Whining Low

Orange, California | Film Short

Thriller, Western

Green Light

This campaign raised $3,630 for production. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

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When an undocumented Russian immigrant suspects a gas station customer of being a kidnapper, she seizes the opportunity in order to get the bounty and reunite with her son. After a few tragic misunderstandings, she realizes that she ruined the life of an innocent man who had the same goals as her.

About The Project

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  • Wishlist
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The Story

Svetlana is an undocumented Russian immigrant who came to the United States in the hopes of starting a new life and making enough money to support her son, whom she left in the care of her sister. While working the graveyard shift at a West Texas gas station, she is put in an uncomfortable position when a man who she believes to be a local child kidnapper stops at the gas station. Her maternal instincts kick in and she feels the need to rescue the child trapped in his truck but in doing so she risks compromising her status and her future.


Whining Low is a Senior Thesis student film being executed by a passionate crew from Chapman University. At its core, Whining Low is a tragedy that is veiled by themes of immigration, capitalism, racial profiling and a mother’s maternal instinct to do anything in order to help a child. By placing Svetlana, the protagonist, alone in an off-highway gas station, geographical solitude begins to play a primary role as the station represents the only beacon of light in an otherwise arid desert. Not so different from the plight of many undocumented citizens across the world, Svetlana is invisible to everyone around her, tethered to a location because it is the only place willing to hire her, and without any friends to whom she can share her experience with. Consequently, when she realizes that a wanted local kidnapper has walked into the station shortly before closing, she is faced with a challenge: does she break her routine and take action, risking that the police gets involved, leading to her inevitable deportation, or does she not get involved and allow this kidnapping to happen?


Thematically bolstering Svetlana’s tragedy are the characters of Larry, her employer, and officer Rogers, Larry’s nephew who works for border patrol. These two characters aim to represent the capitalist ideals of American society. What’s important to note is that all three of these characters ultimately attempt to stop the kidnapper, but nobody does it for a purely noble purpose. Even Svetlana’s ethical gears change as she is indoctrinated from working off her maternal instincts to attempting to save a child for a monetary reward. This overriding motif of selfish agendas is what propels the narrative towards its tragic climax, ultimately resulting in the death of the kidnapper and the abducted boy. However, Svetlana, Rogers and Larry soon discover these two individuals were actually a Mexican immigrant and his little boy. Whining Low comes to the conclusion that although Svetlana tried everything in her power to do the right thing, her own selfish interests blinded her from realizing that the man she inadvertently killed was no different from her; a parent willing to sacrifice her own well-being for the welfare of their child.



The film is currently well into its pre-production stages. Location scouts have already taken place and final agreements are currently being made along with budget decisions. Whining Low is also the recipient of the esteemed “Excellence in Producing” Award, provided by Entertainment Partners. Cinematographer Dave Cortez and director Sergio Zaciu ultimately came to the decision that film would be the best format to capture the depth of the desert in order to aesthetically juxtapose the darkness of the endless highway with the luminosity of the gas station. The use of film is very ambitious as well expensive, but it is an art that we dream to keep alive. Our location of a deserted gas station also poses a logistical challenge of transportation and ensuring the safety of our crew of 30 for a total of 6 isolated night shoots. Any monetary donations would be greatly appreciated so we can make our artistic vision come true while also making sure safety needs are met. Thank you!


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

Cash Pledge

Costs $0

Craft Services and Catering

Costs $800

To feed our amazing cast and crew!


Costs $900

The location of this film is essential to the story.

Casting Director

Costs $400

To cast the best talent possible to bring these characters to life!

Stunt Coordinator

Costs $200

To ensure the safety of our cast while performing action sequences.


Costs $1,100

The nearest hotels are thirty miles from the filming location. We need to cover costs for travel while safely housing the crew.


Costs $600

Makeup, wardrobe, and set dressing to create the tone and atmosphere desired.

About This Team


Sergio sees himself as both a filmmaker and musician, actively trying to use his diverse cultural background as the tonal foundation for his art. He was a committed stage actor prior to picking up film as a craft. His younger brother was the one who introduced him to the idea of working behind the scenes rather than opposite the viewfinder. Directing stuck with him most due to his love for working with actors. Seeking to channel emotional responses from professional performers was the component of filmmaking that made him fall in love with the art.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, CA by Soviet Russian immigrants, Sabina has (almost too) eagerly skewed away from the traditional medical/clerical career path to pursue a life of film/ television producing and production management. Her love for the entrainment business emerged from daily pilgrimages to her flat screen, complete with an alter stacked with DVR’s, streaming devices, and Mel Brooks DVDs. Realizing that her belief in the healing capabilities of entertainment could be combined with her love for managing teams and organizations, she applied to Chapman University’s film program. Now entering into her fourth and final year at the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts’ Creative Producing program, she has acquired the logistical, practical, and management skills to help visual oracles develop their stories, as well as the work management skills to make their screenplay a reality. She’s incredibly excited to be awarded with the amazing opportunity to produce Whining Low, a gritty neo-western that shines a light on the sacrifices many immigrant parents make to ensure freedom and comfort for their loved ones, much like the sacrifices her own family made for her.

