Courtesy of Carrie Mannino

“I was exploring how you can both love somebody and do something that very deeply hurts them because of whatever’s going on in your own life or whatever’s kind of happening, and how those two things can coexist,” Carrie Mannino ’20, a former Weekend editor for the News, director and writer of “It’s Me Again” explains. She wrote the first version of the short film in a screenwriting class two years ago. After multiple revisions and changes, she’s screening it in its final form on Monday.

“It’s Me Again” is about a young college student, making her way through a new relationship while dealing with challenges at home. “She gets into a relationship that makes her feel more like herself and it kinda freaks her out, and things go wrong from there,” Mannino explains. Not only does the protagonist experience difficulties communicating with her boyfriend but also with her grandmother who has dementia and speech problems. She said that “it’s all about messages not getting received or returned,” hence the title.

As many of us have had to learn, making new relationships in college can be a daunting task. For those of us new to living at school, achieving closeness with a stranger in such a finite amount of time seems astounding in comparison to the years spent with friends and partners in our hometowns. However, it’s hard to measure the true depth of college relationships. Especially at an institution where we are encouraged to appear successful, polished and personable, it’s difficult to discern whether someone has really pulled away the curtain in front of them. Whether we really know what’s going on with someone else. And how to deal with knowing that you might not know all that’s going on with the people you love here.

This is also a time when many are far from family. To watch our home relationships thin or metamorphosize into something completely different. Mannino originally wrote “It’s Me Again” as a first year, but highlights the importance of skills she’s developed as she has grown older and more mature. The film is about learning to communicate. About taking others’ feelings into account even when all seems to be going wrong. Ultimately, the film is about empathy.

Mannino drew inspiration for “It’s Me Again” from personal experience. She’s dealt both with family members with dementia and similar relationships in her personal life. Mannino emphasizes that the main character isn’t herself, but more a collage of the people around her. Not surprisingly, the film’s content also seems to be relatable to most college experiences.

Cinematographer Brittany Menjivar ’21, too, has had family members develop dementia. She says that this experience has allowed her to “learn empathy no matter what the circumstances are.” However she, like the cast members I interviewed, seems not to value the film for how it specifically relates to her personal life. Instead, it’s the way “It’s Me Again” uniquely shows a side to growing up that is seldom used in drama or spoken about.

“Relationships are definitely never easy, and so many films gloss over that and make it seem like everything is straightforward and signals are always interpreted correctly but in Mannino’s there’s kind of an ambiguous end. I feel like that happens a lot more often in real life than people are willing to admit or want to depict on film,” Menjivar said.

Similarly, actor Angela Barel di Sant’Albano ’20, who played Kat, found “It’s Me Again” a novel experience: “My freshman year I was in a film that had quite similar themes … but I think Mannino’s film is quite special because it gives you more insight into what it’s actually like being a college student, about dealing with home and heartbreak.”

As Samara Angel ’21, who acted in Mannino’s film, also said, “You learn a lot as you grow up, and the film focuses on those dynamics and how they continue to grow throughout college.”

Mannino tried to make “It’s Me Again” into a play last year. Despite having theater experience, she never found a way to fit it into the form. This year the project became “a now or never thing.” For Mannino, her cinematographer Menjivar, and key actors, creating “It’s Me Again” required a whole new skill set. Much like the content and message of the film itself, it was a process of learning how to communicate in unfamiliar ways. About growth that took much more work than imagined.

Mannino is part of the theater community but found her theater experience surprisingly disconnected from film. Though it may have been from her lack of experience in film, she also found fewer resources available for the art. It took a long process of casting and access to good equipment to begin production.

Mannino’s experience making the film was different from what she expected.  She had to cut and change a lot of the original “It’s Me Again.” She had to find a way to “learn as [she] went along” with the help of her friends.

“In directing a film you need to be more in touch with the artistic sides of things,” Mannino says. “You can’t just have people sitting and talking like with plays.” She had to find people to deal with sound, lighting, shots and had to learn to edit.

Menjivar had never done cinematography work and only had experience directing her own work. She, too, mentioned how different communicating a message  in film is from communicating a message in theater: “On film, I’m looking at specific motifs like items and gestures and think more about subtlety … because it’s not theater I have to ask, ‘How do I represent this big enough for people in the audience to notice?’”

This was also Menjivar’s first time working to evoke someone else’s vision in a collaborative project. She tried to communicate Mannino’s passion through her own role as cinematographer. Similarly, Angel and Joyce Maynard ’21 (who plays the grandmother in the film) expressed how different it is to be an actor in film rather than in a play. For Joyce especially, as a non-speaking character, she also found she had to work more subtly with gestures and expressions. It was challenging work to channel someone else’s vision in such a new situation.

Everyone I spoke with expressed the difficulty of garnering community in film as well. Menjivar and Maynard both mention how logistically challenging it was to get all the actors together. Angel and Angela talked about how the cast got one table read together, and then had to jump right in from there. Instead of owning a specific space like in a play, the cast had one day at a location to rehearse and then shoot a scene.

Creating “It’s Me Again” required growth for a good portion of its contributors. The project ended up being shorter than Mannino intended —having to cut out some components of plot and character to fit with film. However, she says “It gets across the vibe I wanted without all the words I thought I would need if it was a play.” Although it was also challenging to bring the cast together, Menjivar explains, “A lot of times characters will say lines, talk about how they related to them, and bond over that.” There was a sense of intimacy and community.

Each person I spoke to seemed to have had a positive experience and felt encouraged to work in film again. Mannino said, “I at least have more perspective [about the experience].” It made Menjivar remember how much she loves film, and encouraged Angel to want to try even directing her own production in the future.

Mannino had never realized how much work goes into film productions, but said she would be willing to try it again. Although “It’s Me Again” was a “now or never thing,” she does not regret its format, and is excited to have seen it through to completion.

Both the film “It’s Me Again,” and Mannino herself has evolved throughout college to understand her own work, and the problems it poses better. Looking back and thinking of what drove her to write the piece, she reflected, “I have more empathy for the main character than I did when I first wrote her. She was written a little bit out of anger. But now I feel like, ‘You did some bad stuff but I understand why … I think relationships of all kinds are really hard.” However, since her freshman year, she has grown more to understand others and herself. “I know more what I need from people, and how to see why I’m feeling what I’m feeling, and how to express that in a productive way,” Mannino explains.

When Mannino first wrote “It’s Me Again,” she was beginning to learn how to transition and live in between two, or many worlds, like most of us struggle to do. Now, with it over, as a junior she’s getting ready to move on to an even larger and scarier one: the real world. I’m sure we’re all freaked out about that idea. I know thst I am. But “It’s Me Again,” in many ways is an example of how entering new realms can provide beautiful and necessary growth. If you are bad at relationships, are good at relationships, hate relationships, love your family, have a family, or are a young college student: Come see some painfully-relatable content in the Silliflicks on Monday at 8 p.m.

Caramia Putman | .