In this guest blog post, filmmaker Nathanael Matanick talks about his short film, ReMoved. In 13 fast-moving minutes, the film conveys the complexity of the emotions of a child in the foster care system.
ReMoved has been recognized with awards at several independent film festivals. Since its release online in March, it has gone viral, especially among groups dealing with child welfare and foster care.
What drew you to this topic for a film?
My wife and I were training to become foster parents. We see fostering as something that is critical, not just because of the huge need for it, but also because it’s so important to God.
We were taking a series of foster parenting classes through an organization called Arrow. Our teacher did an incredible job of helping us understand what these kids feel and go through. During one class we watched a PowerPoint presentation of things foster kids might say if they were able to process what’s happening. Hearing their thoughts broke our hearts. After the class we both turned to each other and said, “we have to make this into a short film.”
We wanted to make something that could help more people have the experience we had in our class—the experience of seeing how these kids feel.
ReMoved has been recently featured on the Huffington Post, and it’s won several film festival awards. Have you been surprised by the reception so far?
We’ve been very surprised by the response the film has had. Seeing it get picked up as a training tool by so many agencies, having it be featured at film festivals and watching hundreds of thousands of people pass it around online has been so fulfilling. When it hit 10,000 views a few days after I made it public online I was jumping up and down.
The film’s success makes us feel like all the effort all of us (including the cast and crew that worked for free) put into it was worthwhile.
The best thing by far, though, is all the response we’ve been getting from former foster youth and hearing how the film has been healing for them to watch. That alone blows our minds. If this can be a tool to help foster kids process their experiences, as a few social workers have recommended to us, then that is amazing beyond what we ever hoped for the film.
To what do you attribute the film’s success, why do you think this film resonated with viewers?
We wanted to create the film because the topic struck a nerve with us. There’s no way we could have pulled the film off on our own with no budget. But many people with the same heart gathered with us to make it happen. And likewise, we had no network to distribute it, but I think it also struck a nerve for viewers, so people shared it.
One takeaway for us is if you want people to watch something, make it something people care about. I see so many flaws in the film, which a few people have pointed out online, but because the film is about something that is so rarely talked about in a major way (broken families / suffering kids), people ignore the flaws and see the bigger picture.
Abby White plays the main character. We understand that this was her first time acting, and she’s phenomenal. How did you cast the film?
The Whites were our neighbors during the making of the film. Our kids would often play together. And Abby is a natural performer. After my wife and I had decided we wanted to make this film we asked Abby’s parents what they thought of letting us try out Abby for the role. They graciously allowed us to ask Abby. So they brought her over one evening and we explained the idea to her and what she would be required to do. She handled it very adult-like, but you could tell she was ecstatic inside.
We took out a camera just to get a feel for working with her, and to see how she could do on camera. And she rocked. Before shooting we talked through the scenes with Abby, we practiced crying and screaming together, and we had her learn a little bit about what these kids from broken homes go through. We even gave her the script so that she could make edits. She altered a lot of it to make it something she felt she could say naturally—as a kid (even though a kid would obviously not come up with those lines in the first place). She took it very seriously and dedicated herself to being a good representation of these kids.
Abby worked long hard days on set (four days of shooting) and doing school work with an on-set teacher in between takes.
After the shooting was finished we recorded the voice over at her house. Her dad set up a makeshift recording studio in their bathroom, and my wife (who wrote the script) along with Abby’s parents guided Abby through the reading of it. We asked Abby to think about something sad while she read it, and she focused on that sad thing, and I think it worked out great.
Many members of the CASA/GAL network have embraced ReMoved, as well as many other child welfare organizations sharing it with their supporters. What are you most hoping everyone will take away from seeing the film?
Our original goal for this film was that it would be used as a tool for recruiting and training foster parents. If people watch this and then consider looking into foster parenting, then we feel the film has been a success.
Watch the film