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April 05, 2013 | posted in Filmmakers
After showing her short film, “Detroit Unleaded,” at 26 film festivals, Rola Nashef decided to make her twenty minute “slice of life” short film about a Detroit gas station into a feature.
“From that first audience screening, I just felt like there was a bigger story to tell,” she explains. “People didn’t want the film to end; I just remember at the premiere of the short, several people came up to me and said, ‘I didn’t want it to end.’ I think as soon I released it, I knew it had to be a feature.”
Nashef, an Arab American who grew up in the small community of Lansing, Michigan, moved to the Detroit area after graduating from college. For the first time in her life, she found herself living in a community with a high concentration of Arab Americans. She began to notice that many Arab Americans in Detroit worked in gas stations.
“I was like why does everybody work in a gas station?” she says. “It seemed that everybody I knew either owned a gas station or worked at a gas station.”
This piqued her interest. She loved hearing all of the “crazy, funny stories” people who worked in gas stations had to tell.
“I always felt that their stories were so cinematic,” says Nashef. “There are so many quirky things one can witness by working at a gas station.”
It took Nashef 2 years to transform the script from her short film into the resulting feature—a process she describes as a “real learning process,” but also an opportunity to interact with the community. She had script readings, and solicited feedback from the artists and friends around her.
To get the film made, she had to also raise money. She did this the old-fashioned way—by writing a lot of letters. In the end, she received enough financial support to make the film. She attributes this success to the success of the story itself, which she believes most inspired those around her to contribute.
“It really did start and end with those closest to me who believe in my work,” she recalls. “It was nice because I felt like: I have the support of the community to move forward—and not just financially. People had faith in me.”
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