A&E: Hurts Like Love
“Breaking into the business” has been the goal of countless hopefuls who moved to Hollywood and then moved home again without one screen credit. Recent decades have seen the rise and legitimization of independent film, but it wasn’t until the past few years that quality camcorders and affordable video editing software have made filmmaking something that could be done with a few bucks and a dream.
“We are living in a very different time for artists, having the power to create their own work and reach audiences without waiting for people to call you up and see if you want a job,” says Toni Robison-May, an Edmond native who moved to Harlem, New York, three years ago. She is currently enjoying the festival circuit with her debut film, “Hurts Like Love”. “I had a story to tell and I had the means to get this done,” Robison-
“Hurts Like Love” is a monologue short that tells the story of a woman’s personal struggle on the day of her best friend’s wedding. The film’s only on-screen character, Mel, is the product of improv sessions with Robison-May’s acting coach and mentor, Rosalyn Coleman Williams. Robison-May interacted as Mel with her mentor to improve the dialogue, and then went home and wrote the script.
“I wanted to do a character-driven story based off of a character that I came up with during an exercise in acting class. It was something that really moved me and I wanted to do more with that character,” Robison-May says.
The plot is a combination of that character and what she’s gone through in her experiences as a young woman. “Mel is different from who I am as a person, but there are similarities and I think everyone can relate to her because it’s about what unrequited love feels like and what it can make you do,” she says.
With a running time of less than 10 minutes, the film is mostly Mel talking into a camera, but Robison-May was careful to avoid the pitfalls that often plague such experiments.
“A lot of times when you see one person talking to the camera, the audience can feel left out and feel like this whole piece was done for the actor, to celebrate them and make them look good, but it does nothing for a compelling story and other stuff that the audience cares about,” she explains. Her goal with “Hurts Like Love” is that the audience doesn’t feel like it is a vanity piece.
“Hurts Like Love” was shot in one grueling 16-hour day. There was a tiny amount of improvisation, but Robison-May stuck closely to the script. “I feel like what was left on the cutting room floor was for the best, and now the piece that I have is something I’m extremely proud of to present to audiences,” she says.
The film premiered at The View From Here Film Festival in Fairfield, Connecticut, but it was still a rough edit with temporary music. When the final, polished version of the film screened at iNdie Power in New York in February, Robison-May had intentionally avoided seeing the final cut so she could experience it for the first time with the audience. “It was really well received. I was so happy with it,” she said. The screening was standing room only. They had to turn people away because they were afraid the fire marshal would shut the event down. “We were amazed by the turnout,” she says.
She hopes to screen the film at deadCENTER Film Festival in Oklahoma City in June. Other festivals are likely in the future, as well as a release on Amazon.com and a possible appearance on the BET short film showcase.
Robison-May also is setting her sights on a Web series between auditioning and meeting with casting directors for other projects. She plans to collaborate with a playwright for a stage production of a new work, and then adapt that into a film as well.
“After having done this film, I feel encouraged to get out there and do more. I don’t feel like my career is dangling in the hand of some great and powerful Oz. I can do something like my own short film and have it screened,” she says.