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State Press Play: The short film leaving viewers breathless

ASU film major finds acclaim for his short film 'Breathless,' despite the constraints of COVID-19

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"State Press Play." Illustration published on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021.

Will Hoxie, the writer and director of the short film, "Breathless," sits down with podcast reporter Peter Vezeau to chat about the filming process during the COVID-19 pandemic and the inspiration and creation of his new film. The piece, featuring a young man rushing to find his date's inhaler, is finding recognition across the country. 

Listen to State Press Play on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.


Peter Vezeau:

The world is still feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. It can sometimes feel like the virus has caused ripple after ripple in our everyday lives. The entertainment industry is no exception and even major studios experienced setbacks and delays because of the ongoing global crisis.

However, my guest, an Arizona State University film major, has not only overcome the difficulties of the pandemic, but has also found acclaim and praise for his new short film, "Breathless." 

Will Hoxie:

Hello. My name is Will Hoxie. I am the director of "Breathless" and I'm a film and media production major at Arizona State University.

Peter Vezeau:

Thank you so much for doing this Will. First off, can you give us just like a brief synopsis for the film, for anyone who hasn't seen it yet?

Will Hoxie:

The simplest way I could put this film is it is about a young adult who attempts to save his girlfriend's life after she begins to have an asthma attack. Of course there's more to it, but that's just the simplest way I could put it.

Peter Vezeau:

I know, I remember like you telling me this, we had a class last semester together and you were telling me this, and I thought it was such like an interesting thing because you kind of create this whole race in just the building complex of just going down to the parking lot and then going all the way back up. And you kind of created this little odyssey in an apartment complex.

Will Hoxie:

Yeah. I kind of knew that, especially due to COVID, I had a bunch of limitations that I had to work within. One thing that I knew that I had to add to my film was I needed to make it in like one building. And I tried to make everything in production as simple as possible without it being boring.

And, I feel like a film that needs to have kinetic energy, really, really, for me, just to keep focus. And because of that, I'm having this character run all the way through an apartment, building down a bunch of stairs. I feel like that adds a lot to the film, the running.

Peter Vezeau:

I remember we were talking and you mentioned stuff like getting the permits to film in buildings. Getting the right amount of people for a scene and having like a big crowd.

But what was it like? Especially since we're recording, you know, we're in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. How did you have to adapt your film for the times that we live in right now?

Will Hoxie:

Yeah, one of the many things that I had to do for the COVID-19 film shoot was that I needed to make sure that the people that I had on set, they were like the bare minimum when it comes to the people that I need.

I can't have any like extra people there. When I was on set, I would have the DP normally, which is basically the cinematographer. I would also have me of course, and also the script supervisor and just pretty much the basic people that you would need on a set. Extra people though, that would be like a risk, like it would get to a certain point where I would have to like tell people to leave sometimes if they were staying too much.

And especially during the scenes where people were running around the building, it was, it was hard to have like a bunch of people there during those scenes in particular.

Peter Vezeau:

Yeah, I remember, I think you mentioned something about having a crowd scene originally, but it seems like that had to fall to the wayside just with everything that was going on, right?

Will Hoxie:

Yes. Originally in the script, there was a scene involving a big crowd, and at first I thought that it would be like a really cool visual gimmick because the idea is he has the inhaler and on the bottom floor and he needs to get all the way back up. And the idea was having a big crowd standout in front of an elevator so that he can't really go in. 

So because of that, he's forced to take the stairs. Instead of having like a big crowd there and just putting a bunch of people at risk, I figured that instead we could just have the elevators be out of order so that instead he would just be forced to run up the stairs instead of having to deal with that crowd scene, because that's just unnecessary at that point. 

Peter Vezeau:

With film, with theater, with so many different kinds of performances, there is so much more at play than just who you see on screen, which even at times can be dozens and dozens of people. And so it's interesting to see how you whittled it all down to just the bare minimum, but still has such, in my opinion, a really good premise. And well-executed at that. You talked about it being about a character trying to help out his date, who has asthma. What inspired you to like come up with that plot?

Will Hoxie:

What originally inspired me to come up with this plot was — the thing is, I was actually dating someone around the time that I was writing this script who actually has asthma. And there was one time where I actually witnessed them have an asthma attack, like in front of me at one point. And the thing is I tried to like, recreate like the feel of that in this film in particular. It was kind of shocking to me when it happened in real life, as you'd expect.

I personally, before that point, I didn't have much experience with asthma or other people who had it. So when, when they started having an asthma attack in front of me, I was just trying. I was struggling to figure out how I can help them. And it was a scary feeling, and I feel like I just wanted to bring that into a short film and make people kind of understand how stressful it can be sometimes. 

