Spring of Sorrow
By Suzi Yoonessi
Sisters Lily and Isabelle live a nomadic life, displaced by global warming. Trapped in the desert in the midst of a water shortage, Isabelle offers hope to her younger sister by telling a whimsical fairytale that allegorically explains how this tragic world came to be. When Isabelle falls ill, Lily embarks on an imaginative journey in a magical paper cut-out forest to find the mythical Spring of Sorrow, an everlasting spring of fresh water. Along the way, she forges a friendship with an eccentric florist, creates flowers and animals, and learns a valuable lesson about environmental responsibility.
The Spring of Sorrow is a fable about a young girl on a quest to find water for her dying sister. When my producer/co‐writer Jonako Donley and I brainstormed about obstacles our civilization will face in the future, we gravitated towards the environmental crisis, since global warming is one of the most tangible and pressing obstacles we face today. Society can avert an inevitable water crisis by adapting to minimal lifestyle changes and becoming respectful of Mother Nature's resources and the role we play in our delicate ecosystem.
Jonako and I are both drawn to storytelling because of the fairytales we were raised with, so we were inspired to draw on the oral tradition and create a modern day fairytale, laden with charm, dreamy imagery, and a strong moral. We immediately knew we wanted to create a fairytale about a goddess named Spring and her relationship with her sister Sorrow, but interweaving the fairytale world with the near future was difficult. The story resides in the realm of magical realism, so we were concerned about alienating our audience with a world that is very far removed from our present day reality. We resolved this story issue by creating familiar locations along our protagonist's journey — a petting zoo and a flower shop — which an audience can relate to conceptually, thus quickly grasping the melancholy of the future we were portraying.
After laying the groundwork for the two worlds depicted, we focused on character and tone. The story follows the journey of an 8‐year‐old girl, but addresses a complex and multifaceted issue. To address concerns about sophistication and appealing to an older demographic, we committed ourselves to our protagonist's wildly imaginative vision of the world. By embracing this perspective, we had more creative license with the universe we were creating because a child's perspective enables controversial subject matter to be palatable to a wider audience. Also, we gravitated towards the irony of seeing a bleak and desolate world through the eyes of a charming and vivacious young girl.
— Suzi Yoonessi and Jonako Donley
As we moved into production on The Spring of Sorrow we were surprised to find our greatest obstacle and creative contributor for our post-apocalyptic fairytale would be unpredictable weather conditions. Since our film addresses the environmental domino effect triggered by the inevitable water crisis, it was awe-inspiring to see global warming morphing the seasons before our very eyes.
Our first shoot day treated us to 114-degree weather in the desert and a lightning storm at dusk. Although the heat was unbearable, the storm reinvigorated our team because of its impeccable timing. We were filming the final scene of the film, in which rain falls for the first time in months, so the dynamic weather conditions guided the sincere and inspiring performances of our two leads, as we were literally experiencing a miracle by the end of the shoot day.
During our second day in the desert we braced for a dust storm, which whipped sand over everyone's sunburnt skin and all over our expensive camera gear. The timing of this dust storm was similarly fortuitous; we captured a dust cyclone on film, which marks the beginning of Lily's perilous journey.
Our final trip up north was certainly the most bizarre adventure, courtesy of weather that did not adhere to Al Roker's forecast. We arrived at Mono Lake and were greeted with a flash hailstorm. It seemed that filming in these conditions was going to be impossible and our trip to beautiful, but melancholy Mono Lake was to be a hopeless cause.
As we waited in our cars watching all of the tourists flee the infamous lake — which inspired the ubiquitous SAVE MONO LAKE bumper stickers — a tiny glimmer of hope arose when we saw a break in the clouds. To our relief, it turned out that the weather was on our side. The hail stopped falling, the tourists never returned, and we were able to seamlessly shoot some of the most beautiful footage in the film. The shoot ended on a particularly high note when a vibrant, double rainbow emerged and we captured one of the most breathtaking shots to end Lily's journey to the Spring of Sorrow.
— Suzi Yoonessi and Jonako Donley
Director and writer Suzi Yoonessi’s internationally award-winning first feature film Dear Lemon Lima, premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival where it received an award for Outstanding Performance. Yoonessi received a Jerome Foundation Grant for Vern (2004), which she wrote, directed, and produced. Vern was a finalist for the Roy W. Dean Foundation Grant and is in the permanent collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Yoonessi’s previous short film No Shoulder premiered at the Palm Beach International Shorts Film Festival.
Victoria Schmit — Lily
Victoria Schmit was born in 1999 in California. At a very young age she watched several of Audrey Hepburn’s movies and became interested in stage, dance, art, and music. In 2010, she booked her first large film Angel as the lead role Serena.
Priscilla Camelo — Isabelle
Priscilla Camelo was born and raised in Brazil, and knew she wanted to be an actress from an early age. She moved to the U.S. to learn English and after finishing high school in Dallas, relocated to California to pursue her acting career. Camelo studied theater at Santa Barbara City College and has been studying with Diana Castle for while working on commercials and independent film productions in Hollywood.
Beth Grant — June, the Florist
Award-winning actress Beth Grant has starred in more than 70 feature films, including two Best Picture Academy Award winners, No Country For Old Men and Rain Man. She received the Screen Actors Guild Ensemble Award for Little Miss Sunshine and No Country For Old Men. Grant also appeared in Factory Girl, Flags of Our Fathers, Donnie Darko, Sordid Lives, Rock Star, The Rookie, Matchstick Men, Speed, Child’s Play II, To Wong Foo, and A Time To Kill. Her many starring roles on television include Pushing Daisies, The Office, Sordid Lives, Jericho, Six Feet Under, My Name Is Earl, Malcolm in the Middle, King of the Hill, Yes, Dear, Everwood, Coach, Delta, Wonderfalls, Friends, The X Files, Angel, Medium, Criminal Minds and CSI.