Exclusive — Meeting Gen Z filmmaker Kasha Sequoia Slavner
Kasha Sequoia Slavner is an award-winning filmmaker and director who made a splash in the industry with her 2017 social change film ‘The Sunrise Storyteller’. We discussed her work and future ambitions, as well as her take on the changing landscape of cinema.
If you’re an indie film savvy you may have already heard of Kasha Sequoia Slavner, a 22-year-old director, screenwriter, and founder of The Global Sunrise Project.
Her first film, a social change documentary titled ‘The Sunrise Storyteller’, premiered at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in 2017. It’s bagged 29 awards and has been screened at 60 film festivals internationally since its release, and Kasha herself has been a social justice advocate for over a decade.
Her own social change initiative, The Global Sunrise Project, brings together stories of innovation and perseverance from around the world, offering educational resources to Gen Zers eager to make a positive impact and get clued up on the climate crisis.
Kasha was generous enough to give us an hour of her time via a long-distance Zoom call recently to chat all about her work, including her ambitious goals for social justice, how she first got started, her take on the future of cinema and film, as well as her new upcoming documentary, ‘1.5 Degrees of Peace.’
You’ll be inspired to pick up a camera and get creating your own projects before too long, and Kasha was hugely supportive of any and all inspiring filmmakers wanting to make a splash in the indie scene.
Read on to hear all about her story — and we’ll see you on Zoom at the next digital film festival.
The Global Sunrise Project and finding a passion for film
First on the agenda was Kasha’s 2017 film ‘The Sunrise Storyteller’ and her early beginnings. I was interested to learn about how she found her passion for film and visual storytelling.
‘I was 15 when I first came up with the idea for a documentary. Coming from a single parent household, we didn’t have the money to just make a film and travel. I had to learn everything I could on the go by myself.’
For those unfamiliar, ‘The Sunrise Storyteller’ follows Kasha across the globe as she meets unique individuals from a diverse range of backgrounds, learning all about their innovative solutions to pressing issues caused largely by the climate crisis. She wanted the film to resonate and encourage others to get involved in humanitarian problems.
She raised money for the project via crowdfunding campaigns, though it took a while to get initial support. ‘People looked at me as a fifteen year old and thought it was a cute idea, but that I couldn’t be serious about it until I was older.’
‘I continued to put the work in and I got together my first crowdsourcing campaign before we left. I did two more on the road when we were travelling — we were very resourceful and determined to get the film done.’
Kasha says overall reception to the finished product has been largely positive. ‘People love the film, they’ve felt inspired by it, which is ultimately what I set out to achieve.’ Her persistence to make it a reality helped to fuel its momentum, both in content and production.
‘I think my own personal journey of resilience is similar to the narrative arc of the film.’ That is to say that wherever there is a will, there is a way, regardless of the odds.
I was curious to know If Kasha had any creative influences within directing too, and she mentioned her executive producer, Liz Marshall.
Liz has directed a ton of major works, including climate change focused films such as ‘Meat The Future’ and ‘Water On The Table’. She is currently working with Kasha on her project ‘1.5 Degrees of Peace’.
‘She does a lot and I’m very inspired by her work as an environmental filmmaker,’ Kasha explains. ‘The way that she takes these seemingly small and humble stories and relates them to much larger issues of industrialised meat and the agriculture sector is so impressive.’
What advice does Kasha have for other Gen Z creatives?
Kasha’s story is proof that young people can realise their ambitions without huge financial backing or large institutions.
I was curious to know if she had any tips for Gen Z filmmakers wanting to dive into video content but were unsure of where to begin. She was quick to stress that you should focus on topics that genuinely inspire and interest you.
‘It’s really important to tell stories that personally impact you, it’s the best way you’ll get the most powerful and resonant films.’
To that end, Kasha also notes that you can use near enough any gadget to start filming, and that it’s best to just start working to get the ball rolling. ‘I’d encourage young people to be creative, use what you have!’
‘My last film was made on a DSLR and I only had a compact backpack. That benefitted me when travelling because I could be a little bit under the radar. There are so many portable cameras now too and some iPhones even have 4k ability. You can never have too much B-roll, so film as much as you can when you’re there with your subject.’
Getting your work seen by real people is crucial too. Thanks to social media platforms such as TikTok and YouTube, it’s now more possible than ever to accumulate an audience without heavy investment.
‘Sharing your work is really the key to making a positive impact, so putting yourself out there is something I’d encourage all filmmakers to do.’
Digital screenings and online film showcases are becoming more common, especially since the pandemic began early last year. In fact, video consumption rose across the board in 2020, whether it be via Zoom calls, TikTok downloads, or Netflix streaming.
Whichever way you look at it, visual content is the most effective and relevant form of consumption online. Creators need to embrace and experiment with video if they want to reach as many people as possible, and indie films are no exception.
‘We’ve recently started trying out online screenings through Zoom. It’s not always flawless but it helps to get the material out there. It’s all about what you have available to you.’
Career ambitions and launching her next film
Kasha has no doubt made a name for herself already, but where does she want to take things next? Her passions remain rooted in activism and social change.
‘I think I can speak for the next ten years at least when I say I hope I’m still making documentary films. It’s important to get people acting on specific things that affect their communities, and I hope I do more of that. There are things we all need to do to and actions we can all take to improve our world in the next decade.’
She’s adamant that film making will always be an avenue to present her ideas to the world. ‘I’m going to continue as its one of the best ways I can express my activism in a personal and real way.’
Speaking of which, Kasha’s next project is titled ‘1.5 Degrees of Peace’ and documents many stories of young peacemakers and climate activists from around the world. The film intends to explore how both the climate crisis and international conflict are inexplicably linked.
Peace action and global co-operation are vital to achieving our climate targets — and Kasha will be travelling the world meeting those who are already being directly affected by the crisis.
‘We’ll have a trailer out in the next few months. We’re going to do some online screenings with panel discussions and fire side chats, and hopefully we can get more young people involved in these big issues.’
‘We can get a whole bunch of people mobilised to take action. That’s what I’m focusing on right now.’
So, expect to see plenty more of Kasha’s work in the not-so-distant future. For now though, you can sign up to be part of the Global Sunrise Project and check out the organisations official Instagram page here.