INTERVIEW: Over/Under Director Sophia Silver

(Courtesy Prism Management)

Los Angeles-based native Sophia Silvers coming-of-age film Over/Under will have its world premiere on April 30th at the Roxie Theatre during the San Francisco Film Festival.

Over/Under takes place in the summer of 2002 when Violet and Stella are nine-years-old and inseparable. They spend their beach days playing in the waves, catching butterflies, sending wishes to fairies, and spying on nude adults. But then, the summer ends. Stella has friends back home, but would rather talk with them about mermaids than tampons.

Lonely Violet attracts the attention of a vicious bully, while silently processing her changing body. Over the next few summers the girls come together, but puberty, boys, family trauma, and the desire to “fit in” all begin to threaten the magic of their friendship.

Over/Under is a story about the loss of innocence. Violet and Stella teach us about the deepest kind of friendship and remind us just how delicate childhood really is.

Reel 360 chatted exclusively with director Sophia Silver.

What was your inspiration?

My biggest inspiration was my true friendship between myself and my co-writer (and best friend) Sianni Rosenstock. We sort of had this kismet moment that made this all happen. It was March 2020 and we were all in lockdown. I went to send a text to Sianni, and when I looked down there was already a text from Sianni that said, “We have to tell our story.'”

So this is kind of girlhood!

I was really interested in our formative years because I think a lot of our social wounding happens during that time. It really tests childhood friendships. Girls become little women.

I think, especially for girls, you either make it through with your best friend or you don’t. We did! It’s a relationship I’m so proud of.

You had a recurring role on the Netflix show Godless. How did you transition from acting to directing?

Acting was always what I wanted to do. I even went to school for it. The audition process can be very demoralizing with rejection after rejection. So, I started writing parts for myself because I was sick of being cast as “Waitress One” or not getting a role at all.

For this story, it was bigger than creating a role for me because it was so deeply personal. These girls were my best friends and this story was so important to me. I didn’t feel like I could hand it over to anyone else to direct, so I had to be the one to do it.

Which girl were you?


Violet, the rebellious one. 

100%. I was bullied growing up which really challenged me. I desperately wanted to fit in. You can’t sacrifice friendships in your life, that actually matter, in order to feel cool. I think Sianni struggled a lot more with her body and maybe feels not ready to experiment with boys.

The scene where the younger version of Sianni is bullied in the bathroom brings back my own memories of being bullied in junior high school.

(Sophia Silver CREDIT: Bennett Raglin/WireImage)

I’m really happy to hear that—only because I do think that time is agonizing when we reflect and think about those younger versions of ourselves. You feel that pain all over again where you’re like “what was wrong with me at that time?”

I was the free-spirited younger version of myself. I hope people who see this film realize it’s perfectly OK to try new things every now and then to fit in. But hopefully, you can find your way back to yourself.

What did you want to say with this film?

I wanted to capture the magic of childhood and what makes it heartbreaking. We all depart from childhood at one point and we go through this and it’s painful to leave that sort of free innocence.

What was prep like?

Prep was super important to me. I know some directors prep for only six weeks and that never made sense to me, especially as a first-timer. I rehearsed with my actresses and even my DP and Production Designer for five months. My Composer and I began working many months in advance. There was a real friendship and trust we all built together.

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You have so many sweeping shots of waves.

I am a huge fan of Cèline Sciamma. I’m in awe of her work and how tender her stories are. I really felt inspired by Moonlight and Waves as well. These are the kinds of films that capture nostalgia and intimacy. I also love Andrea Arnold. She has such a rawness, but there’s this documentary filmmaking style of capturing everyday life. That was important for me as well.

Who are your mentors?

My mother, Tia Brelis, is a filmmaker. We actually made my first short film together called Bowie’s Rock. She directed it, and I produced and starred in it. Then, Kymberly Harris, my acting coach, who actually directed me in my first professional acting job. It was a bicoastal production of the play Fool for Love, I produced it and starred in it as well.

And my husband. He was my high school sweetheart. We’ve been together for eleven years and he’s my biggest supporter.

What’s an unexpected behind-the-scenes story?

It was day three of scouting and I found out I was pregnant. I was like “OK I’m gonna direct my first movie and have a baby.” So, I was in my first trimester the entire time we were shooting and my DP, Fran, was also 7 and 1/2 months pregnant. Fran was the only one on set I told. So, the two of us were behind the camera as pregnant ladies. We really took care of each other.

Fran was always passing me coconut water or a banana, making sure I was okay.

What’s next?

I definitely feel directing is my calling. I love all of the other aspects of storytelling, but this is where I’m at right now.

What’s next is I’m writing another script with Sianni. We’re both very inspired by stories of the heart.

Sophia’s Over/Under will screen on April 30 during the San Francisco Film Festival.

Megan Penn reports on the indie film market and anything that empowers women and underrepresented groups. 

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