EMPATHY (Or: The Girl With the Pearled Hair)

San Francisco, California | Film Short

Drama, LGBTQ

Christian Santiago

1 Campaigns | California, United States

Green Light

This campaign raised $6,005 for production. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

70 supporters | followers

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Ivy just broke out of rehab and nearly escaped her mother. With no where else to go she takes refuge in her friend Joey's apartment. Joey is much older, non-binary and a recovered addict themselves. Together the two must coexist while Ivy learns to face her trauma.

About The Project

  • The Story
  • Wishlist
  • Updates
  • The Team
  • Community

Mission Statement

EMPATHY is a story based on the emotional weight of trauma - the themes are universal. It's about two different people coming together and choosing to be each other's family when they have no one else.

The Story

Work in symmetry. 

Hi! My name is Christian Santiago and I am the Writer, Director of EMPATHY (Or: The Girl with The Pearled Hair.)

What is EMPATHY (Or: The Girl with The Pearled Hair)?

EMPATHY is the story of Ivy - a young, bratty but drug addicted teen. We meet Ivy as she just broke out of rehab and is trying to get things from her mother's house. After she nearly escapes her Mom Ivy takes refuge in her friend Joey's apartment. Joey is much older, non-binary and is a recovered addict themselves. Together the two must learn to coextist as Ivy learns to face her traumas.

How did you come up with EMPATHY, and why do you want to tell this story?

There are three big inspirations for the story.

  1. I wrote and shot a 5 Page short called EMPATHY a couple of years back. That short was partially based on my friend and frequent collaborator Jo Call's life. They would have kids crash on their couch from time to time when they needed a place to stay for the night and that image inspired that 5 page short, and honestly since shooting that the characters have never left my head, so I wrote the current version early last year. Since it takes place in the Bay, and since I recenlty moved back home to the Bay I figured this was the perfect time to try to tell EMPATHY once again and do it right.
  2. Growing up I saw a lot of kids lose themselve to drug abuse at a really young age, for a lot of different reasons. Whenever I see a drug-related teen drama on TV or on film I feel like a lot of the time they are over-sensualizing the stuggles these kids are going through. I want to tell a story like this but completley grounded and realistic to their struggles.
  3. I'm a huge music fan, and there is a song called Empathy by the band Crystal Castles. The chorus of said song is essentially the thesis for my short: you must work in symmytry, you must earn their empathy. Joey and Ivy must learn to work in symmetry -  to co-exist in this shared space as Ivy learns to face herself, and Ivy must earn Joey's empathy if she is to stay with them.

In terms of the why of it all, I'm a fan of stories and the power of storytelling. I want to tell authentic stories made with the authenticity of its audience in mind. I think EMPATHY is a story everyone can find something they can relate to, and above all else EMPATHY is a story that geniuenly excites. I see so vividly how I want to tell this story (the framing of shots, the color palletes of the lights and grading, the sounds of the score & soundtrack, etc) and I can't wait to bring EMPATHY to life.

Screenshot from EMPATHY (2017)

How do you see EMPATHY? What direction will you be giving to the project?

I'm someone who is very nostalgic, and I want EMPATHY to have a sense of timelessness to it. I don't want the year or the technology to dictate the story - and I think the best way to convey that message is to shoot the short on 16mm Kodak film. While it's more of a hassel to shoot this way I think its crucial and integral to the story.

Because the thesis of this film is "work in symmetry" I also see using a cinematography technique known as quadrant framing, where we use a rule of four quadrants to frame the shots instead of a Rule Of Thirds to really magnify the isolation Ivy is feeling and to give it a symmetrical feeling. By using this modern use of framing on 16mm I also think it will help with the timeless feeling of everthing - something old, something new.

What are the safety procautions you will be taking to ensure the Cast & Crew are safe during COVID-19?

With COVID-19 still rampant I want to take every precaution possible to make sure we are all safe. I am a COVID-19 Compliance Officer, certified by Health Education Services so I know the protocol on how to run a safe set. Luckily EMPATHY only takes place in three, closed locations but we still want to make sure the cast and crew are as safe as can be. We will require COVID tests to take place the week of shooting as well as everyone wearing a mask and face shield when shooting (except for actors, of course.) 

Why should we contribute money to your project?

While this story and it's characters may not resemble your own life, the themes EMPATHY present are universal. I want to tell a story that even while you can't relate to it you can (no pun intended) empathize with its story and its characters. 












Use the WishList to Pledge cash and Loan items - or - Make a pledge by selecting an Incentive directly.

Cash Pledge

Costs $0

KODAK 16mm Film

Costs $900

These is the most integral items for EMPATHY - 6 400ft rolls of KODAK Vision3 250D/500T 16mm film

Arri SR3 16mm Film Camera Rental

Costs $500

This will cover our rental cost for the Arri SR3 16mm Film Camera - one of the best in the business!

Processing + Developing of Film

Costs $2,400

This will cover the film being Processed and Developed at Kodak Film Lab Atlanta

Lighting Rental

Costs $1,000

This will cover the costs for lighting needed!

SFX Makeup

Costs $500

SFX Makeup for Ivy and Joey, specifically prosthetic eye and scars due to drug use

Food on Set

Costs $300

This will cover food and crafty on set!

Travel for Crew and Talent

Costs $400

This will cover the travel costs for talent and crew!

About This Team

Christian Santiago - Writer and Director

Christian Santiago is a writer and director born and raised in The Bay. He recently just graduated from St. John's University in Queens, NY and finished his first short film SACERDOTISA. He has a love for all things synth-pop and Hip-Hop and drives to tell authetic stories made by authentic people


Talia Gloster - Actress (Ivy)

My name is Talia Gloster, originally from the Bay Area. I'm currently a fourth year theater major & double linguistics/anthropology minor at UCLA! Most recently, I've worked on a Gay Spaghetti Western film called "Cowboy, Bitch!" and, this spring, I'll be playing Sheila Franklin in UCLA's production of "HAIR!". I love stories (telling them, hearing them) and full-sized carrots!


Jo Call - Actor (Joey)

My name is Jo Call, I use they/them pronouns and I’m transgender. I think it’s so important that non-binary trans people’s experiences are normalized and a part of all media. I also think it’s important that we are normalized as the audience! I’m exhausted with only seeing people like myself represented as a sob story or a diluted version of ourselves to change the minds of those who are ignorant. I want to see stories made just for us about us. Where we don’t have to explain the nuances that queer and trans people understand without help. The lense we are portrayed from is just as important as the representation, and I’m honored to be apart of that.


TinNovello - Producer

Tino Novello is a filmmaker and producer from Santa Cruz, California. Tino's passion for storytelling began in highschool when he started to write scripts and followed that passion in college where he refined many of his filmmaking skills and learned producing skills in a course taught by Brian Benson. At the end of the day, it's all about story and Tino will do whatever it takes to help filmmakers tell the stories they want to tell.

Jon Warfield Harrison - Director of Photography

Jon Warfield Harrison is a Director of Photography from the Bay Area with a passion for visual storytelling. Jon seeks to never stop learning new ways to help actualize stories through different methods of lighting and camera techniques whether it be on celluloid or a digital sensor.

Đan Lê - 1st Camera Assisstant

Đan Lê is a filmmaker that honors both the theoretical and practical components of film. They strive to consummate this knowledge when supporting the camera department to achieve the shot. They always aim for a "let me see what I can do" mindset!


Current Team