When Montclair State University filmmaking student Jenna Leung shot Folded Hope, a 10-minute short film during the second-to-last weekend in January, she had no way of knowing that the film, which was her senior thesis, would debut in the Short Film Corner of the internationally prestigious 66th Cannes Film Festival.
“I was in pre-production and planned the entire shoot for the majority of the fall semester,” recalls Leung. “I ended up having to pull a lot of all-nighters to finish it in time for the Cannes Film Festival’s Short Film Corner deadline.”
The 2013 graduate wrote and directed Folded Hope, the tale of a terminally ill girl and her mother who struggle with the physical and emotional implications of her illness. “The story is derived from an old legend that says if you fold 1,000 paper cranes, you’ll get a wish,” she explains. “When a hospice nurse introduces the girl to the legend, she goes on a journey to find hope, despite her illness.”
Ten-year-old Chloe Elaine Scharf, a native of Jefferson, N.J., plays the girl. “I found her when I held auditions in New York City. Right off the bat, I could tell that she had the maturity to talk about heavy issues such as illness and death.” Scharf traveled to Cannes with her parents and Folded Hope executive producers Laura Marie and Mitch Scharf to promote the film.
Filmmaking professors Tony Pemberton and Roberta Friedman oversaw Leung’s senior thesis class and advised the Bloomfield, N.J., resident throughout the year. Professors Susan Skoog and Karl Nussbaum also helped Leung in the processes involved in creating and completing the film. She raised money through a Kickstarter campaign to supplement her own investment in the film.
“My great crew of Montclair State film graduates and current film students worked really hard and tirelessly,” says Leung. “My classmate and director of photography, Steven Mastorelli, made the film aesthetically beautiful.” Both Leung and Mastorelli received 2013 BFA Filmmaking Awards from the College of the Arts’ School of Communication and Media prior to graduation.
While Leung has no firm plans after she graduates, she has her eye on a number of options. “I would like to continue writing and directing, but I would also love to get involved in work in the sound department on film. I love playing with sounds and designing the way it would fit into movies,” she says. Her sights aren’t limited to film. “I would like to start a non-profit organization that helps people deal with the physical and emotional aspects of autoimmune diseases.”
Leung will submit Folded Hope to other film festivals, but also plans a non-profit screening tour at churches, camps and schools. “I plan on holding workshops that revolve around suicide prevention. In April, I met with the founders of Love is Louder, which is a non-profit project of The Jed Foundation, to talk about my film and my screening tour plans. We are still talking about how we can setup effective suicide and self-injury prevention workshops.”
The young filmmaker faces a more immediate challenge, however. “I folded around 4,000 paper cranes for the movie. I am currently looking to donate them to hospitals,” she says.
To find out more about "Folded Hope," visit here.