Peter Vezeau:

I feel every other person has met someone or knows one of their friends who has asthma. And it really does boil down to just helping them find the inhaler or helping them in any way you can. But at the same time, you're under that pressure because you don't know how drastic it is.

You don't know exactly what they're feeling. And I think that you captured that pretty well with kind of having this be almost like — it almost had like a thriller-esque vibe to it. It would just be that time crunch that you created with that character.

Will Hoxie:

And one thing that I've gotten a couple of comments on is the length of an asthma attack, really. Because a bunch of people were like, "Dude, like, why aren't you just calling the police and stuff?" But the thing is with certain people, like the asthma, it ranges in like variety. Like sometimes the attacks will be like longer in certain people than others really.

So that is my excuse. My earlier idea for the script was also having, instead of like an epipen or something that's too quick, really. Like, because the people go into like an allergic shock, like normally it's a much shorter time. It has like, there's less of a length for a character to like run all the way up and down an apartment building.

Peter Vezeau:

I know you always have that, the good old trusty plot armor, where sometimes it doesn't make sense, but it looks better for the shot and it makes for a better story, you know?

Will Hoxie:

But the thing is it's like with the asthma attack, it's like, I'm able to talk people out of saying that it doesn't make any sense because there is the fact that asthma attacks do happen at different lengths, like with different people.

Peter Vezeau:

One thing I noticed while I was looking up the film, for anyone who wants to check it out, they can just, I believe it's under your YouTube channel under your name: Will Hoxie. "Breathless," you can search that. It's one of the first things to pop up. I noticed that in the corner, there is a little stamp that says official selection by the Chicago Indie Film Awards.

What can you tell me about having it being an official selection, the process of getting it there and just, what's it like to have the eyes of such a big organization on your film?

Will Hoxie:

I think it's really cool that people are actually watching my film that I made, and they're actually, like delighted by it. Like ever since, like, since the Chicago Indie awards accepted my film really, I've been receiving a bunch of like requests from like other film festivals to be like, "Hey, we have a discount code for you if you like, want to submit your film to our festival." And just there are people reaching out and telling me that I should do that just because I got into this one festival.

And I think it's cool that a bunch of people want my movie and the festivals and things like that. It's really nice. Like one of the big things about this too, was when I was writing "Breathless" as well. I feel like I haven't seen, I've seen asthma in films, right? But I haven't seen it be like in like the main plot of a film, really, except for maybe in "Signs," when that one kid had asthma, but besides that, that was also another inspiration for this.

I feel like, yeah, there just isn't enough asthma movies. And I feel like that kind of connected with a lot of, I feel like the story also kind of connected with a lot of people because it's very much not just a story about asthma. It's a story about breakups.

Peter Vezeau:

Yeah. I really enjoyed how it all started out because as you see the tenseness of the breakup, And you're expecting to follow one of these characters as they get out of it, if they try to pursue it again. And then suddenly the girl starts coughing and starts breathing heavily. And you notice that this isn't really the end of their story, but they're just linked to each other by this very, very tense and urgent situation. And I thought you did an amazing job of writing that.

So you talked about getting up for these awards and it's hard as a performer, especially in these times where audiences can range from at best, four at times, four people in a crowd. Four people watching online. But it seems like you've kind of gotten this great following. Like, this clip has only been up since New Year's Eve and it's already gone hundreds and hundreds of views.

And it seems like by what you tell me, it's going even further than that. So let me ask you this. What is next for Will Hoxie, are you going to keep making short films? Is there anything you currently have in the works that you can tell us?

Will Hoxie:

I'm writing a script right now, that's all I'm gonna say. I don't want you all to steal my ideas and I don't want y'all to take that. 

I'm just, if ever I have a good idea. I don't know. I just, if I ever come across a good idea, I guess I will direct it or I will write something and maybe — I will definitely like pursue making it if I ever come up with an idea that I really like. But at the moment, I just have like little ideas that I have writing in the works. Just whatever happens happens, and I'm looking forward to making that stuff happen.

Peter Vezeau:

Awesome, man. Well, thank you so much for joining us. I really hope to see more of your work, and congratulations on the success you have right now.

Will Hoxie:

Thank you.

Peter Vezeau:

My thanks again to Will. He has persevered through difficult times and has come out the other side with an incredible film. Be sure to watch it for yourself on YouTube by searching "Breathless" by Will Hoxie. For The State Press, I'm Peter Vezeau.

You can view Hoxie's film here.


Reach the reporter at pvezeau@asu.edu or follow @PeterJad3 on Twitter.

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