In this expository documentary, the entire world is affected by a debilitating pandemic which prompts a filmmaker to examine her 15 year relationship with her adopted fur baby and what it means to have animal support during this precarious time. Interviewees include experts Taylor Chastain Griffin, Ph.D from Pet Partners and John-Tyler Binfet, Ph.D from B.A.R.K. at UBC. The entire documentary was filmed distanced during the 2020 pandemic. With the resilience and fortitude of the She Saved Me team, this film was created with fervor
Felicia Gonzalez Brown is the Director and Host of the Award-Winning Documentary, 'She Saved Me'. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro where she majored in Theatre. She comes from an immensely artistic and supportive family. As a filmmaker in front of and behind the camera, Felicia thrives from pushing the boundaries of her range and exploring the depth of her characters. Her desire is to both write and portray multidimensional Latinx characters for viewers to enjoy. A few of her recent credits include: Christina in "The Drive", ID Network's "Deadly Affairs", Disney's "Dear Sofia" Commercial, and Abby in the Award Winning Indie feature "Geographically Desirable"; for which she also was nominated for "Best Supporting Actress". She currently calls Los Angeles her home and filmmaking playground. She has worn many hats, including but not limited to: actor, writer, producer, director, editor and publicity. During this pandemic, she resolves to put her talents to work regardless of the (numerous) hurdles.
How did you start making films and what was the first film project you worked on?
I wrote my first script, “The Drive”, out of the need to express my grief for a friend who had been recently diagnosed with cancer. I wrote through the day and into the night pretty much without stopping. It was almost as if I was channeling the story not creating it myself. I had been working as an actor for many years prior to that but thought it was a bit foolish to think I could make this script into a film without formal training. When I called my sister and told her I know it’s silly, but I want to direct a film. Her response was “Why is that silly?” and when I couldn’t come up with a legitimate answer, I began on one crazy- fulfilling journey.
What was the inspiration behind the making of your film?
I’ve often said about my cat, who is a rescue, that I didn’t just save her from the shelter life, in fact she saved me. I’ve had anxiety since college and through the ups and downs of life she has always been by my side. Literally. She forces her fluffy butt onto my lap to calm me during some of the harder moments of life and for that I am forever in her debt. This moment right now is not only tragic, it’s traumatic. My relationship with Costa has been a consistent, calming force during this pandemic. Additionally, I noticed that other people were sharing stories about how their animals were combating loneliness, comforting kids while distanced learning and overall supporting their mental health during this precarious time. I knew there was something here.
What is the most challenging aspect of being an independent female filmmaker in the film industry?
The standard for which I set for myself is unattainable. I know in this industry I must be not only be proficient, but exemplary, so that not one person can doubt my abilities. Add that I am also a Latinx creator and want to ensure I break down barriers and produce opportunities for the BIPOC communities in my journey and you create a career that requires heightened awareness and responsibility. I reach a little more with each new project to achieve that and I believe that although it takes more work, it is what I am called to do.
How difficult is it to fund indie short films?
I abhor it. Like a lot. Having the producer hat on is the least fun part of the filmmaking process and I can not wait till I am rich and famous and can have someone else do it. With that said, it takes the ability to communicate to your investors a sense of competency in your craft and this is something I’m well versed at. My advice to any new filmmaker trying to raise money for your project is to polish your marketing materials, give investors updates and a signed poster goes a long way.
Please name three of your most favorite directors. How have they been influential in your work?
Just three?! I’ll try. There are many incredible directors that I’ve have influenced my aesthetic and process. Taika Waititi reminds me to have fun and to break molds. Mira Nair is the queen of making everyday moments impactfully cinematic. She has a Master’s Class I highly recommend. Reed Morano and her directorial work on Handmaid’s Tale reminded me of the most important element of a project is the character work and giving the actor freedom to take up all the emotional space on that screen. I’m also going to throw in Ryan Coogler for his brilliant thematic angles on Black Panther and Jordan Peele’s intense hustle, because I’m a maverick.
How did your project go into production and how did you finalize the cast and the crew?
I knew filming “She Saved Me” during a pandemic was going to mean I had to throw out the usual process. This is a new world and it’s important to recognize. The entire film was done distanced. I had to rely on my interviewees to do the best they could with the equipment they had at home. I made sure to be more prepared up front and extremely communicative so that everyone felt confident in their roles. While I hoped all involved had a sense of video production, my number one priority on this film was the connection with the subject matter. Everyone involved expressed a desire to share their story and advocate for these incredible animals. With this said, I knew I had to prepare myself for the grand undertaking as an editor, which was going to be paramount in connecting stories filmed with different cameras, sound, lighting, and sets.
How was the film received by your audience and film festivals and what is your plan for further distribution of the film?
We have just begun submitting to festivals and have already received some generous accolades from private screenings. I am extremely excited to see what this festival run will garner for our humble film, but my ultimate desire is for the audience to have the aspiration for animal advocacy after watching.
What do you recommend to other filmmakers regarding the making and the distribution of independent films?
I would advise other filmmakers to learn all they can about experiences outside of their own. From script to post, aim to make the process as inclusive as possible. Switch character’s race and gender in the writing process. Make your set accessible to all abilities, races, ages, sexual orientations, and genders for cast and crew. Be bold. And hold a hand out behind you while you climb.
What is your next film project and what are you currently working on?
I’ve been working on a script that’s close to my heart. I am in the research phase to flesh out my characters and am enduring the torturous journey that is second guessing every plot point. Loads of fun.
Why do you make films?
That’s an easy one. The symbiosis between creator and audience, the collaborative nature of filmmaking and the legacy art that is left behind is the why. To connect.