She sits perched on a dining room chair, her thighs are pressed against her chest while she looks at nothing in particular. Her hair is a bright blue, faded at the roots with strands of pale blonde appearing at the ends. She is wearing a yellow sundress and her face is free of any make-up, she looks vulnerable and as she speaks that’s exactly how she would describe this year–the year of vulnerability.
Sammi Scotto is 20 years old, ”almost 21”! she adds, and in her final few months of college, soon to get her bachelors in digital film and video production at the Art Institute of California. When she obtains this degree in December, she hopes to move to Los Angeles and follow the career of her favorite director Hannah Lux Davis, a popular music video director who just this year was nominated for a VMA.
“She’s about 30 and already a really popular director, so hopefully by the time I’m 30 I’ll have also been nominated for a VMA,” she says.
For the seniors at the Art Institute where Scotto attends, graduation is dependent on creating a senior project or “senior film”. Whereafter Scotto, along with her fellow peers, get judged in front of a panel of teachers and faculty. Then, they critique the film on the script, the production value, the editing, and any other aspects that go into making the film.
“Your senior project is very important,” Scotto says. “You want it to say a lot about what you want to say as a filmmaker, and make it a representation of who you are.”
For Scotto however, she found it difficult to establish what kind of story she wanted to tell. She didn’t know what she wanted to say or what was important for her to create. She found herself at the beginning of this year at a total loss creatively.
“And then my boyfriend dumped me,” she says with a smile, one of humor and reflection. “So, with great tragedy comes…great art?”
The break-up came at the beginning of this year, and for Scotto, while in the midst of all this heartbreak she decided to channel it–by using it as the inspiration for her senior film.
“If anything it at least felt more productive than sitting in my sadness while eating bagel bites and watching ‘Legally Blonde’ like 30 times,” she says.
Through a rather tempestuous time in her life, Sammi wrote the first draft of her script which she had dubbed, “The First Five Days of Heartbreak.”
She knew initially that she wanted to do something that was a timepiece, which is a story that is specifically structured over a period of time, this one being in five days. And she also wanted to focus on the subject of heartbreak, and through this idea she created the character of Sophie who is the lead in The First Five Days.
After being broken up with by her boyfriend, Sophie Miller is at a loss for what to do next. She has always had a boyfriend, and being alone in any sense of the word feels foreign to her. Being a serial monogamist at heart, the story follows her in a state of transition. Scotto also wanted to highlight what heartbreak looks and feels like without compromising the truth of the character.
“It was important for me to show Sophie as this very emotional and lovey type of girl,” Sammi says. “She loves love and she loves to be in love and I didn’t want want her being heartbroken to mean she could not have love in her life. Which is where the character of her best friend comes in.”
The film itself in some ways turns into a love story about friendship. And making it clear that not being in a relationship does not mean you have to be alone; and that being single does not mean having an absence of love in one’s life.
“This film in a lot of ways is autobiographical” Scotto says. “I mean I had to change a lot to make it more relatable but the message stayed the same throughout. I was that girl who used relationships to hide from herself, and this year I got pulled out of that and had to face the reality just like Sophie.”
Scotto wrote the script with rewrites done by her real life best friend, and together they created a “dramedy” sort of tone for the piece. Both working to keep the balance in finding humor in something sad but still being able to keep the feelings honest.
Scotto also had a very specific idea in mind for how she wanted the film to look aesthetically. She describes herself as very feminine and wanted a lot pink and girly color palettes shown throughout. In terms of cinematography she took a lot of inspiration from Sophia and Gia Coppola.
“The Coppola’s are not the most original directors to find inspiration from. But I just really love how they are able to translate femininity on-screen without compromising the strength of the piece.”
The script was completed in March, and after getting her cast and crew together the film began shoots in June. Scotto is in the final stages of post-production and hopes to have the finished product by early December.
The film begins with an ending, and ends with a beginning. We leave Sophie not better than she was before, and not even as a changed person, but as someone who is ready to become healthier version of themselves . Sophie and Sammi both began a new phase in their lives, where even if they aren’t okay now–that at least one day they will be. And for the time being that has to be enough.