"It’s on us to whether keep pushing and speak up or go to the easiest road which is to quit"
An interview with Alejandra Hou | Inside The Notebook | VMA20 BEST STUDENT FILM | April Edition
Mixing fantasy with reality is often an exciting process. But it’s not always so simple, and it’s not always just a great directing job. Working with your emotions can be a real personal challenge. And this was the challenge of Alejandra Hou, a young Filmmaker who wrote, directed and edited Inside The Notebook, a short film that won the Best Student Film - Excellence award at the Vegas Movie Awards last April 2020.
Formerly a Winner at other festivals with Pulse as Best LGBT Short, Best Female Director, Best Student Director, and Best Short Film, with Inside The Notebook Alejandra has surpassed herself by taking inspiration from intense emotions at the edge of reality.
• Hello Alejandra! Congratulations for your victory at our Film Festival with Inside the Notebook. We know that your artistic debut has been as a singer and songwriter, and then you moved to the Los Angeles Film School. When did your passions for filmmaking begin and why did you decide that they were the best form of communication to express your inner world?
It all began when I was around 10 years old. I started to feel the urge to express my feelings through lyrics. It started first with singing, but it changed when I started to make my own music videos. I loved being behind the camera, I loved the moment I started to plan what shots to do, the editing, all the filmmaking process. Since then, I knew that filmmaking was my passion because I had the freedom to be as creative as I wanted and to express all the experiences and events I have lived and seen throughout my life. Filmmaking is a healing process for me and a way to create my own world and disappear for a moment from reality.
• We had the pleasure of seeing your short film, which employs a fantasy context to explain themes at the edge of reality. We’re talking about child abandonment, sexual abuse and pedophilia. The script was written by you and Angelica Reyes. How did the idea of mixing Egypt with these ‘far from fantastic’ themes come about?
Angelica Reyes came to me and told me that she wanted to tell a story in honor of her mother. We discussed about it and we wanted a challenge and to create our own world. Since we both love mythologies, we decided to mix it with Egyptian mythology and make it more interesting for the sensitive topics we wanted to tell.
I know that every decision my mother made, she made it for me and my brothers. I understood that life is about making choices and every choice you make, it’s a sacrifice.
• Inside the Notebook is also a story of redemption. How bound do you feel to the themes of this film and why?
I would say more like sacrifices. When I was a kid, I didn’t understand most of the time my mother’s decisions. But now, I know that every decision she made, she made it for me and my brothers. I understood that life is about making choices and every choice you make, it’s a sacrifice. Just like I did when I moved to Los Angeles to pursue my dreams leaving my family behind (Panama). A hard decision which at the end was the best thing I ever did.
• As Filmmakers, we know how difficult it is to produce a film. A hard and laborious work, made of enormous difficulties but also immense gratifications. What were the biggest challenges, if any, in the technical realization of Inside the Notebook?
The biggest challenge was money, forcing us to work with whatever the school can gave us. It was hard to achieve what I really wanted, but we made it work. Another challenge was to be the Producer and Director at the same time. There were moments that unfortunately I couldn’t focus enough on the Directing side and that was difficult for me. There were days that I just slept 4 hours in a week. Very tough, but the funniest thing is that I never felt tired until the day we wrapped. And how to forget the construction process. We needed to build all the sets (interior scenes) in such a short amount of time and with 3 people. The Production Designer and two constructors. Sometimes Angelica and I helped a little in our free time (sleeping time) and we even slept on the set to not waste time including the PD and the constructors.
• Who or what helped you in the whole process of creating and producing your short film?
Angelica Reyes for sure. She stood by my side from the beginning until the end. Without her, this wouldn’t be possible. But of course, I won’t discredit my cast and the rest of the crew. They also put everything on this project. I will be always grateful with each of them. And answering on what helped me, a lot of monster drinks haha. But, something that helped me continue without throwing the towel was my love for storytelling. My energy never stops when it comes to filmmaking, I don’t know how, but my energy is unlimited. I just love what I do.
• To transfer actual written and perceived emotions into fiction can be a complex process, which also involves a certain relationship with the actors: would you like to explain to our readers how you found the best formula that could best express your vision?
Discussing with the actors. This is something I always do before the shoot. I sat down with the actors individually and we talk about the characters’ backstory, their desires, their flaws. I think the best formula is just communication between the Director and the actors and to build a good relationship with the actors so they feel that they are part of the team and not just there to do a job.
My energy never stops when it comes to filmmaking, I don’t know how, but my energy is unlimited. I just love what I do.
• What were the greatest emotions you felt while making this short film, and what does it mean to you?
I felt so many things. I felt love, respect, encourage, fearless, and specially, I felt like home. The moment I started writing the story with Angelica, I identified myself with the main character. Growing up in a Chinese family is not easy for a child. Children mostly grow up alone just like the main character. But now that I’m an adult, I somehow understand and making this movie, made me remember those hard moments as a kid.
• Your short film carries a very valuable moral within it: any monstrously difficult moment can always teach something positive, provided we can grasp it. What do you feel you can say about all those people who are facing a tragic moment in their lives?
Life is hard and we will always have challenges. It’s on us to whether keep pushing and speak up or go to the easiest road which is to quit. You’re not alone and believe it or not, humans are capable to survive anything. We just need to understand that difficult moments are moments for us to learn and become stronger.
• What are your future projects, are you already working on another product? Do you want to share anything about it?
I’m writing more scripts and currently filming a web series titled “Borderline Rage” which will be available on YouTube. For more information about the web series you can follow the Instagram account that is @borderlinerageseries.
• Thank you for taking part in our competition and thank you for this interview. Are there any people you would like to thank?
I would like to thank first to Vegas Movie Awards for the opportunity. It was an honor to be considered as one of the winners. And lastly, to every single person that is in the credits. It’s a huge list, but they know I remember every name while I’m writing this. Thank you ITN family and of course, my parents!
ALEJANDRA HOU LINKS:
- Website: www.alejandrahou.com
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/alejandrahou
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/AlejandraHouOfficial
- YouTube: www.youtube.com/c/AlejandraHou
- Website: www.insidethenotebook.com
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/itnmovie
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/itnmovie