Two years ago, Babetta Kelly and her sister, Brynn Zimmer, never would have expected to be award-winning filmmakers. But now, after winning the Official Selection Award at film festivals in Seattle, Los Angeles and New York for the short film Dante’s Hamlet, their future together as filmmakers looks brighter than ever.
“Since it was really my first project, it was kind of crazy,” Kelly said in regard to the film’s critical acclaim. “It’s so nice to get a response from other people and see how they connect with the story.”
Dante tells the story of a boy in the Bronx whose brother has been killed. After noticing similarities between the lead in Shakespeare’s Hamlet and himself, Dante wrestles with how to handle his brother’s killer. The nature of revenge and the power of literature are explored in this 15-minute glimpse into Dante’s difficult dilemma.
Kelly began writing Dante while she was taking a screenwriting class from Jeff Parkin, the Area Head of BYU’s Media Arts Fiction Production program. Kelly’s initial idea was simply to write a story that took place where she grew up, 10 minutes outside of the Bronx. Through many edits, long hours, late nights and several re-writes, Kelly began to see that Dante was rooted deep within her.
“The people that I grew up with started emerging within the script, which was something I totally wasn’t expecting,” Kelly shared.
The more she wrote, the more invested she and her sister became in the story and its characters. The two decided that they would make the film for their senior capstone project. Zimmer would produce and Kelly would direct the film.
Kelly’s connection with the characters kept her motivated on through the end.
“It was amazing that they were their own people. They’re kind of based on people I know and grew up with, but I also found that they had their own voice and started speaking for themselves,” Kelly said. “I’d never experienced that before. It was pretty magical.”
Zimmer, six years Kelly’s senior, worked alongside her sister in bringing the script to life. Zimmer contributed not only to the film’s creative aspects, but also to its logistical side–making sure that everything was ready for a particular shot, helping with casting, ensuring that equipment was available, and other behind-the-scenes tasks.
“Everything I learned about producing I learned from Courtney Russell,” Zimmer said, referring to her professor and mentor. “On top of that, she just believed in me. It extended way beyond anything I deserved. I would think, ‘Why do you think I can do this?’ She just infused us with confidence the whole time.”
In addition to the strength she gained from her academic mentor, Zimmer relished the opportunity to collaborate with her sister. Zimmer had been warned by a friend to tread lightly when working with loved ones, but she soon found that the two are a filmmaking dream team.
“Babetta and I were on the same page 100 percent of the time. She’s a total team player,” Zimmer said enthusiastically. “I hope we get to do it again someday because it was a blast.”
Though Dante would not have been possible without help from the college, Kelly and Zimmer were required to raise 50 percent of the film’s cost through their own efforts. With so many things that needed to be accomplished, both Kelly and Zimmer are thankful for their faculty mentors, whose constant support gave them the confidence to complete this ambitious project.
“Jeff Parkin was so wonderful. He just really believes in students and is willing to take time to work with them,” Kelly explained. “He would make sure that what we wanted to say happened in the film. He spent countless hours with us in the writing of it.”
With the success of Dante, Kelly and Zimmer look to the future with confidence, hoping again that they will be able to work together as sisters on new projects. But they do hope to revisit Dante and to portray their characters and message in a full-length feature film.[fancy_heading style=”style1″ size=”small”]Awards received by Dante’s Hamlet[/fancy_heading]
– Official Selection–Seattle True Independent Film Festival
– Official Selection–Los Angeles Women’s International Film Festival
– Official Selection–New Filmmakers New York
– Redemptive Story Teller Award–Redemptive Film Festival (Virginia, 2012)
– Best of Fest and Audience Choice Award–BYU Final Cut Film Festival
– Audience Choice Award and Third Place in Shorts Competition–LDS Film Festival
– Awards in Writing, Talent, Photography and Editing–College Student Production Awards, National Academy of Television and Science, Rocky Mountain Southwest Chapter