Poudre High School alumna featured at the Lyric

Megan Fischer

The Midnight Swim, Sarah Adina Smith's first feature was released June 26, 2015. Photo Credit: Sarah Adina Smith
“The Midnight Swim,” Sarah Adina Smith’s first feature, was released June 26. (Photo Credit: Sarah Adina Smith)

After studying philosophy in New York and working at a small film store, Fort Collins native Sarah Adina Smith created her first major short film and fell in love with directing and creating films.

Smith graduated from Poudre High School in 2001, went to college at Columbia University in New York to study philosophy and now lives in Los Angeles directing films. Her first feature, “The Midnight Swim,” was released June 26 at the Lyric Cinema Cafe.

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“During college, I worked at Kim’s Video, which was this totally amazing independent video store,” Smith said. “I think my fascination with film really started there.”

Smith’s idea for “The Midnight Swim” came from a story her mother told her when she was a child – the story of the seven sisters.

In the film, three sisters return home to find their mother who is presumed to have disappeared and died in the lake next to the house.

“If someone you love is drowning and you try to save them, they can pull you down too,” Smith said.

The story of the seven sisters who jumped into the lake one after the other to save each other from drowning resurfaces for the sisters as they try to deal with the death of their mother.

Actress Jennifer Lafleur, who plays the oldest of the three sisters, Annie, said that Smith was very artistic in her directing style. She said Smith had the actors write letters to each other several times during filming to help them get into character.

“Sarah is one of the most social artists I have ever worked with,” Lafleur said.

During the filming process, which lasted about 14 days in Iowa, the actors stayed at the lake house they were filming at, which made the filming process special for Smith and the actors, Smith said.

“It was such a beautiful, collaborative experience,” Smith said. “The actors bring more than people give them credit for.”

Living at the filming site in Iowa made it easier for the actors to connect with one another and create the relationships as seen in the film, said Lindsay Burdge, who played June, the youngest of the three sisters, in “The Midnight Swim.”

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“They turned out to be the most lovely group of people and it turned into a little family,” Burdge said.

Smith became the person to rely on since most of the movie script was improvised on scene in Iowa, said Aleksa Palladino, who played the middle sister, Isa.

“She was the eye in the center of the storm,” Palladino said. “She is like the fourth sister.”

Smith’s advice to those who want to become movie directors is to practice writing, become good writers and get their content read.

“It took me many years to finally realize I needed to be a writer to get any traction in the industry,” Smith said.

Smith now writes, directs and edits her own films. She said she finds all three aspects to be extensions of each other.

“After I graduated (from college), I made my first serious short film and fell so in love with directing I never looked back,” Smith said. “Making films is extremely challenging, but when you’re in the juice and actually making creative decisions, there’s no better feeling.”

Collegian Reporter Megan Fischer can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @MegFischer04.