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Melanie McGraw and Nicola Marsh frame the shot DIRECTOR'S STATEMENT

At its core, this film is about defining yourself in the midst of family.

I am the second oldest in a family of 10 children, and the second oldest of 36 grandchildren in a very tight-knit extended family. Growing up, we spent many summers driving across country to visit family or move to another home upon being relocated by the Navy. Growing up in such a large family, it is easy to get lost in the shuffle and as a result, it is sometimes difficult to not feel invisible and insignificant.

When my little brother was five years old my family accidentally left him in Mount Vernon, Virginia. No one even realized he wasn't in the car until two hours later when we pulled into the driveway of our home in Hyattsville, Maryland. That was the year we started the system of "counting off" every time we got in the car.

About two years ago a picture entered my head that essentially became the opening of Pitstop, all the way up until the moment when Maggie races out of the bathroom only to see the station wagon vanish in the horizon. But that was all I had: a great opening. I didn't know where to go from there. All I knew was the feeling inside of that forgotten little girl as she watched her family disappear. I was full of questions: do they come back right away? What if they don't come back? Is there something she can do besides passively wait for them to return?

Those answers didn't come easily. I realized that in order to make this film, I'd have to re-enter that old world of feeling forgotten. I'd have to once again (or perhaps for the first time) find my voice. And so I returned to the desert of my youth -- something that was -- on one hand frighteningly empty, and on the other hand, full of unknown possibilities.

What I found instead of isolation and loneliness was my family and friends beside me, buoying me up, cheering me on, encouraging me to snap the picture.


And there you have it...Pitstop.

I dedicate this film to my perfectly imperfect family who I love with all my heart. I couldn't have picked a better group of people to travel through life with.



"Coif" is one of Melanie's first films created at the University of Southern California. With a 6-minute total running time, it was shot on 16mm B&W with no production sound (all of the sound was built in post-production). "Coif" is available in its entirety online at MTV's Logo Online.

CLICK HERE to watch "Coif."