Q&A with the director of 'Mind Over Time,' a fest-bound short film by Will Holst from the College of Nursing

Q&A with the director of 'Mind Over Time,' a fest-bound short film by Will Holst from the College of Nursing

By Pila MartinezUniversity Communications
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Holst reached out to a group of friends to help with the film and says they were all enthusiastic about the opportunity.
Holst reached out to a group of friends to help with the film and says they were all enthusiastic about the opportunity.
Will Holst, director of marketing and communications at the College of Nursing and the writer and director of "Mind Over Time"
Will Holst, director of marketing and communications at the College of Nursing and the writer and director of "Mind Over Time"
"Mind Over Time" has been accepted into the Phoenix Film Festival and OUTFEST Los Angeles.
"Mind Over Time" has been accepted into the Phoenix Film Festival and OUTFEST Los Angeles.
Holst lines up what he calls one of the most beautiful scenes in the film. Holst says the cast and crew were isolated over the few days it took to shoot the film.
Holst lines up what he calls one of the most beautiful scenes in the film. Holst says the cast and crew were isolated over the few days it took to shoot the film.

When Will Holst came up with the idea for "Mind Over Time," a sci-fi drama about a young lesbian attempting to travel back in time to undo a mistake she regretted, he didn't think it would ever get made.

Then came the pandemic.

But with an enthusiastic and committed cast and crew that included University of Arizona alumni and employees, it did get made. And then it got into two of the largest and most prestigious film festivals in the country.

In this Q&A, Lo Que Pasa talks with Holst – director of marketing and communications at the College of Nursing and the writer and director of "Mind Over Time" – about how the movie was made, the importance he placed on diversity and inclusion, and the film's bright future.

How did you come up with the idea of making a film?

I came up with the idea for this film after watching some of my favorite sci-fi movies. I love movies that take time and almost make it a character in the movie, movies like Christopher Nolan's "Inception" and Terry Gilliam's "12 Monkeys." When time isn't linear, it creates a level of unpredictability in the plot that is really unique.

Making a sci-fi movie involves complex temporal aspects, and the production typically is larger and more complicated. At first I thought the movie wouldn't be possible. So, I simplified the concept and scope, envisioning the movie as a short film with a shoestring budget, and started talking with fellow alumni and other friends who work at the University to bounce the idea off of them and see if they wanted to help.

We ended up with a cast and crew that included many close friends. In the past, we had talked about making a movie just for fun at some point. When I reached out, they were all really enthusiastic about the story and offered to help out on their free time to put the project together.

The film features a diverse cast. Was that intentional?

From the beginning, I wanted to write and direct a story featuring diverse characters on screen. I knew I wanted the main story to revolve around an interracial lesbian love story, but I also wanted the astrophysicist role to be played by a young Black man, because both are so rarely seen on screen and I wanted to directly challenge that. So when Lance Washington (Dr. Shomade), Isa Ramos (Dawn) and Tierney Harris (Grace, Dawn's ex-girlfriend) came on board, we had a lot of conversations about their personal experiences and how those would factor into their characters' perspectives and reactions.

It also was important to me that the people working on the movie came from a plethora of backgrounds and experiences as well. I've worked on a lot of film sets where almost all of the people there were straight white men, which significantly limits the creativity of the production because so many decisions are made on the fly during the production. The majority of this movie's cast and crew are women or come from minority and LGBTQ backgrounds – and they brought their collective experiences to every element. Whether it involved a costume, a location, a line of dialogue, a character reaction, a shot angle or anything else really, they could say, "This feels true to me because I have had a similar experience."

Making a short film in normal times seems pretty daunting. How did you manage to do it during a pandemic?

The production was definitely a challenge due to the health and safety precautions that were necessary to keep everyone safe. But as luck would have it, the small and independent nature of the production turned out to work in our favor because the entire cast and crew was only 13 people, with more than half handling post-production elements while working remotely from their homes or studios. We shot last summer, when cases were at a low point and when we could be in lockdown and sanitize locations. No scene has more than two actors in it and the maximum number on set at any given time was six people, all of whom got tested for COVID-19 and then formed a bubble during production. Unlike large productions that have turned into logistical nightmares because of the pandemic, we were very lucky in that regard.

We all were isolated with each other for the few days that it took to shoot the movie. That's the nice thing about a small and scrappy team like this. And we all stayed healthy.

The film has been selected for three film festivals. Did that surprise you?

I submitted "Mind Over Time" to a number of film festivals, and I was very excited when it got into the Phoenix Film Festival, which is the largest film festival in Arizona. But when I found it had been accepted into OUTFEST Los Angeles, I was downright shocked. OUTFEST is one of the largest LGBTQ film festivals in the world and is an Academy Award-qualifying festival, which means that the films that win certain awards qualify to be nominated for the Oscars.

Getting into any film festival is an amazing achievement, but Phoenix and OUTFEST get thousands upon thousands of submissions to each, with only a few hundred making the cut. It's a pretty humbling experience to think that other people not only like what you created, but want to show it to a paying audience.

The real honor is the recognition for the cast and crew. These folks put in a lot of work and effort on long days, sometimes during high summer temperatures. Some traveled into town to work on the movie and many sacrificed their nights and weekends to make it happen. We haven't even had a chance to come together as a group and watch it in a theater due to COVID. We're excited to have the chance now.


Holst, who previously worked as video communications manager in the Office of University Communications, has been nominated for nine Rocky Mountain Emmy awards, winning six for documentary and news production. "Mind Over Time" is his first work of short fiction. "Mind Over Time" makes its Arizona premiere on Saturday at 4:50 p.m. as part of the Phoenix Film Festival's Arizona Shorts program. The film will be screened at OUTFEST Los Angeles on Aug. 20 as part of the What a Girl Wants shorts program. To learn more about the film and follow its journey through the film festival circuit, go to MindOverTimeFilm.com.

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