By Len Lear
From 2010 to 2016 Brittany Rafalak had to be one of the most cheerful, pleasant, upbeat residents of Mt. Airy, as customers of the High Point Café, where she worked part-time, could all affirm. What many probably did not know, however, is that Brittany, 28, is also a talented filmmaker whose film, “Consumption,” tied for 2nd place as an audience favorite at Philly Shorts in 2015. (Philly Shorts is an annual showcase at International House, 37th and Chestnut Streets, in which local filmmakers can screen their works for live audiences.)
In September of last year, however, Brittany moved to the D.C. area to take a job as media production coordinator for the Persian Baha’i Media Service. “I miss Mt. Airy,” she said last week, “because it has a unique quality of community, diversity and friendliness that makes it easy to feel like home.”
In “Consumption,” which was filmed in Mt. Airy and surrounding communities with the help of an Indegogo crowd-sourcing fundraising campaign, Rafalak paints a dystopian futuristic society where food has been outlawed and hunger is appeased with a pill.
The filmmaker, who has a master’s degree in media studies from The New School in Manhattan, wrote and directed “Consumption,” whose main character, Corrine, grapples with the feelings she experiences in a world where it is considered barbaric to satiate oneself with food.
To cast performers, Rafalak scheduled auditions, and about 20 performers read for the roles. Algerian-born actress Rhym Guissé played Corrine, and Mt. Airy resident Grace Gordan played the other main role, Naina.
“With this film and with my filmmaking career,” Brittany told us in a previous interview, “I’d like to present women and people of color as something that transcends stereotypes while assuming the audience is more than ticket sales. I plan on creating films that feature women of color and delve into fantasy, science fiction and issues about human nature. ‘Consumption’ is illustrative of this goal.”
Rafalak was raised in Colorado and moved to Philadelphia to attend college at the University of the Arts. She graduated in 2010 and has pursued film ever since. She also taught filmmaking for The Empowerment Group, which cultivates local entrepreneurship in distressed urban communities, and she was Visual Media Production Coordinator at The Fabric Workshop and Museum.
When she celebrated the premiere screening of “Consumption” in the spring of 2015, a live jazz band, organized by her husband, Ian, the musical director and bass player, improvised a musical score to accompany the film. (Ian is a musician who teaches private music lessons and gigs throughout the Northeastern U.S.)
“‘Consumption’ is serving its purpose,” said Brittany. “It caused me to grow as a writer and filmmaker. My goal as far as content is concerned was to provoke thought about judgment, body image and selflessness. I think it did well in this regard.”
Another short film Brittany made about time travel is currently in post-production. You can find the teaser on Vimeo by searching either her name or “Try Try Again: Teaser.” She is also working on a scripted podcast of the same theme, and she recently finished yet another film for a contest that will be released after August of this year.
Brittany, whose goal is to be a full-time filmmaker — writing and directing — says the best advice she ever received was to “keep going.” And the hardest thing she ever did in terms of filmmaking “was making ‘Consumption.’ It was my first film and a 10-day shoot where I played many roles behind the camera.”
If Brittany could have any job in the world, what would it be? “It would be something adventurous where I could help people at the same time.”
Who are Brittany’s heroes in real life, living and/or dead? “A hero of mine is Olamide Orekunrin. She’s a doctor and helicopter pilot who founded Nigeria’s first air ambulance service. Another hero I have is Tahirih, a courageous 19th century poet and advocate of women’s rights in Iran.”
What are Brittany’s own favorite movies? “Eve’s Bayou, Once Were Warriors, The Color Purple, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Sing Street, I could go on…”
What is her biggest pet peeve? “It is when people don’t acknowledge Socks, my dog, when they enter my house. He’s a part of the family!”
For more information about Brittany, visit www.brittanyrafalak.com