What started from raw footage shot from a SONY camera would soon develop into the fulfilment of a lifelong passion shared by many, yet achieved by few.
Reagan Yorke and Jillian Nicole Smith are no strangers to the illustrious world of film and entertainment: both of whom are also pursuing careers as full-time content creators on social media and have over 8 million followers combined. Now, the two 20-somethings are running their own independent production company and making award-winning short films. Our exclusive interview shares insight into the world of filmmaking, and two young women are aspiring to make a name for themselves in one of the most elusive industries in the world.
What is S&Q Film?
Reagan and Jillian tell me they first met through a mutual friend, but their personal and creative connection developed almost instantly. The two spent time together on the sandy dunes of Malibu coast and, armed with nothing but a basic SONY camera, began shooting by the beach for fun.
The results were captured in S&Q mode — also known as slow and quick, which is a function that shoots footage at a rate of 1 to 60 frames per second. It ultimately creates a time-lapse and slow motion effect, and was the origin of Reagan and Jillian's company name.
“We didn’t know what it meant until our Director of Photography Orion told us that it stands for slow and quick.” Reagan informed me.
“We were kinda like, ‘wait, what if we just call ourselves it.’” Jillian laughed. And so S&Q Film was quickly born, in a way that fortuitously pays homage to the original meaning of S&Q.
For Reagan and Jillian, filmmaking has always been a passion and the mutual decision to start making their own productions was an easy one. “It feels like a childhood dream come true.” Reagan confessed, describing how unreal it feels now that it’s become a reality.
The Creative Process
Now good friends, Reagan and Jillian are in tune with each other throughout the whole creative process. They are synced in a way that allows for production to flow smoothly, speaking to each other in a manner that’s incomprehensible to anyone else: even their own parents, they joke.
“We literally have the same brain,” Reagan said, “Sometimes when we’re editing, there are things we disagree on but we just talk through the process and it just always works.”
“Our shot list was like an actual language.” Jillian added, a testament to the solid relationship between the two.
Photo by Moises Uriarte
The inspiration for Reagan and Jillian’s work is usually derived from content of other creators on social media or personal life experiences. The two also invoke Director Greta Gerwig as one of primary figures of inspiration behind their work, describing Gerwig and her summer blockbuster Barbie as a “good representation of women in film.”
Before trying their hand at short-films, Reagan and Jillian primarily made their own cinematic TikToks that experimented with camera work and composition. S&Q Film consisted of just the two of them as directors, actors, editors and everything in between but their team would soon expand in coming months.
Reagan and Jillian’s first production was inspired by a water tank. They envisioned a transition in which an actress falls backward from the driver’s seat of her car into a body of water, seamlessly cutting two separate shots into one. The first-time directors ambitiously elected to rent a water tank to record footage to achieve the effect. The short-film in which that transition was incorporated, entitled Weight, was submitted as part of a filmmaking contest where entrants had 2 weeks to make their own film.
They did it in only 48 hours, winning Gold for Best Experimental Short from the Independent Film Awards among other awards.
“That was our first time ever directing anything.” Reagan explains, “We basically drove [our two lead actresses] to the middle of the desert.”
The desert Reagan refers to was an exterior set featured in Weight after location scouting for the perfect place to shoot their film and bring the world they envisioned to life. The two cultivate fleshed-out plots and stories around a fragment of an idea, transforming concepts into longlines and scripts.
They then focus on designing visuals by curating a plethora of mood boards and color palettes, inspired from the themes of A24 films. Next, they brainstorm shot design together: a process that tends to bleed into the production process as inspiration continues strikes unexpectedly.
“[Our style] is a huge emphasis on visuals and transitions. We’re very abstract and out of the box.”
Any viewer can observe that emphasis in Weight: the camera spins and swirls fluidly to immerse the viewers, high-key lighting drowns scenes in polarizing hues of red and blue, and bubbles aggregate from the frustrated screams of lead actress Megan Cavasar as she is submerged underwater.
After the success of Weight, Reagan and Jillian — still engaged in perpetual creative momentum — immediately got to work planning another production.
“We’re going deeper into the story aspect for our next project.” Jillian said.
“Our writing sessions were literally like therapy for us.” Reagan explained, alluding to some kind of catharsis when translating their feelings into words and metaphors. “We’re pulling from personal experiences to impact people and make them feel. It’s so fun to play with emotions and visuals.”
According to posts on both of their LinkedIn feeds, their latest short-film intends to “[explore] topics of alter egos and the inner battles that go along with it. These themes really excite us as they give the opportunity to explore trippy visual effects and unique perspectives.”
Behind the Scenes
Reagan and Jillian were previously connected to the industry in some capacity, which adds a unique angle elevating the post and pre-production process. Jillian is a professionally trained actor, currently working for Nickelodeon as a host for their program Nick News.
“I’ve been acting for 10 years,” Jillian told me, “[It was] one of my main goals. But doing social media transitions and editing drew me more to the process.”
