LMU Graduate Mindy McKoin’s short documentary film is one of the 2014 John Paul II International Film Festival Official Selections and will screen on April 5th, 2014 at 4:15PM at the Paragon Grove 13 theater in Coconut Grove, FL with ten other short films.
Frank Brennan (JP2IFF Co-Director): How would you pitch your movie to an audience?
Mindy McKoin (Director, Fight Like a Lady): After staying back in Louisiana to take care of her mother while she battles with breast cancer, filmmaker, Mindy McKoin undertakes the world of breast cancer by showing what women go through during that time. Mindy wanted to know if other women felt as lost and misguided as they felt?
Frank: In your opinion, how does your film fit into the 2014 theme, INSPIRATION. This question applies to the film itself as well as its production process.
Mindy: The very essence of the film is to inspire women and their families as they battle with breast cancer. Being able to share three different women and their journey, is truly a blessing! No one person is alike, neither is the diagnoses for breast cancer. When I would be too emotionally, physically and/or spiritually drained with the overall process of the film, I would remind myself who I am doing this for. During my mom’s chemo treatments, she asked me if there was a way I could make a film that would help people going through what she was. My mom is to type to never ask anything for herself and was so positive through it all. I would look back on those moments when I felt overwhelmed and would tell myself if my mom can endure being diagnosed with breast cancer, receiving treatment and living in remission; then there is no excuse or reason why I cannot only finish this film but make this a resource that my mom and I would have liked to have had.
Frank: Your primary subject in the film was your mom, how difficult was it listening to her personal testimony? Were there scenes you felt were too personal to leave in the film?
Mindy: It wasn’t difficult listening to her story because it was all still pretty new. It was more therapeutic for both her and myself. There was definitely a whirlwind of emotions at times for me. I knew that if I was going to make this film that my mom and I had to really be open and allow the project into our lives wholeheartedly. There were no scenes that I left out because it was too personal; in fact, it was extremely hard cutting out scenes that consisted of personal moments within the film.
Frank: Can you describe the editing process of a documentary? How did you pull the story to together?
Mindy: Once I started post-production, I organized my workflow into Final Cut Pro. I personally transcribed every interview that I did. From there, I started to do a paper cut with the film on note cards. I knew that I wanted the outline to be true to the process of finding out the news of getting breast cancer and then showing the different stages women go through up until remission. Since I had three women, I did not have a main character per say. I started editing the paper cut, then moved to a rough cut. I stayed in the rough cut – fine cut stage for a while trying to figure out my thread to all 3 women. After much push back that I was given people who commented on the film that I needed to be in it, I put myself in the film as a resource to tie the women together and as to why this film was so important to do (to personalize breast cancer and what it does to not only the women but also the people they loved). From there, I had each woman play a specific role in the film. As I was fine cutting if what the women were saying and doing was not part of their role, I would take it out. After coming up with an initially completed film, I did not like the pacing and felt it was still too long. After sending it out for people to watch and give me feedback, I spent another 6 to 8 months re-cutting and cut 10 minutes off. The film feels a lot smoother, it doesn’t drag on and each woman is not being redundant to what the other one is saying.
Frank: How has your film been received by those who are fighting this disease?
Mindy: After I had completed this film, my high school Algebra teacher was diagnosed and I was able to share with her the film. I was also able to sit down and talk with her since she was using the same doctors that my mom did. It made her feel more at ease. At each step of the way, I would send her encouraging messages on Facebook. She is currently in remission! Other family and friends shared this with women in my home town and their overall comment is how strong the women are, how true/informative and powerful/encouraging the film is overall. At times, I have been told that for some it is too hard for them to watch, especially if they had gone through certain parts of the film with dealing with their own battle with breast cancer.
When my mom first saw the film, she had a tough time watching it because this was her first time to really process her life before, during and after cancer. Jennie and Tom loved the film and were thoroughly happy with the end results. Lois told me that after she watched the film she realized that I was able to bring out things in her in the interviews that not even her closest family and friends could ever do. My goal is to get this film into every woman and their family who is diagnosed as well as medical students’ and doctors.