Private Project

When I Was With You

When I Was With You goes with Kat (a mixed Malaysian Chinese woman) on her surreal journey as she deals with losing both her husband Stephen and her best friend Julian. Her extreme isolation in a time that calls for connection allows her layers of imagination, self-deception and nostalgic memories to take on a life of their own. As the waves of grief crash over her, she is often at a loss about how to respond. Her cultural conditioning has not prepared her to process the intensity of her feelings or the loss of her status as a married woman. Her ideas of what is meaningful and who is important to her begin to change in ways she could not have predicted. After receiving aid from an unexpected direction, she is finally able to begin the process of moving forwards by facing her biggest fear through letting go of something she does not want to leave behind.

  • Bryan and Vita Mei Hewitt
  • Vita Mei Hewitt
  • Bryan and Vita Mei Hewitt
  • Chris Treggiari
  • Vita Mei Hewitt
    Key Cast
  • Isaac Jasper Amala
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
    Experimental, Short
  • Runtime:
    19 minutes 10 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    June 8, 2023
  • Production Budget:
    15,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    DCI 4K 4096X2160
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Bryan and Vita Mei Hewitt

Bryan Hewitt and Vita Mei Hewitt are cross-disciplinary artists, writers, and film makers inspired by mythology, poetry and spirituality. Their creative projects center around raising awareness on many levels while seeking ways to create positive change.

Vita grew up in San Francisco's Chinatown. Bryan's childhood was spent in the wild places of the Pacific Northwest and the Appalachians. They are both currently living in the North Bay near Point Reyes National Seashore.

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Director Statement

When I Was With You is the result of a collective transformation of personal grief into beauty. All of the individuals with leadership roles in the film have experienced deep loss that has been challenging to move through. Most of the things that are said about grief and mourning turned out not to be helpful to us. We each went looking for ways to process the changes that come with loss. The poetic and sometimes mysterious medium of film became the place where we could all come together and share in the act of moving forward on a level that is deeper than words.

The sea, its colors, its inhabitants and its sounds are a major theme in When I Was With You. They move back and forth without explaining themselves, just as grief does not announce it's imminent arrival. It simply is present in a full range of complexity that defies definition. Both are something to be experienced and lived, not analyzed and put away neatly. The same can also be said of relationships. They move and change as time passes. Some of them turn out to be not at all what they seem. Others turn out to be valuable beyond words, even in situations that appear to be impossible. This is the territory our film invites you to explore.

Two different lens sets and cameras were used on this film. For Kat's Mind Palace, Canon 5D MK IV cameras recording 4K DCI in Canon Log were used with Nikkor Ai-s and Zeiss Contax lenses. The small form factor of this camera was an advantage for filming in the very small confines of the set. Most shots were on the 20mm f/2.8 Nikkor, the 105mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor, the 25mm f/2.8 Distagon or the 50mm f/1.4 Planar with a Black Pro Mist ¼ filter. The Nikkors were used for moments where Kat is facing difficult choices. The Zeiss lenses were used for scenes where her emotions are intensifying or where she is deeply introspective.

Mind Palace scenes were lit mostly with custom-made practical fixtures that were built into the set. Each of the three rooms in the set had its own system of walls that were light panels, illuminated ceilings and inset fixtures made from LED tape for accent lights. The evening gallery scene where Julian's 18th birthday is discussed was lit by a sculpture Vita made from Valella valella jellyfish. The unique characteristics of that light source were perfect for the tone of the interaction.

For the scenes where Julian is present, the Canon FL 55mm f/1.2 and the 35mm f/2.5 lenses were used on a Canon R5 camera recording DCI 4K in Canon Log 3. Their expressionistic character at maximum aperture was a good match for the emotional tone of these scenes.

We are also excited that this film is continuing our series of productions where many or all of the leadership roles are held by people who are LGBTQ+, POC or both. We enjoy making films with queer characters who don't foreground their sexuality or gender, but instead present a more nuanced experience from a queer perspective.