where she falls (2019)

A reflection on my student thesis film and why it took so long for me to share it.

Catherine Lee
4 min readMay 23, 2020


A girl descending into an unknown landscape
A still from my short animated student film, where she falls

It’s been more than a year since I finished my thesis and graduated with my MFA. In this past year a lot has happened and only recently I’ve been able to think carefully about my work. It’s been a while since I sat down and wrote a reflection, and if I wait any longer, my thesis would regretfully collect even more dust!

There were two main things I noticed. One was that in the year after graduation, I haven’t made another personal film. Another thing I noticed was how much I didn’t treat my thesis well. I didn’t let it see the light of day after the thesis screening and the last day of the thesis exhibition. My friends from school will know that our thesis film is like our baby — we spent so much time nurturing it and feeding it, putting a lot of our love, sweat, and tears into it. Sometimes our story would die completely, other times it’s put to flames and then reborn. My thesis was reborn but then I didn’t give it any air to breathe.

In the end, I just had a ton of complicated feelings about my thesis. During my mid-year presentation, the response I got really threw me out of the bubble of how I saw my own thesis vs. what the viewer saw. Things just make sense to you because you already know the story. It’s not necessarily how others read it.

Another moment from my film.

I’ve never once had to think so much about how to make something work narratively — to make the audience understand the story without words. I also felt the limitations of my own skills and the time we had. There was so much I didn’t know (and still don’t know still) but I definitely learned a lot through the process.

Of course, there’s the emotional side of working on a thesis that makes it personal and sometimes even more difficult to face. I’m grateful that I wasn’t the only one experiencing this— every person working on their film is the same. I never had a chance to really thank my friends who got me through this time, and the friends that I surprisingly made in my two years at SVA. I still miss those days where we had “therapy sessions” in the sound studios just to talk about how things were going, and the times we’d find ourselves at the computer labs every weekend, downing junk food and chugging bubble tea.

There’s also an endless amount of thanks that I can say to my family, especially my parents. I remember when I was applying to grad schools I thought, “Maybe I should wait another year before going.” My dad told me, “If you can apply now, you should do it.” My mom was even concerned that maybe I wasn’t applying to enough schools! I’m glad I decided to make the move to NYC and I’m fortunate that my parents were so encouraging and willing to support me through everything.

So here it is finally — my thesis film. I want to say that life and work got in the way of me sharing this publicly, but in reality I think I just was afraid to show it. I lost my pride for it along the way, and I wanted to forget about the pain behind the story. At times the pain would come back to haunt me, and this film somehow became its ghost. But this is how I mistreated my film, and I mistreated myself — because my work embodies my self. To reject my film is to reject a part of myself.

During our thesis exhibition, I had two notebooks out in front of my film for viewers to write in after they saw my film. Each notebook asked a question that I want to ask everyone again.

Two black notebooks with the questions written on them in white.
What is “letting go”? What have you learned from your own experience of “letting go”?

With that, I hope you enjoyed my thesis. Thank you.



Catherine Lee

An artist and illustrator that started off as a writer. http://catleeart.com/