With a deep desire to break the mold and the stereotype that filmmakers need to move to the West Coast for their work, young Rowan alum Christianna Arango achieved her dream within two years of graduation. A 2021 graduate of Radio, Television, and Film, with a minor in Creative Writing, Christianna’s feature film “Paper Gems” will premiere to a sold out crowd at Regal United Artists in Washington Township, Gloucester County, on July 16 at 4pm.
“I have so much to look forward to,” Christianna says. “But this has been my dream – to become a filmmaker here on the East Coast and for my film to hit the big screen for the world to watch.” In addition to the premiere, The Perfecting Church in Sewell, Gloucester County, will host a free viewing in-house on August 11 with a talk-back Q&A with cast afterwards.
With a crew of 17 people, a mix of passionate amateurs and Rowan alumni, creating “Paper Gems” has been a growth experience for Christianna. “I want to be as transparent as possible, to let other people know that this is possible and to help all of us grow,” she says. “This was hard. At times I questioned if I bit off more than I could chew. I had to be in charge of everything – not just scriptwriting, but also managing the crew’s schedule and the money and so much more. It was all me. Sometimes I felt like I was just getting by, by the skin of my teeth. But I did it.”
Christianna and the crew worked on the project for six months, from June 2022 through December 2022. She describes the film as a mashup between “Euphoria,” “The Breakfast Club,” and “The Freedom Writers,” which serve as her three muses. “I drew my inspiration for cinematography and the scriptwriting from these three films,” she says.
She gained her confidence to embark on this labor of love thanks to her scriptwriting classes with Professor Keir Politz. “Screenwriting 1 and Screenwriting 2 were my foundation I needed to be able to do this,” she says.
In addition, Christianna shared that she used the one-step method approach with her screenwriting, which she learned through her classes. “Pick one thing and achieve that goal for the day,” is how she describes the approach. “I was still writing the script after filming started.”
Her experiences in the classroom with a Black Magic camera gave her the experience to use the same equipment skillfully during her own project.
She also connected with her Rowan community, leveraging her contacts to solicit crew and to do outreach for the film.
Creating her first feature film has been an emotional experience, to say the least. Christianna highlighted that the most rewarding part of this whole experience has been growing her network and her overall feeling of accomplishment. “I now have a whole network of people to reach out to the next time I want to create something like this again. My dream impacted a community. I wanted to shoot a movie, and I did. This experience allowed for cast and crew to be in a movie close to home, which was my goal and my impact.”
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Story by: Asiya Robinson, junior writing arts major
Photography by: Ashley Craven, senior sports communication and media major