Molly Sorensen could not believe her film, “Mud and Honey”, won the Independent Filmmaker Project Students Short Film Contest.
“I got this email that I thought was a mistake because I had missed an earlier one, said Sorenson, a 2019 film and media arts masters of fine arts alumna.” Then I totally freaked out”
Sorenson was one of five winners at the Independent Filmmaker Project Student Short Film Showcase. JetBlue, one of the nation’s largest airlines, will feature winners’ films for twelve months on flights and on Focus Features digital platforms through respective partnerships with The Gotham, a non-profit film and media institute.
Twenty graduate film schools across the country participated in the second edition of the contest by nominating three short films made by current or recent graduates. Five winners were selected by a jury of filmmakers, professors and critics and recognized at the IFP Gotham Awards in January 2021.
Each winner received a grant of $10,000 along with ongoing IFP mentorship with access to workshopping opportunities.
After trying a few different creative outlets that ultimately left her feeling unfulfilled, Sorenson, still in high school, took a history of film course. Directors like Lynne Ramsay and Claudia Llosa served as huge inspirations due to their poetic nature, Sorensen said.
“It was basically a lot of analyzing directors’ choices and things like that and I realized it was something I wanted to learn more about,” Sorensen said.
Following a year off from school after earning her undergraduate degree, she enrolled in the Temple’s Master’s in Fine Arts program. At the time she was writing lots of poetry, and within her first year she wrote one of the first scenes for what would become “Mud and Honey”.
The film centers on the changing friendship dynamic between two teenage girls, Delilah and Maeve. Stuck in the same small town they grew up in, Delilah decides to leave. Despite taking completely different paths, Maeve who’s in love decides to follow Delilah.
“The film in general was inspired by your late teenage years when you’re really dependent on someone who comes into your life and kind of turns it upside down,” Sorensen said. “It can feel good for a while but really bad at times.”
It was also during her first year at Temple that Sorensen met Lindsay Vitale, who produced “Mud and Honey”. The two were in the same graduate cohort, and automatically gravitated towards each other, Vitale said.
“I don’t even think she asked me to be a part of it, I think it was just a given, like obviously I’m going to help you produce this,” Vitale said.“I had been with her since the inception of the story, it just felt right,” Vitale said.
Sorensen hopes that the film will encourage people to love themselves for who they are, and not let other people’s actions dictate their happiness. She also wanted to explore the changing nature of sexuality, she said.
It took four days to shoot the film in June at Sorensen’s childhood home in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, and features actors Ximena Lamadrid as Delilah Sam Quartin as Maeve.
“I remember just that feeling of wanting something a little bit more than the other person, or giving more to someone than they’re willing to give to you,” said Quartin. “Also just feeling awkward in your skin, I connected to that part with Maeve.”
In May 2019, the film premiered at Temple’s Diamond Screen, a film festival that showcases work from students in Temple’s media arts program. When Sorensen saw her film on the big screen for the first time she was full of pride, she said.
“I was so thankful for everyone and everything they did,” Sorenson said. “It made me emotional, it felt like my passion project that I spent years of my life developing. I felt like I was a proud mom,” Sorensen said.
After the film’s release, Sarah Drury, a film professor at Temple, reached out to Sorensen about submitting her film to the showcase. While cautiously optimistic about her chances, she submitted her film on the last day she could for the showcase. In December 2020, she received an email that she had won.
“It meant a lot because momentum had sort of slowed down festivals and everything because of COVID,” Sorensen said. “At the end of a really hectic year and a not particularly creative year to be reaffirmed and get that news was really special to me.
Sorensen hopes to develop “Mud and Honey” into a feature length film someday, she said.
“I feel like there’s still more to the story,” Sorensen said. “It was sort of left open ended, and I would love to continue that and see what happens.”