Cal High filmmaker directs her vision behind the camera

Sophomore Aleeza Zakai making name for herself with documentaries, dramas


Courtesy of Instagram

Sophomore Aleeza Zakai is a budding filmmaker who has focused her director’s eye on documentaries and dramas so far.

Sienna Morgan, Staff Writer

Sophomore Aleeza Zakai has always enjoyed filming, since she was a young child.

She started when she was eight years old with an iPad, filming various crazy stories. At 11 years old, she started to learn the more technical aspects of photographing and filming. 

Zakai would have photoshoots with her friends and apply these new technical aspects to what she was shooting. 

“I’ve always loved the art of storytelling,” Zakai said. “It was my father’s love of photography that inspired me to first learn about the camera.”

One of her latest films was inspired by the coronavirus pandemic. Once shelter-in-place started in March 2020, Zakai had an opportunity to focus more on her art and made  COVID Short Film,  a 20-minute documentary that tells stories of how the coronavirus affected high school students’ lives.

“It was actually quarantine that really led me to concentrate my time on film,” Zakai said. “I wanted to share the high schooler’s perspective of COVID-19.” 

The film got nearly 850 views on her YouTube channel, which boasts more than 100 subscribers.

Although her 2020 film about COVID-19 is a documentary that focuses on students’ real life experiences, her films focus on a few different genres.

“Some of my past work has been documentary and drama style, which are two different types of structures,” Zakai said. 

Not only does she like being behind the camera, but she loves acting, too. 

“Acting was somewhat the bridge that led me from the theater world to the film world,” Zakai said.

When she creates her films, she always starts at its core, the idea, which is easier said than done. 

“Getting struck with an idea can be the most challenging part, because you can’t force a strike of inspiration,” Zakai said. 

Zakai said she likes to go to different environments and places to observe people and how they act to find inspiration. Once inspired with an idea, she creates a plot around it consisting of a general outline. Once the outline is finished, she can begin writing her script by herself and later turn to others for feedback. 

Her friends, such as sophomore Darren Murphy, help answer questions she has with honesty. 

She noted that some people look past the script’s exact details and don’t realize every piece of it has a point. 

“Once I’m happy with a script, I’ll reach out to people I know that can contribute something to the project, like editing, music composition, acting, and so forth,” Zakai said. “What viewers tend to forget is that every single aspect, the lighting, sound, dialogue choice, costume choice, is intentional and adds something to the story.”

With her team complete, she can start moving into the production stage. As a director, Zakai brings her vision to life by telling the actors what they need to do.

Monte Vista freshman Sophia Rocha, Zakai’s friend, got the opportunity to be in Zakai’s film, “Ordinary,” which is about a girl who finds life in the ordinary things in a small town. 

“I loved bringing life to Aleeza’s creativity,” Rocha said. “It’s so inspiring the things Aleeza can do.”

Since she’s not a professional director, Zakai has a flexible deadline. But coordination between the people involved can be challenging because everyone is volunteering.

Zakai pieces together the shots of the film, and after months of working on it, the film is finally ready to be watched on YouTube for her friends to enjoy.

“I have watched her films and I’m very impressed,” Murphy said. “Camera quality, editing, and storyboarding are all very well thought-out and planned nicely.” 

Even though the process can be difficult, Zakai still finds herself loving the aspect of filming. 

“[I film to] bridge the gap between different fields of [Music scores, color coordination, and performance], and using those combinations to change people,” Zakai said.

Added her friend Rocha, “She knows how to grasp an audience and make an impact in her stories. I can’t wait to see her future and how far she’ll get in the industry.”