Jessalyn Abbott

Jessalyn Abbott, 25, is a Yardville native and 2010 graduate of Steinert High School. Five years ago, she and director Rob Mockler set out to make an independent film, Like Me. They started from scratch, first filming a trailer and raising money through crowdfunding platform Indiegogo.

Like Me tells the story of Kiya who, after posting a video of herself robbing a convenience store, gains a massive social media following—but she still seeks genuine human connections. The film follows her travels and encounters with a drifter, an internet troll and a paint-huffing outsider. The film is set to premiere March 15 at the South by Southwest film festival in Austin, Texas.

Abbott’s first-hand account of filming Like Me is below.

It’s almost impossible to fully explain how much goes into making an independent film. “Like Me” has been my life for the past five years, and is a project that is a piece of me.

The director, Robert Mockler, started this project as a short film, and we created an Indiegogo page with a mock trailer. Quickly, it became clear that a lot of people were really interested in the concept, and we moved to Brooklyn to pursue the idea as a feature length film.

After Rob perfected the script and budget, we hustled to raise the financing. What an emotional rollercoaster! This takes an unforeseeable amount of time, especially for people who have never done anything like it before.

Casting and location scouting were some of my favorite parts of making the film. We spent months searching and locking down places for our scenes. The film is very otherworldly, and we needed actors who could live in that world and locations that really sold the correct vibe. I couldn’t be happier with the outcome!

We went into production on the film with a very small crew in December 2015. We had 17 days to film the entire movie, and lived off of 3-4 hours of sleep, coffee, and adrenaline. We all stayed in a house sprawled over the floors and sofas, wearing the same clothes multiple days in a row.

I returned to Hamilton for Christmas completely drained of energy. I was smelly and in a fog. I felt like I had just been a part of something really special, and I couldn’t wait to gain back enough drive to start editing.

We had hours of footage to review. It was like looking at puzzle pieces knowing only a quarter of them will actually fit into the puzzle—a puzzle that doesn’t come with a reference image.

Rob and I spent about a year cutting together the film. I really learned the value of a can of Monster and how to trust my gut. It’s nerve-racking hoping that your sensibilities are of interest to an audience. We knew we loved the film, but when you’re locked in a room with the same images for months on end it’s easy fear that you’re losing context.

When Rob received the call from SXSW inviting us to premiere at their festival, I lost my mind. It had been a pipe-dream of ours since a half a decade ago. We are just so incredibly excited! We couldn’t have done it without all of our collaborators that have been unbelievably stellar.

Keep an eye out for the trailer of Like Me coming out soon. We hope to see you in the theaters!