California State University, Northridge senior Tara Lucia Prades knew the story she wanted to tell for her culminating film project—that of a young rose seller in the red-light district of Bangkok. She also knew that to tell the story right, she would have to film it in Thailand.
Prades has just returned from a two-month shoot in Bangkok. She is the first Northridge film student to shoot most of her culminating project overseas. But she doesn’t expect to be the last.
“I hope I have paved the way for other students,” she said. “When I set out, I knew it was going to be hard—not impossible, just hard. But I knew I could do it.”
Cinema and television arts professor Nate Thomas, head of CSUN’s film production option, applauded all that Prades, 24, of West Hollywood, has accomplished so far.
“She wanted to film in Thailand,” Thomas said. “She insisted that was the only way to give her screenplay justice. There are challenges going overseas, and we, as faculty members, are always nervous because there is so much that could go wrong. Students are not professionals with a big studio behind them. They’re students, and money lost is money lost.”
Aware of the challenges, Prades, an international student from Thailand, tapped into familial and other connections in her native country and contacted various campus programs that regularly take students abroad.
“Since I am a young filmmaker, not someone who regularly takes students overseas, I wanted to learn the logistics involved,” she said. “I wanted the faculty to feel safe and that I knew what I was doing.”
She spent months doing the research: learning about insurance, travel arrangements for her crew and the professional film equipment available in Thailand and problems that might arise. She did all this before ever submitting her project for consideration. CSUN’s film faculty give the green light to only eight senior film projects each year out of 50 proposed scripts. Of the eight, only four will be featured in the annual CSUN Senior Film Showcase held in May.
“I wanted to make sure that my film had a real chance of being accepted and that the decision was based on the story, not that it would be shot overseas and that it would be ‘too hard’ to do,” Prades said.
Thomas said Prades’ homework demonstrated her skills as a producer and convinced the faculty that she could pull off a shoot overseas.
“She had a good story to tell and we knew she could tell it,” he said.
Prades, who is also the film’s director, took a team of eight Northridge students—a director of photography, co-producers, sound people and editors—with her and tapped into Thailand’s local film industry for her actors and the rest of her crew and for most of the equipment.
Prades’ film, “Rose Child,” was inspired by an encounter she had with a 7-year-old rose seller one late night a few years ago in Bangkok’s red-light district.
“There was this little girl selling roses,” Prades said. “I’ve usually seen more boys than girls selling roses in that street. She was 7. She seemed so sad. I bought her food and talked to her a while. She said she couldn’t go home until she sold every rose. I wanted to take her home, but that would have been kidnapping. I’ve thought a lot about her since then.
“I knew I had to tell her story,” she said. “When I got into CSUN’s film option and heard about the senior thesis projects, I knew this was the narrative I wanted to do.”
Prades is currently in the process of cutting together the film. She expects she’ll have to return to Thailand some time later this year for some automated dialogue replacement with the actors.
Thomas, who travelled to Thailand to oversee part of the production, said Prades, who is a Hollywood Foreign Press Association Fellow at CSUN, proved herself to be an able producer.
“I think her film is going to turn out great, and she has definitely opened the doors for the possibility of other students going overseas to film,” he said.
Prades, who studied theater at Cours Florent in Paris and took a film class at the American University of Paris before enrolling at CSUN three years ago, said she was motivated by the work of other students who have been through Northridge’s film program.
“CSUN has a lot of great film students,” she said. “They really set the bar high, and I look up to them for inspiration.”
Cal State Northridge’s Department of Cinema and Television Arts, housed in the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication, has an international reputation for producing dedicated and talented entertainment industry professionals who recognize the value of hard work as they learn and continue to perfect their crafts. The department’s alumni work in all aspects of entertainment media, from writing, producing and directing to manning cameras and having the final say in what project is made.