“The Summer Help.” Coming Soon
Three years, 6,000 miles, two countries, one camera and one idea – to unveil the real faces of the students who spend their summer working in the unknown land, the U.S. “The Summer Help”, a documentary by Melody Gilbert, Assistant Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication at AUBG, producer and filmmaker, has recently won the battle for its life.
“The Summer Help” features two AUBG graduates, Nikoleta Gancheva and Elena Ivanova, who, as many other students, decided to be a part of the Summer Work and Travel program and spend their summer in the U.S. While in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, thousands of miles away from their homes and families, the two best friends work as housekeepers in order to earn enough money to support their lives in Bulgaria.
Shooting, editing and completing the film not only took Gilbert a lot of time – almost three years – but also exhausted all of her assets. She needed funding to proceed to the final step of the production, and it was time to take a risk. Gilbert went to the online funding platform Kickstarter.com and set a goal to collect $25,000 by Sep.11, 2015.
It was a stressful month for her, with all those years of hard work at stake. The campaign got the attention of many contributors and there was a big chance for Gilbert to reach her goal. But because of the pressure, “I don’t think I slept for 24 hours,” she said. Fortunately, a few hours before the deadline, the project’s status changed to “successful,” with a total of $25,282 and 250 contributors.
Now that the production of the film is on its final step, Gilbert looks back to remember the hardships she had to deal with during the filmmaking process. The biggest problem, according to her, was that some of the employers did not want her to film in certain locations.
And if some people might find it extremely stressful to be in front of the camera several hours a day while cleaning hotel rooms or making pizzas, Ivanova felt comfortable with that. “For me the shooting was more of a personal conversation between the two of us,” she said.
Several AUBG students from the JMC Department have contributed to the film. AUBG alumni Dumitrita Pacicovshi, Igor Myakotin and Hristiana Kirova took the positions of associate producer, production assistant, and assistant editor, respectively. Dimitria Vitanova, a fourth-year student, helped with additional shooting. The poster and title page were designed by Ani Devdariani, also a senior at AUBG.
Myakotin, who has collaborated with Gilbert on several projects, said, “It has always been a pleasure to work with Melody and challenge myself to explore the unknown aspects of the craft of filmmaking.”
The next steps for the film are the final touches and the final round of post-production at NuBoyana Film Studios. After that, Gilbert will send it to festivals and by next spring the world will know about AUBG and its students. “I would like viewers to think about who is doing their dirty work while they are on vacation,” Gilbert said. “I want the viewers to know them as people, not just as faceless workers.”