With a little extra downtime in their schedules last year because of COVID-19, filmmakers and former colleagues at USC graduate school Angelique Molina, Kelley Kali and Roma Kong were trying to decide if they really wanted to venture out during a pandemic and make a movie.
“Kelly was like, ‘Let’s just do something while the world is at a standstill,’” co-director and co-writer Molina told Remezcla during a recent interview. “We were concerned about safety to the next level, so that really fed into the story that we told.”
Their ambitious attitude led them to a 10-day production during the summer in Los Angeles where they would make I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking). The indie feature follows Danny (Kali), a single mother and widow trying to raise enough money to put a down payment on an apartment and get her and her daughter off the streets. During the ordeal, Danny tells her little girl that the reason they have been living in a tent for so long is because they are camping.
With safety a priority, most of the film was shot outdoors. In many scenes, characters are wearing masks and social distancing. “We didn’t want people to be in confined spaces and didn’t want a lot of people on the set at all,” said Molina, who is Afro-Panamanian. “So, at that point, we decided that the cast would be the crew and the crew would be the cast. We made it work that way.”
One of the ways they worked around their filmmaking limitations was to write Danny as someone who traveled around town on roller skates. It was a smart workaround since the character doesn’t have to journey too far as a call-in hair stylist and food delivery app worker.
“We didn’t want her to have to get on a bus or call and Uber,” Molina said. “Plus, Kelley likes to roller skate.”
When audiences watch the film, Molina and the team want viewers to feel like there are brighter days ahead. It’s a lesson Danny learns as she struggles to keep a roof over her daughter’s head. It’s also something Molina recognizes now that she was able to complete her first feature film with her friends under unique circumstances.
“During this time right now, when everyone might feel lost, we want to give people a sense of hope,” Molina said. “Even though it’s going to be a journey and it might be tough, it’s going to be OK.”
I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) premieres online at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival March 17 at 10 a.m. CT.