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Film Student explores immigrant's first Thanksgiving

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Stephanie Silva, a University of Arizona senior film and television student, is bringing diversity into the film industry with her thesis short film, “The First Thanksgiving.”

Silva, the film’s director, said that “The First Thanksgiving” is about a Latina girl’s experience celebrating Thanksgiving in the United States. 

“It’s about a teenage girl who just immigrated from Mexico to the United States, and she is learning about identity and cultivation of this new home with Thanksgiving dinner,” Silva said.  

According to Silva, she was inspired to make this movie based off her mother’s first Thanksgiving in the U.S. 

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“When my mom first immigrated to the United States, she would travel back and forth from Mexico to the states for school,” Silva said. 

With a stroke of luck, Silva’s mom won a turkey, which inspired a Thanksgiving celebration with her four younger brothers. 

“She won a turkey and had her first Thanksgiving,” Silva said. 

From writing different versions of the script to collaborating with friends and family, Silva has been preparing for this movie since May. 

“I’ve been working on the twelfth draft of the script and I’ve done research using different movies, my mom’s story and my own vision for the film,” Silva said. 


First Thanksgiving Candice
Candice Michels is a Film and Television student at the University of Arizona. She is currently the producer for a film production.


Luckily, Silva has a lot of helping hands assisting her throughout the filming process. Jalon Jackson, the assistant director, is able to lift some of the work load from Silva’s shoulders. 

“I help make the schedule, I plan each day and I am main point of contact,” Jackson said. 

Candice Michels, the producer, also plays a huge role in helping Silva behind the scenes. Michels said that the producer acts like the jack of all trades and does anything and everything. 

“My main focus is on casting,” Michels said. “The casting process was a challenge for us, because our director’s family are immigrants from Mexico and we are trying to honor that by casting an all-Latino cast.”

Silva starts filming “The First Thanksgiving” on the first week of November. Jackson said that they will film on Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the 10-minute movie. 

“We film for 7 to 12 hours, so it’s a great way to get to know everyone on set,” Jackson said. 

Most importantly, “The First Thanksgiving” brings diversity into the film industry. The film features an all-Latino cast and is able to convey a powerful message, according to both Jackson and Silva. 

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“I think that it is so important to get stories like Stephanie’s family’s out there, because diversity is not something that is seen a lot in Hollywood,” Michels said. “Even doing little things like getting these films in short film circuits and festivals is important. Any type of diversity out there is good.”

Jackson also agrees that the film’s all-Latino cast helps it stand out from the rest.

“The film is very diverse and different,” Jackson said. “Representation in film is very important to me.”

As for Silva, she said she is most excited to get on set and direct the cast she has made. 

“I’ve created a family with my producers and assistant director,” Silva said. “I’m also excited to share a little bit of my mom’s story.”

“The First Thanksgiving” will premiere at I Dream in Widescreen at the Fox Theater April 27, 2019.


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