Claiming the Narrative: Films as Love Letters

Written by Daniel Southwell on April 8, 2020

Passion Projects

Every film we do is, in a sense, a passion project. We bring the same level of attention and excitement to every film. But a few films are “passion projects” in the sense that we are our own client. It’s our idea, our own need, that kickstarts the project. 

We believe in projects that stretch us, that broaden our imaginations, that tell the kind of stories that make us feel something deeply. Building those muscles, pursuing that kind of film, makes us the kind of filmmakers we want to be on every project.

From Josh Henry’s award-winning short film Carry Me Home, to Andrew Bilindabagabo’s in-progress documentary Let Them Live, we’re committed to telling the stories that spark our film community’s interest and emotions.

Reading, PA, and Sebastian Nieves

Sebastian Nieves is one of the best and most driven cinematographers we know. We’re lucky to collaborate with him on a growing number of projects, and to count him part of our network and community. 

He lives in Reading. It’s a diverse, welcoming, and beautiful place. It also has a reputation among the other cities in the area that he wanted to challenge, so he brought together a team and made a film.

As Visit Reading (Director: Andrew Bilindabago, Director of Photography: Sebastian Nieves) was in post production, I talked to Sebastian about his motivation to make this project happen, and the process of filming it.

A Love Letter to Reading

You get a weird feeling when you say “I’m from the Reading area,” and people are like, “Oh, what are you doing there?”

There’s too much cliche behind it. It’s like saying “I’m Columbian,” and getting, “Oh, you deal with cocaine?” So there’s that tie, for me – being from Columbia to being from Reading – the misconceptions. You start building a resistance towards it, but after a while you go, “let me do something about this. Let me paint a better picture of Reading.”

I consider Reading home. When you think of home, you don’t think of a poor place, you don’t think of a dangerous place. You think of cozy and comfortable – a place of growth and good people.

I wanted to make a spot about how Reading is not what’s advertised on CNN or the articles that come out about it being the poorest city in the country and so on. I wanted this spot to highlight the good that’s in the city. 

Last summer, Andrew and I were shooting a documentary and I told him I wanted to create a spot for Reading that shed a different light on it. He said he’d been wanting to do something like that for a long time, and he’d help do it. The next day I created a full 14-page treatment and shared it with him. From there we got a crew together, Lamphouse got involved, and we created the piece.

It was very personal and it was very challenging to be able to separate myself and allow Andrew to take over that ship, as the director. That was the most challenging: trusting him that what he was doing was right, knowing when to step back and when to fight for something. And he took it to a place that I never saw before. I think that’s the beauty of filmmaking and working with a team.

The community involvement that we had in this project was phenomenal – everybody wanted to be part of it, and people were really excited about it. Those are the people we wanted to show off, because there are a lot of good people in Reading.

The Finished Product

I look at it with the eyes of a DP, so it’s very hard for me to take a step back and see it in the grand scheme of things, but in the moments that I do have clarity, I see, “Oh shit, Andrew did a phenomenal job. This is dope.” That’s what I want to feel: that it’s done well and that we did the film justice.

If one person sees this video and visits Reading because of it, then it did more than anything we could have asked for.

What’s Your Visit Reading?

There’s something to be loved about your brand, your cause, or your location – a story that hasn’t been told, or should be told with more feeling. There’s a film that touches more than selling points and product shots. There’s a film that’s personal, that matters at a deep level. 

That’s the film we want to make for you. Because every project should be a passion project.