Director Nathanael Matanick

Courtesy Photo

It would be impossible to fully understand the life and emotions of a child going through the foster care system, but this short narrative film portrays that saga in a poetic light, with brushes of fear, anger, sadness, and a tiny bit of hope.

Tell us how you decided to cover foster care as a short film?

Foster care/adoption has been something my wife and I have considered, and something we still hope to do at some point. Last spring we were taking the foster parent training classes with Arrow, a local agency, in order to learn more and continue in our journey toward this. The instructor showed us a powerpoint of statements from kids who have been in care: what they wish adults knew about how it feels to be in foster care. The emotion and the thoughts expressed in that powerpoint are what inspired us to make a short film that explores the emotional journey of a child in care. We specifically remember feeling heartbroken as we imagined how we would feel if it were our own kids having to live through what the kids in the powerpoint presentation where feeling.

Where did you find such a stellar young actress? Was she easy to direct?

We were very fortunate with Abby White, the young actress. We were actually neighbors, and our kids would play together often.

Abby hasn’t had any acting experience, but for a while I had though about being interested in using her for one of my film projects, because she has one of those personalities that just jumps out at your. She’s got a good presence about her, and she’s a natural performer.

When my wife and I schemed up this project, I went to Abby’s parents and asked them how they would feel about trying out Abby for the role. They were willing to let me do a screen test with her, which she rocked. Abby was thrilled at the opportunity.

We practiced before the shooting days to help her get comfortable taking direction from me. And while shooting, she was such a joy on set. Everyone loved her. And of course, she did great. She was so much fun to work.

Her parents were so amazing as well. I don’t think they anticipated how much involvement it would take on their end, but they stuck with it the whole way. Abby’s dad, Andy White from Good Times Guitar, even recorded Abby’s voiceover for us in his studio.

Are these episodes based on true stories?

Yes. Everything that happens in ReMoved is based on real events, though not on any one person’s story. Most of the incidents are actually quite common — for instance, the cold shower to make a child stop freaking out. We tamed it down for the most part, not wanting to make the film too heavy. It turned out pretty heavy, regardless.

There is some powerful writing involved, and the narration sounds almost like a tragic poem. Did you focus a lot on the script before picking up a camera?

My wife wrote the script, and she did a lot of research beforehand to really get inside the mind of a child who goes through trauma and foster care. Our vision for the film was to have parallel stories that complement each other but do not mirror each other. We wanted the girl’s voice to serve as a poetic articulation of her feelings, but not to narrate the story. She could have been speaking for many children, regardless of the specifics of their journey. What we actually see play out in the film is not necessarily linked to what we hear of her voice, but hopefully the her worlds and the visuals compliment each other.

While most professionals agree that a child this age could not express herself in this way, most also agree that it does articulate the feelings of many children if they were capable of such articulation.

The script was written before having much of an idea of what would be happening visually onscreen. We wrote it as a stand alone piece. Once it was written, we gave it to Abby White, the actress who plays the girl, and had her rewrite it in some of her own words in order to help it sound a little more like something we could believe coming out of a child’s mouth. We recorded the voiceover once we had finished shooting, though.

From what you have seen, is the foster care situation getting better or worse? Does it work at all?

I don’t know that we are qualified or educated enough to answer that question. I do know that we need good, committed people to dedicate themselves to kids within the foster care system, and that there is hope.

What is your Santa Barbara connection?

My wife’s family has had ties to Santa Barbara since the ’60 (her mom grew up here). My wife attended Westmont College, and I moved up here when we got married. We’ve been here together since 2007.

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