COVID-19 restrictions gave many an opportunity to learn a new skill or become reacquainted with a forgotten pastime. Waterloo native Connor Sandheinrich decided to use that opportunity to create an award-winning short film.
Sandheinrich wrote and directed “Unsafe Spaces,” a tense and unnerving three-minute black-and-white glimpse into an everyday situation that feels like an eternity for a woman who is walking to her car after a late-night shift.
In April, the film won Best Film and Best Editing awards in Arrow Films’ The Stylist Short Cuts Competition, which promotes female filmmakers in the horror genre.
Arrow Films is a leading independent film company specializing in distributing “world cinema,” cult, art, classic and horror films.
Sandheinrich, a 2017 Waterloo High School graduate, said her love for film began when she was a teenager. She and her friends would watch “four to five movies a week” at the local theater during summer break.
She also gave credit to her uncle, Gregg Sandheinrich, who currently works in the film industry in Los Angeles, as part of her inspiration to pursue a career in filmmaking.
Her love for cinema led her to attend the University of Kansas Department of Film and Media Studies, where she graduated in December 2020.
“My favorite genre is horror and thriller,” Sandheinrich said, so making a short film in the genre was a natural choice.
She explained the idea for the film came from conversations she has had with male friends about why females generally accompany each other to public restrooms or why women typically don’t go for runs at night.
The premise led to the creation of her film during COVID “quarantine” in 2020.
She said that effective horror films portray “obvious things” and situations with a perspective that elicits a response from the audience.
“These are things (women) think about all the time,” Sandheinrich continued. “Being able to show that to people who don’t have that experience… is very rewarding.”
The film contest judges agreed Sandheinrich’s film about a short walk to a car captured the woman’s emotions and was powerful enough to earn her the top prize when winners were announced April 15.
In addition to work on independent films, Sandheinrich currently works as a coordinator and post-production contributor for RW2 Productions, a Kansas City studio that specializes in advertisements and creative projects.
As a coordinator, it is her job to make sure the “day of (filming) goes smoothly,” she said, adding she facilitates “communication between all parties “ involved in a project from on-set assistance for a project director and behind-the-scenes work with the company’s clients.
“It’s cool to see a production from start to finish,” Sandheinrich concluded.
She currently has a film in pre-production. It is another collaboration with Nathan Shapiro, who collaborated with Sandheinrich in editing “Unsafe Spaces.”
She explained that she works with Indiegogo, a “crowdfunding” network of independent filmmakers, to find financing for future campaigns.
“Unsafe Spaces” began streaming on Arrowfilms.com on June 7. To watch Sandheinrich’s award-winning film, click here.