THE 5WS AND HOW
By The Pit, My Hollywood Dream editor-in-chief
In the past we have spotlighted the trailer for Gabriel Rhenals’ For My Sister, a drama that focuses on depression and tragedy, and it is also apart of our #IndieFilm100 series on Twitter. We talked to the writer/director about his debut feature film and the process of putting it all together.
I, Gabriel Rhenals, am the writer, producer, director, cinematographer and editor of my debut feature, For My Sister. I'm an award-winning, independent filmmaker based in Miami, Florida.
The central protagonist of the film is Evie Sorella, a young woman desperate to save her sister Tris from the grips of a serious and worsening depression. Evie is played by the staggeringly talented Stephanie Maltez, who I'd collaborated with before on two short films. The rest of the principal cast includes Cristina De Fatima (as Tris Sorella), Natalie Ramirez, William Guevara and Mireya Kilmon. The film also boasts an assortment of spectacular supporting players, nearly all hailing locally from South Florida. [Distributor] Indie Rights was responsible for securing the film's present home on Amazon Prime Video and Tubi.
For My Sister is about mental illness, its societal stigma and the testing of a sisterly bond. The story was inspired by my own personal experience with mental health issues and those of others I know. Miami-Dade County, where I live, has the highest percentage of people living with severe mental illness than any other urban area in the U.S. As such, I was compelled to make the film as much out of a moral duty than a purely artistic inclination.
For My Sister takes place in a nameless city but the film was produced throughout Miami, Florida. The various locations were approached in guerrilla filmmaking fashion and included several apartments, a hospital, a university, an office building, a cemetery and the city's rail-transit system. I feel the considerable number of locations adds to the scope of Evie's odyssey and gives the film an elaborate and unique Miami signature.
The script for For My Sister was written during the summer of 2018 and production began immediately after the script's completion in fall 2018. Production lasted eight months with filming taking place primarily on weekends to accommodate the schedules of the actors involved. Filming wrapped in spring 2019. The post-production period was unusually brief as most of the editing was performed during the weekdays between the weekend shoot dates throughout the production schedule.
For My Sister was premiered at Coral Gables Art Cinema on June 29th, 2019. It was a well-attended premiere (which included several film critics and a Florida state senator) and easily one of the most important and memorable days of my entire life! A few other theatrical exhibitions took place before the film found a home on streaming services in late 2020.
I made this film because I knew I wanted to make feature films ever since I started on my path as a filmmaker nearly 20 years ago! Prior to this feature, I had written, produced, directed, shot and edited 16 short films and written a few feature-length screenplays. After all that, I felt it was high-time for my entry into the feature filmmaking realm.
For My Sister was filmed using my phone, a Samsung Galaxy S9+, and on a budget of about $6,000. There was no crew beyond myself. I believe productions like these represent a watershed moment in the world of independent filmmaking. There are literally no excuses anymore to write a script, get some creative personnel together and realize a vision. The times they are a-changin'!
For My Sister is available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime Video (FREE with Prime membership) and to watch on Tube (FREE with ads)! I would like to encourage anyone who sees the film to support indie filmmaking by leaving a review, brief or otherwise, on either Amazon Prime Video, IMDb or Letterboxd. The entire cast of the film and I would greatly appreciate it!
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