Jillian's TikTok account, @jilliannicolesmith, went viral in 2020 for her elaborate transitions and optical illusions in between clips. Her background with makeup and special effects contributes to visual aesthetics featured in S&Q's filmmaking style.
Similarly, Reagan studied film at California State University, Long Beach and formerly interned at Paramount Pictures, where she has the opportunity to attend red-carpet premieres and interview celebrities. Although she acknowledges the importance of traditional education, she emphasizes how real experiences in the field have significantly contributed to her work.
“It’s more than looking at a textbook and pictures, it's being there and actually picking up sandbags and figuring out lenses…it’s learning from being there in the presence.”
With combined experiences behind and in front of the camera, Jillian and Reagan are able to communicate their conceptualizations more effectively to the cast members — especially during more emotional scenes to create authenticity.
Photo by Moises Uriarte
When I asked what their favorite parts of the filmmaking were, Jillian and Reagan unanimously agreed that they loved every stage of the process. However, they both particularly enjoyed physically being on set and interacting with the rest of their team face-to-face. “All those people were there for our vision.”
“We’re independent and self-funded,” Reagan said, describing how everything behind their productions comes from their own pockets, “It’s like we’re investing in ourselves. We’d love to partner and pitch to big studios one day.”
“We did all our casting ourselves, it was a lot of work,” Jillian told me, “Everything from writing to producing, every single step was us.”
They told me about running around Target on last-minute shopping trips, loading their car full with food and drinks for craft services. They've even catered massive orders of Chipotle and Jersey Mikes for their cast and crew.
“So much time was spent making sure everyone was happy and fed.” Reagan told me. From their perspective, all the resources they put into S&Q Film influence the quality of work produced.
It’s clear that Reagan and Jillian are both deeply invested in the well-being of their team and the community they’ve created: a community they plan on giving back to. In fact, they plan on hosting Zoom calls to give advice to aspiring young filmmakers soon and distributing their own informative newsletter.
They are even recruiting people to collaborate with on upcoming projects and are completely open to working with beginners. Anyone interested in any aspect the creative process, regardless of experience level, is welcome to apply to join S&Q Film.
“We want people to learn, so we’ll ask them what they’re interested in,” Reagan explained. “There will be people with more experience teaching others on-set. So many people are just willing to help.”
The Future of S&Q Film
Public reception to S&Q Film has been exceedingly positive thus far. Male directors have historically spearheaded the industry, while women in film are often disregarded. However, the general response to film-related content Reagan and Jillian share on social media has been encouraging— the majority of which came from other women hoping to see more representation.
Commenters on social media describe feeling inspired by Reagan and Jillian to pursue filmmaking themselves or get involved with S&Q with their own talents. After their debut short-film Weight was released on YouTube, viewers immediately began remarking on their innovative cinematography and compelling story-telling.
“It’s honestly been the opposite of negativity.” Jillian admitted. “People in our comments have never really seen women doing behind the scenes work on films…We’re hearing so many voices of women.”
Photo by Moises Uriarte
Throughout our conversation, Reagan and Jillian repeatedly refer to energy. Dozens of passionate people coming together to create and support each other naturally generates a lively, dynamic atmosphere on set. Even their responses to my questions pulsate with intense enthusiasm for the craft.
In the future, Reagan and Jillian told me they still aspire to direct and produce their own films. “We would do this every day for the rest of our lives. We want to make it a big production company, making feature films in theaters and collaborating with awesome actors.”
To those currently interested in acting or filmmaking but are hesitant about how to begin, Reagan and Jillian simply encourage readers to “go for it.” Everyone has to start somewhere, but not without embracing risks and finally breaking out of your comfort zone. All the caffeine-fueled late nights and sleepless early mornings, every sacrifice made along the way was worth it to watch their once intangible dreams and visions manifest into reality.
“Throw yourself into the fire.” Jillian exclaims, “Don’t overthink, just go for it. It will be the most rewarding thing.”
What is your all-time favorite film?
Reagan: The Truman Show.
Who is an actor you would love to work with one day?
Reagan: Jennifer Lawrence. I feel like we’re all kinda out there and crazy, her energy would be really cool.
Jillian: Miles Teller.
Who would you cast to play yourself in a movie?
Reagan and Jillian: Jennifer Lawrence. (Yes — two Jennifer's Lawrences, one of whom is a clone of the other)
Favorite movie soundtrack?
Reagan: This is definitely [Jillian's] question.
Jillian: Hans Zimmer. He did Interstellar. And Justin Hurwitz, who did La La Land and Whiplash.
In another universe, what would your job be?
Reagan: I feel like [Jillian] would have a really niche job.
Jillian: Probably a geologist or skydiving instructor.
Reagan: Just tanning on the beach somewhere.
To keep up with S&Q Film and their future projects, be sure to follow them on social media at @sqfilm on TikTok and @sq_film on Instagram. You can also watch Reagan and Jillian's directorial debut, Weight, on YouTube.