Independent movies are no easy feat to achieve, especially ambitious ones with a striking vision that aims for potential greatness from exception to exection. Atom Phly Media’s own Frank Hernandez, filmmaker and helmer of such projects as Dardrex Productions’ Keep Going shortfilm and The Living webseries, is no stranger to the task of movie making and the stringent film climate we are currently in, having spent the last several years inspired to bring one other of his latest ideas to life on camera in the form of martial arts action drama, Heart, with co-star and producer Jennifer Faust.
While I’m excited to have a new project out, the long journey from the inception of this film to the release was one of the hardest personal journeys I’ve ever had to take. The lows that I had during the making of this film were some of the deepest lows I’ve ever had creatively, but if these last few years have taught me anything is that I can push through because there are brighter days ahead.
In 2012, I was riding high off the release of “Keep Going”, a very personal film that I had made with my good friend Darren Holmquist, because the response for it was (and with 51k views on YouTube currently, still is) very positive as many people seemed to really connect with it. Not long after, I became involved with the “Glass Butterfly” project as a documentarian and met/quickly befriended dancer Jennifer Faust. I showed her “Keep Going” and she quickly said she wanted to make an action film with us, so the first seeds of “Heart” were planted.
At the time, I was also co-producing a zombie series called “The Living” with the ever-talented Johnny Brilliantes so I told Jen that I would definitely like to make a film with her after “The Living” was done.
A year passed and “The Living” wrapped giving me time to sit back and write “Heart”. With a couple of suggestions from Jen and some inspiration from our star Inder Mundi, I wrote a 30 page script. This script was re-written over twelve times and as time went on it became a very personal film about mental health and obsession. It was the story of an obsessed young girl who truly believes that she’s the hero of her story, but as the story progresses we realize that her biggest obstacle is not some person that she pegs as a villain, but her own inability to let go.
I put a lot of myself into this script and after my amazing artist friend Jason Kim made the storyboards, I definitely believed it could be something special. We just needed the budget to make it…
All the pieces were in place. Nothing was rushed, everything was picked with a fine tooth comb and we launched our Kickstarter. The combination of a lofty goal and lack of fan groundswell led to the kickstarter ultimately failing, so other plans needed to be made. We had enough money to shoot a less-grand version of the film so we started with that, but the damage had been done. We shot one scene and shortly after the rest of production fell apart. I told Jen it was probably best to stop trying to pick up the pieces of this and put our focus into something else, something even better than Heart.
I kept strong but inside I was devastated. For the first time in a very long time, I set out to do something I was very passionate about and it didn’t happen. I couldn’t stand the idea that not only did I let myself down, I let Jen down, someone who I see as an older sister who put her trust in me and it didn’t happen.
I was pretty much in a haze of self-loathing and doubt for the rest of the year. I’d make a few videos here and there, but none of them really showed me at the best of my abilities. Jen would later come to me with this idea of a dance film triptych, Dust, Blood, and Water, and wanted me to have a major part in making it happen. I, in my depression, declined stating that I did not want anything to do with the production of it, but I would like to be a dancer in it since I had taken up a bit of an interest in dance.
It’s funny in hindsight to see how involved Jen’s become in film and how involved I’ve become in dance since 2012, but at the time I felt nothing.
After spending the better part of a year feeling sorry for myself, I was in the middle of therapy that I began late the previous year, when one day I just had a revelation that if I wanted to feel better, I needed to pull myself out of this hole. I read a number of self-help books, I kicked a few bad habits and over time my anxiety and depression began to lift. I knew that once I was myself I needed to start attacking all those things that made me sad in the first place.
Finishing ‘Heart’ was the first on that list.
I took the scene we shot and re-edited it to what you can see today. I spent way too long doubting myself and giving minimal effort to the thing I’m so passionate about that I tattooed it to my chest. I’m currently working on finalizing Dust for Triptych: Dust, Blood, and Water by Jennifer Faust which Jen brought me in for and I’m thankful that she’s taking a chance on me again. I’m not going to let her down and more importantly, I’m not going to let MYSELF down again.
“Heart” is not just a short film, it’s a declaration that I’m not going to be my own worst enemy anymore. As I said in the Kickstarter pitch video, “If you find something you love in this world, and you truly love it, you do it.” “Heart” is finding the strength in yourself when you don’t think you have any left.
Thank you so much everyone that has supported me and made this short possible. The release of this film is not the end, it’s only the beginning and you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.