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Student production company to release debut film ‘A Letter to Death’

New Rose Pictures, an independent film company formed by Columbia College Chicago film students, has been working on their debut short film which is scheduled to be released by early next year. 

The film company includes Olivia Ames, Gino Angelini and Dante Dammit, who are all producers for New Rose Pictures. All sophomore film students, they are currently working on the company’s first short film titled “A Letter to Death.”  

Ames, 19, is a film and television major and the story writer and executive producer for “A Letter to Death”. Angelini, 19, a film and television major with a minor in acting, is the director. Dammit, 21, is a film and television major and is the producer and screenwriter. 

“We’re not just going to graduate with the major and have nothing to back it up. We’re here to work with our major, so I think we all have the work ethic in which to make it happen. Whether it goes big or not, it’s all about passion with us,” says Gino.  

“A Letter to Death” is about a man named Caleb. Caleb, who is depressed, writes a letter expressing his sadness and addresses it to “death”. When Death himself gets ahold of Caleb’s letter, he assigns his angel, Selene, to kill him. Conflict occurs when Selene refuses to take Caleb’s life since he is still alive. Selene tries to help Caleb by convincing him to find a reason to live. 

Ames, who wrote the script for this film, says it was inspired by the isolation from the COVID-19 pandemic as well as her own thoughts on death. 

“There’s a lot of emotions that were happening, especially around COVID and being locked up and just having to fester with those,” Ames said. “I had my own feelings about death, and that’s one of those things that is so hard for me to wrap my head around, and so this is my attempt to do it.” 

New Rose Pictures began when the three students met while enrolled in the same freshman film courses at Columbia. All three of them, while they had diverse tastes in film, had the same goals in terms of collaboration and working on projects.  

“When I came to Columbia, personally my first thought was, it’d be awesome to just make a project or something like a short film feature. Because, I mean, that’s why we’re here. We’re here to actually do stuff,” Dammit said. 

“One of the reasons why I settled on film and television was because of how collaborative it is. I feel like we’re all alike, even though we all have our own different ideas, and I still feel like we’re all on the same page about something,” Ames said. 

“We’re not just students trying to make a film. We’re actually a team. We’re so lucky to have this opportunity and to be where we are,” Angelini said. 

The group says that as an independent production company, there are difficulties, such as not being well known, criticism and the fear of failure. 

“It’s just the fact that we are so new. I don’t think that’s the number one priority and what we’re trying to do, but being a little bit known can help us in the future,” Angelini said. 

“I fully understand criticism, and I think it is vital to the process of making any type of media…my projects are a part of me, especially this one,” Ames said. “So, when I hear that people aren’t a fan of it, it just takes me a second to be like ‘Olivia, they’re not attacking you. They aren’t even attacking the project. They’re just trying to help you’.”  

“The idea of failure is a very scary thing to me and just complicated to wrap your head around. But you know what? The fact that we’re doing this is a success,” Dammit said. 

The group also says that, within the film student community, there is a lot of exclusion and judgement towards students who do not have an extensive knowledge of filmmaking. 

“I’m so passionate about doing movies, I want to show people that becoming a filmmaker isn’t about how many times you’ve seen this one movie or how many directors you know,” Dammit said.”It’s about what’s in your heart. It’s about your passion. I want to show people it’s not about exclusion. It’s about inclusion. That, to me, is what film is all about – inclusion.”  

Regarding how far New Rose Pictures plans to go, Angelini says they don’t want to be “one and done”. 

Ames, Angelini and Dammit all share the same goal, which is to express their creativity and to work together as a team while doing so. 

“There’s a quote that I live by, that being rich isn’t how much money you have,” Dammit said. “You could tell you’re a rich person if you’re not surrounded by assholes, and these are some of the greatest f—-ing people I’ve ever just met so, in my opinion, I’m the richest person alive.”  

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