A recent graduate from Woodbridge High School, Claire Imler is already an accomplished filmmaker. Her most recent short film, Rough Waters, is a documentary about a high school student recovering from depression. This film utilizes crisp, yet ethereal shots in combination with Katie Kim’s voiceover about her battle with depression to create a hauntingly beautiful film with which viewers of all backgrounds can connect. Here, Imler talks about her goals in pursuing filmmaking and about why she created Rough Waters.
When did you discover your interest in filmmaking?
I grew up as a competitive dancer, but always had an interest in photography and filmmaking. In my free time, I always used to make films with my little sister, or film every vacation my family would go on. But it wasn’t until my sophomore year of high school, when I joined my school’s film program, that I truly discovered my passion for filmmaking. My high school’s advanced film class is connected to a program called FilmED Academy of the Arts. FilmED was created to give students a chance to get a college film school experience while still in high school. They provide professional industry standard equipment for 15 different high schools in Orange County, plus summer workshops where we get to learn so much about all aspects of filmmaking. They also host a huge annual film festival called the Orange County Film Festival and different competitions throughout the year, like a 24 hour film festival and a 48 hour film festival. After going through the FilmED program for 3 years, it truly helped me discover my passion for film and now, I know that this is what I want to do as a career.
What was the first film you made and what was it about?
My first short film I ever made was a 3 minute silent film called “Solitude”. It starred my grandpa and my dog! The story was about my grandpa, a lonely old man who didn’t have anyone in his life anymore. After the beginning, where it had shots of my grandpa alone, an abandoned dog enters his backyard, and they end up keeping each other company. It is the first film I ever posted on my Vimeo! Although the film was only made two years ago, it is fun to look back at it and realize how much I have learned since that was made.
How has your filmmaking process changed and evolved since you first started making films?
I think it has definitely evolved in terms of storytelling. Through my film program and by making more films, I really got to explore storytelling and all the aspects that make up a good story. From developing and creating in-depth characters to making choices on how to visually show their emotions and decisions, it is something I work on in my filmmaking process now and will continue to work on. Creating characters that go through a journey and change is something I am continuing to work on in all the films I make because I believe that that is what creates a meaningful film for people to watch.
Why did you make Rough Waters?
We created Rough Waters because we wanted to shine a light on a topic that is difficult for many people to talk about, but affects so many. We couldn’t find a documentary that really opened up about the truth of depression, but we are so lucky that Katie was willing to share her story with us. The film has been able to help so many people, who thought they were alone realize that they are not in this alone. I think the most fulfilling part about having made this film is when we hear someone tell us the film made them reach out for help or helped them get through a dark time in their life. We had never thought it would have been watched by so many people, but we are so thankful it has been able to help many around the world.
Did you have any concerns while making Rough Waters since it deals with such a tough topic that is personal to so many people?
I remember when I had first started talking about making a documentary on depression, I had many different people tell me that it was risky and I had to be careful with how I dealt with the subject matter. It was very delicate subject matter, because it had to be treated in the right way. I think we were able to create a film that was real to Katie’s story and something that many people can relate to, but also a film that can inspire many to seek help and know that they are not alone.
What experience do you want people to have when they watch your films?
The experience I want people to have when they watch my films is for them to be able to go on a journey with the characters I create. I want to be able to get an audience to feel for my characters and the emotions they portray. I think that is one of the best things about film for me: having the power to make an audience laugh, cry, reflect on themselves and others, think, get inspired, and so much more.
What is next for you? Do you have a new project in the works?
I recently went to Vietnam with 12 other student filmmakers to create documentaries. We are currently in the editing process, so those will be released soon! I am also going to be starting college at Chapman University in the fall as a film production major, and am hoping to start a new short film soon.