Member Spotlight

Roma Sur & Jessica McGaugh

“Pulse of the Mountains”

Winner of WIFMCO’s 1st Annual Film & Media Finishing Funds Grant

WIFMCO is excited to introduce you to Roma Sur and Jessica McGaugh the winners of our 1st annual Film & Media Finishing Funds Grant. Roma and Jessica are taking home $1500 to use on their film: Pulse of the Mountains

Q: What is your field of focus?
Jessica: I consider myself an all-encompassing filmmaker. That means, I direct, shoot, edit and produce work. Some projects I will do one of those things, some projects I will do all of those things. I’ve worked in fiction and documentary and believe there is much value to doing both.

 Roma: A filmmaker and faculty member at the Film and Television program at the University of Colorado, Denver. She came to the US in 2000 and received her Master’s degree in Film and Video Production, with a focus on Screenwriting, at the University of Denver. She received the Harold Mendelssohn Graduate student award in 2003.  Her short documentary, Storytelling Today received the Boulder Community award. Her feature documentary, The Golden Hour won the Best Documentary Award at the Indian Film Festival of Houston, 2013, and was broadcast nationally on NDTV, India in 2015. She recently completed co-editing her feature documentary titled Changing Tides about a paraplegic swimmer reclaiming his life. Her current project Pulse of the Mountains is slated for release in fall 2018. She recently completed her feature screenplay titled The Rock Within which has been receiving strong reviews at contests.

Q: Tell us about your journey thus far in your career? Did you study? If so, where or are you still in school?
Jessica: I received an MFA in film from Syracuse University. Following my MFA, I worked as an editor in New York before moving to Colorado. Since then, I have been producing independently and teaching film and TV at the University of Colorado Denver.
Roma: Before coming to the US I was a copywriter with advertising agencies. While writing and producing television spots for commercials I realized this is what I wanted to do. That was like a teaser. I wanted to do the real deal. I came to the US and got my Master’s in Film and Video production.

Q: What was your inspiration to get into this industry? Do you have any mentors you want to mention?

Jessica: My first passion was music. I have played music since I was a kid and took it very seriously throughout most of my life. However, when I studied at the University of Arizona as an undergraduate, I soon after found that film making was something I would like to pursue. It was an easy transition moving into this new medium and I think my musical background has made me a better filmmaker.
Roma: My mentor is Craig Volk at CU Denver. I learned a lot from him about dramatic writing and about teaching screenwriting. I am also inspired by local filmmaker Sean Jourdan who is a friend and mentor. He is always encouraging as a fellow filmmaker.

Q: Tell us about your favorite project you’ve worked on? Any takeaways?
My favorite project thus far was a documentary titled “The Golden Hour.” My long-term film partner, Roma Sur and I shot the film in India in 2011. The month in India was an incredible adventure, but more than that an incredible learning experience. The production of that movie, all the way through its distribution was the greatest amount of problem-solving I’ve ever dealt with while working on a project. I grew enormously as a filmmaker and as a person throughout that experience.
Roma: My favorite project would be my first doc feature The Golden Hour. This was a project that I started from ground up. I heard the story on NPR radio, called the protagonist, and floated the idea of a documentary. Almost magically everything happened and the next thing we knew we were going to Boston to film him at Harvard Medical and then to India  in summer of 2011. I collaborated with Jessica McGaugh on this project, my longtime filmmaking partner. This film was featured on the NDTV website and received the Best Documentary award at the Indian Film Festival of Houston. There were many takeaways. But the biggest one was to be really mindful of how we allocate our time and budget. We learned many lessons along the way which we implemented in following projects. Spend wisely, but also have a buffer. The second day of our shoot, we busted one of the LED lights. We spent an entire day trying to locate an equipment rental place in New Delhi. That put an unexpected dent in our budget.

Q:  Any projects coming up? 
Jessica: Currently I am in the middle of working as Director of Photography on a post-apocalyptic feature film titled “Feral.” We are shooting sections of the film every summer for four years to allow for the child actor to age throughout the duration of the movie. As a DP, this type of movie is a dream to shoot. I get to play with shadows and texture, travel to run down places around Colorado and work with a great cast and crew. The final piece of the shoot will be summer 2019 followed by its release.

Roma: The immediate one would be Pulse of the Mountains. We hope to complete it by the end of this summer. The other project would be my feature screenplay – The Rock Within. It is loosely inspired by true events. My artist statement is to give voice to women and children related issues and narrate cross-cultural stories. I hope to initiate a dialogue on tabooed issues, like infertility through this film. I have started sending out the screenplay to contests and received strong positive feedback so far on the unique premise and an international target audience.

Q: What are your hopes for the film, television, and media scene in Colorado?
Jessica: To be perfectly honest, I would like to see the independent community grow big enough to support more narrative television and films.
Roma:  I think Colorado is already a fast-growing market for film, television and media. It’s growing reputation as a foodie destination made it the chosen location for Top chef’s season 15. Colorado produces a large amount of non-fiction content. It is the hub of post-production work for many of these big budget non-fiction shows.   Colorado Springs is already a coveted location, with the recent filming of the Netflix film ‘Our Souls at Night.’ And I see this as a growing phenomenon.

Q: Any advice/wisdom to fellow actors, filmmakers, writers etc?

Jessica: My advice to filmmakers is not to wait for their passion projects to happen on their own. I feel that you should just go out there and do it. If you don’t know how to do something specific, there are many resources online and around Colorado. I’ve found that many film/tv/media people are friendly and willing to talk to you about production challenges.  Another thing that Roma and I are working on as filmmakers is finding and building our audience for each movie. Although this can feel like a full-time job and a massive undertaking on top of making the film, it is crucial in this day and age to keep connected through social media and get your work out there.
Roma: Hold on to your BIG vision. Have that in the horizon. But set short term achievable goals which will finally get you to that BIG vision.