The genesis of SISTER came from my personal experience. The idea of telling a story about siblings has been in my head for a while. Being born as the second child of my family at the height of China’s One Child Policy, I was one of the children who were “outside of the state plan.” My existence as an “unplanned child” has always been troublesome. I carried this label throughout my childhood. My parents paid a relatively large sum or fine for my birth. Despite all their troubles, I also know that I’m one of the lucky “little sisters” to be born and to live a life. Many “Second Child”, especially “little sisters” never had a chance to get born. Throughout my childhood, the question that had been asked a lot by my “only child” friends was what is it like to have a sibling? So I wanted to make a film to tell my friends what it is like to have siblings. More importantly, I wanted to tell their stories, who never had a chance to have siblings.
When I was developing the story, I did a lot of research and talked to friends from China who shared a similar childhood experience with me. One of my friends told me his story of losing an unborn younger sister when he was four-years-old due to the policy. His story suddenly hit me, because my parents were facing the exact same dilemma when my older brother was four-years-old. But they eventually went through lots of troubles and gave birth to me. If they didn’t succeed, my whole life would not exist, like my friend’s little sister. That hit was so powerful that it gave me goosebumps. So when writing the story, I always remembered my goal was to transfer that feeling to the audience and give them goosebumps.
Writing the story of SISTER was the most challenging but rewarding process. It was my first narrative film. I was learning the craft of storytelling as I proceeded. I wanted to keep the message clear but also subtle, make the story delightful but also powerful, and establish a bitter-sweet relationship. I was constantly revising the script throughout the whole production until I finally found a sweet spot that could balance it all. The film took me three years to make, but the efforts finally paid off. SISTER had its US premiere at Austin Film Festival and took home a Jury Award for Best Animated Short Film, which qualified the film for consideration for the next Oscar race in Best Animated Short category. I couldn’t be more appreciative of the opportunity to premiere the film at this prestigious film festival and even received such an important recognition as a writer. The recognition from Austin Film Festival definitely brought the film into the spotlight and gave it more opportunities to be seen as it was shared in many other film festivals.
Attending the Austin Film Festival was one of my best film festival experiences. It was the first time that I met so many talented writers, and was exposed to numerous panels, talks and round table discussions about screenwriting. Everyone I met there was very passionate about stories and films. I have made good filmmaker friends who I would possibly collaborate with in the future, and industry professionals who were interested in hearing about my future projects. Most importantly, I saw the value of my own voice as a filmmaker. I’m glad to be part of this community where I can share my ideas, get inspired, and create more films in the future.
– Siqi Song, 2018 Alum & Writer/Director of SISTER