BU alum’s film ‘Smile’ to premiere at Boston International Film Festival – The Daily Free Press
Ivana Strajin spent much of her childhood creating and directing plays with her friends and putting on shows for her parents. Now, after receiving more than a dozen awards at film festivals and competitions across the country, her new film is set to premiere at the Boston International Film Festival this month.
“Smile,” a short comedy written and directed by Strajin, chronicles a young woman’s struggle to obtain reliable health insurance. Strajin’s characters and stories often resemble those of his own life, and “Smile” is no exception.
In September 2020, Strajin began noticing that although she and her husband had always paid their monthly health insurance costs, there was no record of her actually being covered by a health insurance plan.
“I joke that it’s like Schrödinger’s insurance,” Strajin said. “I have it and I don’t have it at the same time. It’s like, what if the situation really got to the point where something really bad happened and I really needed it? »
Strajin said she bases many of her stories on “absurd” scenarios like these and tries to find humor in “even the darkest of situations”.
A lifelong storyteller, Strajin began to understand her own artistic voice while reflecting on a short story she wrote in high school.
“I realized my voice was there from the start,” Strajin said. “And it’s really dark and absurd. It tends to just naturally come out when I write anything.
While she can identify with its storylines, Strajin can also identify with its characters. The experience of feeling like an outsider might be why she writes so many characters as outcasts, she said.
“I felt a bit of an outcast,” Strajin said. “I was a bit weird as a teenager, which I’m proud of, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being weird.”
After graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Toronto in 2013, Strajin decided to turn his passion for filmmaking into a career. She started by earning a master’s degree from Boston University’s Media Ventures program in 2020.
This program teaches students to use technology to “create something new that can attract new audiences, that can change audience consumption, and that can be profitable,” said Cathy Perron, director of the MA in Media Enterprises.
Since content creation involves business practices, the program teaches students to think like entrepreneurs and innovators in their field, she said.
“I think independent cinema is very entrepreneurial,” Strajin said. “It’s kind of like you’re a startup and the Media Ventures program is this really interesting cross of business, entrepreneurship, and entertainment in one program.”
As entrepreneurs, independent filmmakers often use film festivals, such as BIFF, to network with key industry players, including professionals acquiring content from streaming platforms, a said Perron.
Perron said she always knew Strajin had a talent for acting and knew she would be successful.
“Ivana is a very, very special student. She is very bright, very talented, very focused, very passionate about her work. She is talented in many different fields. She is enterprising. She’s a strong writer,” she said. “I’ve worked with a lot of students over the years and he was someone who was clearly a leader.”
Marilyn Swick, the producer of “Smile”, said working with Strajin was a “perfect match”.
“We worked really well together,” Swick said. “She’s wonderful, she’s very creative. She is the author and director of this project. It’s a dark comedy. It’s really very funny.
The goal of any filmmaker is to present their “best possible work”, she said. The ultimate goal of “Smile” would be for it to achieve mainstream popularity.
While Strajin would like the movie to have a broad impact, she said that goal was a bit ambitious.
“I hope that at the very least what this will do is that a few people who have had health insurance issues like me feel seen and heard and that they are not alone in this problem” , Strajin said. “And maybe that will help them find that comedy, too.”
“Smile” will premiere April 16 at 3 p.m. at the AMC Theater on Tremont St.