates), it can feel more relaxed and as if you have all the time in the world. So, as a producer, I had to keep pushing so there wouldn’t be a moment when we’re standing still.
Editing was the most fascinating part of the post-production. I never imagined what you could do in the editing room. It’s such an essential part of the process. You can edit a film in so many different ways!
I had a deal with the director and editor that I was going to jump on board once they felt like the first draft was ready. They started the process and once they were ready to show me the first draft, that’s when I jumped on board.
Since my editor lives in New York and Celine in Florida, it was difficult to find a time for all three of us to get together. One time we found the time but Celine’s flight to New York was cancelled when a snowstorm hit the city. So we Skyped her in. She was in the editing room with us via Skype for seven straight hours and noticed things that even I didn’t, while being in the room.
I must admit, that I completely underestimated post-production and how detailed and technical it is. I feel very lucky that I was surrounded by highly professional people who knew to point out everything that needed to get done.
How about the production process?
It was a little unreal that finally, the day was there to film it. It was so exciting to be on set.
The first two days were my on set actor days, and the third day I got to put on my producer hat. One of the reasons I decided to have a co-producer was not to have to worry about any producer duties the days I was filming. I knew that unexpected things will come up because this is just what happens in filmmaking and wanted to make sure that I could be present as an actress and really immerse myself into the character. And this is exactly what happened the second day. We thought that we lost some footage and had to reshoot, just to make sure we got it. A PA came up to me and said, “We gotta reshoot.” I remember asking myself “Oh my God, is this really happening?”
That was definitely a moment when I wanted to jump in as a producer and make sure everything was going alright. I took a deep breath and reminded myself to trust my team, and that they know what they’re doing, and to concentrate on my role as an actress. It’s a good example of unexpected things happening, and the key is to have a strong core team that can handle everything.
How many shooting days did you have?
We had three shooting days. We shot the first two days at the historical Estonian House. Then we were up in Putnam Valley at Lake Oscawana where a lot of great movies and TV shows like Mona Lisa Smile, Sopranos and Homeland have filmed.
Are there any specific things you learned in the project?
This whole process has been a big learning curve for me as a producer and actress.
As an actress, it’s been eye-opening how much goes into filmmaking. I have a lot of respect for how the filmmakers were able to let actors be creative, yet capture the scene they wanted. As a producer, I’ve learned how significant it is to have a great team, people who can decide quickly and productively on their feet while sharing your vision and passion. Most of all, it’s about having an open mind. Being present and collaborative, and trusting your team.
What’s the process of submitting it to film festivals?
I just set up Withoutabox account and submitted it to many film festivals all around the world. Hopefully, we’ll get to share it with many people!
We just had our first special preview screening on May 17th at the Museum of the Moving Image. I submitted the work-in-progress cut to the New York Women and Film Organization’s Immigrant Series Program, and we were accepted. It was such a surprise and honor to be chosen for that program. NYWIFT is a wonderful organization that stands for women filmmakers. That night is a memory for life. It’s hard to describe the feeling of seeing your film on a silver screen. We had a full house, and the response was beyond well. People have said that its very touching and moving, and I already have some offers to show it by different organizations.
I also think it was a really good thing to have a deadline to get ready. It pushed us to finish the film. I’m sure you know as a filmmaker, that you can edit and edit endlessly, so it was really great to have that deadline.
Anything else you’d like to share?
For filmmakers, if you have a desire to make a film, just go for it. I think nowadays, everything is so accessible. There is no excuse to not make a film. You can make a film even with your iPhone!
For actors, you can really take charge of your own career. You don’t have to wait around for anyone else to create it for you. I hear a lot of excuses from actors how they don’t have the career they would like because they don’t have a good headshot, reel, agent, network, experience for making a film and so on and on. Those are not real reasons. If I can do it, you can do it. As my dad says “Life is short. Life is beautiful. Don’t waste it!”
For more about KRISTI ROOSMAA visit: www.KristiRoosmaa.com
For more about WILDFLOWER visit: www.wildflower.film