Raised only an hour away from Hollywood Rachael garnered a love for movies early on. Always fascinated by the behind the scenes process of making stories come to life she decided to pursue a career in film Production. Her love of fast-paced environments, passionate storytelling, teamwork, and problem solving made Producing an excellent choice for a career path. She is excited to really stretch her creative and management abilities on the production of Whining Low.

Carter is originally from Colorado Springs, Colorado. He developed a passion for writing, film, and television while working on his high school’s TV program. When it came to applying to film schools, Chapman University was his number one choice and he has not been disappointed. Now in his senior year as a screenwriting major, Carter hopes to make Whining Low a centerpiece in his growing portfolio to showcase a diverse writing talent. 

Dave spent three years as a cinematography instructor at FimEd* Academy of the Arts, where he taught thousands of students, and was a mentor to many aspiring cinematographers. This experience not only gave him an intricate understanding of cinematography fundamentals, but also inspired him creatively. He has worked on a myriad of student and professional productions ranging from shorts and features to commercials and narrative television. The time he spent on set, both as a cinematographer and working in the electrical department, has given him a complex understanding of how to control light and capture it in a way which accentuates the performance and conveys the director’s vision. Dave always enjoys the opportunity to practice his craft and is excited for the unique challenges presented by Sergio’s film.


I grew up in the California Bay Area but have been in Southern California for college for the past three years. Living in the Silicon Valley, it would have been easy to dismiss art in favor of math and science, but my parents were big on family movie night, and they always talked about it as “our education,” that these movies were about more than just entertainment but were a part of life as much as anything K-12 had to offer. My creative producing major offers a way for me to enjoy bringing together the creativity of storytelling, the logistical steps it takes to get there, and the technical skills it takes to pull the whole thing off. My senior thesis projects at Chapman are all challenging in different ways, and I look forward to applying my lessons learned on previous projects to this film. Being thrown into sets was a great way to instantly get a feel for the on-set fast paced cohesion and so I’ve been working on sets as a PA, a 2nd AC, 2nd AD, 1st AD, and more. I’ve learned that respecting every crew member’s skillset is crucial, and that everyone has something new to teach you about filmmaking. I’ve worked in multiple positions so that as a producer I am able to be an effective project manager for all departments.

Born in Winchester, England, James Thompson moved to Greenville, South Carolina, with his family when he was seven years old. Every Sunday evening growing up, James and his family would watch movies together. This, in addition to his involvement with community theater, contributed to his passion for film and desire to pursue a career in the industry. In high school, James created a film festival for student filmmakers, acted as Youth Program Coordinator and Festival Director for the Greenville International Film Festival, and started a filmmaking club at his school. While at Chapman, James has worked as a location manager on two undergraduate thesis films, a producer on an advanced production, and a production assistant on three graduate level thesis films. In addition to his on set experience, James has also spent time working for Panther Productions, the on-campus video production company, and interning in Los Angeles at Temple Hill Entertainment and The Gersh Agency. 

For me, filmmaking is such a powerful tool we ought to comprehend us ours, and, with great power comes great responsibility. At Chapman I have had the opportunity to engage in other people’s manner of understanding their own realities, giving it shapes and appearances. Here, we like to tell stories, and from the beginning, going on sets in which you barely know anybody, one starts to realize the immense outcome that helping each other can achieve, not only in our own goals, but in our common goals.

Having lived in Los Angeles her entire life, Anna has grown up in the entertainment capital of the world. Up until college, Anna was planning on pursuing journalism because of her love for storytelling and managing her high school newspaper staff. After taking a film class her senior year, she realized that film was her true calling and decided to major in production. As a Creative Producing major at Chapman University, Anna has produced, production coordinated and assisted on many student films. She is extremely thrilled to be working with such an amazing crew on Whining Low and loves being a part of a team that is so dedicated and passionate about film. 

Born and raised in the East Bay Area to a librarian and a sports columnist, Tara Steward grew up in a household that encouraged creativity, curiosity, and learning. After dabbling in a multitude of sports, music, theatre, and leadership activities, Tara found her passion for the arts through her involvement in community theatre. Upon arrival at Chapman in 2012 as a screenwriting major, however, Tara discovered she was better suited for production after working her first student film set. Shortly afterward, she applied and switched into film production and declared an emphasis in editing. 


Current Team