“U & Me” is a short film with international appeal due to its very relatable topic of love and family. The film’s plot revolves around a young girl named Sami who learns she is pregnant and is excited to share the news with her husband, Goutham. Just like many immigrants in America, he is trapped with his career and struggling to maintain a work-life balance. He ignores Sami until he finds out the news, realizes his mistake, and decides to give his wife a special surprise. The film deals strongly with emotions but ends on a happy note.
“U & Me” was a recent finalist at the 2019 Global Lift off Film Festival, based at the Pinewood studios in UK and Raleigh studios in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California. It is also the overall winner of the voting round and was nominated for the Best Short Film under the First Time Filmmaker category. The film was screened in New Jersey on 12th December 2019, during a private event. It will also be available on YouTube in 2020.
Sami Sameeksha co-wrote, directed, and starred in the movie. A professional model, Sami has been actively working in the entertainment industry since 2014. She has been featured in a number of commercials and has made cameo roles in major feature films such as “The Upside” which started Kevin Hart. Since moving to New York in 2019, Sami has starred as a guest on a number of talk shows and featured as lead in music videos. She focused on taking her acting career global with opportunities to star in the Latin Telenovela universe, the Canadian film market and the Indian Bollywood industry.
Sami was happy to discuss this film via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you discover your love for the arts and why do you gravitate towards film?
Samiksha Laveaux (SL): I always knew I was a story-teller but growing up I was shy and constantly bullied about the way I looked. It impacted my esteem greatly as I could barely communicate and pushed me into a shell. I remember being upset about feeling this emotional constipation and after encouragement from my mother and teachers I took part in a school assembly. The first time I public spoke it was scary. And then I got casted in a small role in a community play. That changed things for me. I could see a world where everything was possible. I realized I didn’t want to feel limited in my bubble, I wanted to break free and get to know my real self. Acting became that medium for me—it helped me to get out of my comfort zone by challenging literally everything about myself. While theatre was a major part of my journey, I got casted for a role in “The Upside” starring Kevin Hart. It made me realize how much I enjoyed the technical stuff—the Lights, Camera, Action! That assured me I want to work in TV& film.
MM: What inspired “U & Me” and where was it filmed?
SL: “U&Me”–it took us weeks to decide that name, it’s funny because we wrote the script first and called it the ‘Perfect Match’ like a perfect couple but then we realized that the message this story carries is beyond the relationship, it’s about two individuals, you and me. Whatever their age, gender, relationship status, they can still feel lost in a part of their life. Also inspired from the portion of my life, hustling in NYC, working over 10 hours a day and struggling to find that work life balance, as a single person I wondered how it was like for couples, especially the ones who are having major transitions in their life.
My team and I talked to a number of people to develop the perspective. We called it “U & Me” because both partners are important, relevant and equal individuals who have chosen to make a life together. This film is shot entirely in New Jersey, USA. We focused on maintaining the authenticity of this regular middle-class household and the nature around us in the wonderful garden state!
MM: How long did it take to complete the movie and how did you find a distributor?
SL: Funny enough we shot the entire film within 24 hours. We shot on a Saturday for 13 hours and then 2 weeks later another Saturday where we worked 11 hours. Since it was our film time, we had to sit back, check each shot in detail, decide scenes to reshoot and match the reshoots to the same time of the day for natural lighting, voice, acoustics etc. It was a lengthy process. I shot most of my scenes without makeup. I wanted to get under the skin of the character. I crested bloating to feel something like the morning unwell feeling that a newly pregnant woman may have. To top it off, I had to dive deep into the emotions of being neglected by my significant other. But the real nightmare was the post- production. It took us about 2-3months for editing, lighting, sound, music, voice-overs etc. That’s where we were compelled to go out and network to find expert people to complete this project. Since most of our team has full- time jobs we used weekday evenings after work and weekends to put it all together as one product. We have a few distributor deals on the table but since the film is still competing in film festivals we haven’t made any decisions on it yet. However, the film will definitely be available on Amazon Video.
MM: You also work as a model, so how did you get into that?
SL: Modeling is the part of my journey that I credit all my success in life. It helped me fall in love with myself and truly accept myself with all my flaws. Bullied for 20 years about the way I looked, I had very little self- esteem and I didn’t think I was pretty. Until one day, a random person with a professional camera on my university campus told me he thought I was photogenic and asked to take a few pictures of me and he shared the pictures with me. At this time, I was already doing theatre but dep down I knew my fear of the camera. Seeing those pictures of myself made me summon up the courage to break past my camera shyness. And now I can say, I have worked with numerous talented photographers, got published, got invited to walk fashion shows for upcoming designers and even walked New York Fashion Week.
MM: How did you start working with fashion producer Alexander Gurman and what was it like to participate in his shows?
SL: I met Alex at the NYFW! He interviewed me after the show and we became great friends. We have collaborated on a number of shoots and events. I have even been guest to his fashion shows at the Skyroom in NYC. Working with him has always been a combination of something new and fun.
MM: What do you hope audiences take away from the movie?
SL: I really wish the audience to connect with the multiple messages in this film- work life balance, keeping a healthy relationship with family, being more proactive towards you and your partner’s health, having strong communication with your loved ones and even recognizing and realizing ones mistakes. All these contribute to the happy life. And since I am a huge advocate for women—a special message to the ladies, you are never alone, talk to your friends and family, do not give up your life or change anything about yourself for your partner or the relationship. Embrace yourself, you are the creator of your own happiness! Hint, hint…yes, we have a prequel in progress for “U&Me!” Watch out!
MM: What are your ultimate career goals?
SL: I haven’t really thought about ultimate goals because my plans always fail! Lol, regardless my goals for 2020-2021 is to complete my professional acting training in Miesner Technique and expanding my market to global opportunities. My ultimate goals would be a successful career in Hollywood and having offers to work in Bollywood (the Indian entertainment industry), in Canada and in the Latin universe of telenovelas. I have written 2-3 scripts in 2019, and am currently working on another screen play that we aim to shoot around May this year. I am also in process to travel west to Los Angeles and to Atlanta to audition for major network and tv roles.
MM: What projects are coming up for you soon and what topics would you like to address artistically in the future?
SL: I love this question! 2020 has a lot of stuff cooking. Two of my short films- “Scary Mirage,” a thriller and “Help Desk,” an office comedy will be entering film festivals. I am also in a workshop for a strong-women lead film about harassment, a documentary that we start shooting in February end called ‘Second Chance’, a music video with a popular Latin singer, and a web-series where I will be playing a CIA Agent. I am also working on scripts touching issues of bullying, and female reproductive and hygiene rights. I am still making plans for the second half of 2020 but I am very excited to play these versatile roles.
MM: Is there anything else that you would like to mention?
SL: As you have guessed, I strongly support women rights, and my USP is self- acceptance and strength and I wish to share it with my female audience. I strongly believe that women have the skill to contribute to projects. We are more than just a pretty face, we are intelligent, interesting and bold. Hence, I am focused on building myself as an actor to only be doing strong and relevant female roles.
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