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Guamanian filmmaker releases Christmas movie



By Johanna Salinas


‘Tis the cozy season for holiday romance films. Watching movies about finding true, everlasting love amid snow and soft lights is a tradition for many families this time of year.


Guam-born director Steven Lefever threw himself into the mix with his new holiday short “A Digital Christmas Love Story.”


“I’ve been able to be a part of a production for PRONEWS Global. They hired me as a director for a Christmas short film, ‘A Digital Christmas Love Story,” Lefever said as he drank his dark espresso in a private room of Coffee Valley in Ikebukuro.


Steven LeFever

“My buddy Zach Smolnick works with PRONEWS Global. They review camera equipment. Zach does a lot of presentations for them. He’s also a director and writer. He asked me if I wanted to collab on this. They approved a budget to make it happen. He asked if I could shoot, direct, and edit it.”


For the writer-director, “A Digital Christmas Love Story” is his first time being approached to direct someone else’s project.


“This is my first time directing something I didn’t write,” said the director. “Zach wrote it. He produced it along with Bryant Cardwell, who also works for PRONEWS. I’m really happy with how it turned out and I hope people appreciate it.” 


As a cinephile, of course, Lefever is heavily inspired by the great masters, yet he also looks to his own experience as an actor when he directs other actors.


“There are so many ways to direct. Personally, there are a lot of directors I like—Quentin Tarantino, Alejandro Iñárritu, David Fincher, Richard Linklater, Alfonso Cuaron,” he said. “For me as a director, I studied Interpersonal Communications at Cal State Long Beach. I feel communicating as well as hosting is the best skill to be a good director. It’s like being a host and knowing enough to communicate with the talent. I come from an acting and sound editing background. I know how to record good sound and how to direct actors.


A lot of these directors I see are more focused on the light, the camera, the frame, but they hardly give good direction to actors. I started as an actor, so I know how to talk to actors. I know how to coach an actor. These two actors in the short film this is their first time acting. You tell me if you notice it’s their first time acting.”

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The actors Oliver Paz Rosero and Ekaterina Nazarenko make for a delightful on-screen couple. Oliver’s warm eyes for Ekaterina’s giddy smile make them appear to be a genuine pair. When creating a true connection between the lovers, Lefever tries to find what makes his actors glow.


“Directing about communicating what you like and what the actors can bring to the table,” he said. “The best thing is when I know I did a good job. Everyone is laughing and having a good time, but we’re all on the ball. I don’t like tyrant directors. I’ve dealt with directors who just shush up the whole set, like we

couldn’t even laugh on the side. It really kills the mood when that happens and we can’t let loose."


"A lot of these directors I see are more focused on the light, the camera, the frame, but they hardly give good direction to actors. I started as an actor, so I know how to talk to actors. I know how to coach an actor. These two actors in the short film this is their first time acting. You tell me if you notice it’s their first time acting," he added.


Lefever is proud of all the projects he has created and looks forward to learning more to hone his craft as a filmmaker.


“I feel super confident in directing the set and being the leader,” said the director. “My only thing I need to work on is creating pitch decks and mood boards and presenting with clients. There’s a couple of people I want to contact about helping me with pitch decks and mood boards. That’s something I need to grow and learn if I want to get my foot in the door."


LeFever has been directing YouTube videos for almost 10 years.


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“A Digital Christmas Love Story” premiered on Dec. 2 and was officially released on Christmas Day. When scouting locations in Tokyo, Lefever chose Omotesando for its holiday atmosphere.


“It’s beautiful in Omotesando.  All the trees are decked out in Christmas lights,” said the director. “Cosplay is such a big thing here. Some girls had Christmas tree hats walking around. There was a woman with her pit bull in a Santa costume with lights. This other woman had two little rabbits that were decked out."


Dressing cosplay-style is big in Tokyo and no one passes judgment. "In Guam, if you try to do something different or new, people ask you why. In Japan, you could see 80-year-olds dye their hair bright colors," LeFever said.


Though he is away from the Christmas of his childhood, LeFever enjoys making new memories with his wife and sons in Tokyo.


LeFever grew up in Nimitz Hill, which is famous for Christmas decorations.


“There was one cul de sac that was decked out. Like, right when you get into Nimitz Hill Estates, the first cul de sac to the right was always like lasers when you go back. It’s like the neighbors banded together to create a community of beautiful Christamas- themed houses,: he said.


"In Japan, where I live we’re the only ones with a reef on our door. No one else has that in our neighborhood. Here they don’t really use a lot of Christmas lights. It’s not decorated hardcore. The Jesus aspect of Christmas isn’t here. It’s all Santa and consumerism. But it’s pretty similar to Guam that presents are put out on Christmas Eve and the kids open their presents," LeFever said.


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While his current focus is working behind the camera, Lefever’s original dream had been to be an actor. Though he is still passionate about his acting, he finds greater fulfillment as a director and sound recorder.


“Acting is a bit too much,” Lefever said. “I just auditioned for a Warner Brothers movie and you put so much into the process, creating a video and editing it and sending it. Today I found out I didn’t get it. It's disheartening to put so much effort. These days I don’t put so much effort into acting because submitting all these materials to usually get rejected isn’t fun. I’ve put so much effort and I’ve been rejected so many times applying for acting jobs.”


Besides acting, Lefever has done camera work for NBC anchor Tom Llamas during the Tokyo Olympics and has recently done voice work for Netflix’s “Gundam Wing: Requiem for Vengeance”. He is also making a name for himself doing sound work.


“I went the route into sound recording,” he said.” I’ve had so much success as a sound recordist. People are starting to know me as this and they want to work with me. My true love is in directing. I started trying to create more on my own and I have a music video coming up with American rappers living in Japan. It’s called ‘Fallback’. We’re going to release that next year.”


 As a man of meditation and philosophy, Lefever is positive about what the universe has planned for him and his creativity.


“I’m constantly working on different projects,” he said as he finished the last of his espresso and bit into a Christmas donut. Besides working on films and being a family man, Lefever also has a children’s book coming out in April 2024 titled Tåsi, Tåno, and Pulan.


“So I gotta manifest. Make it happen. So clients know who I am. For now I want to build a body of work to get there.  I just shot something with my buddy Jason Triplett. I have another short film I really want to make called ‘Jesus is My Homeboy,’ which I’m really excited about because my buddy read it and said, ‘There hasn’t been this good a dialogue since pulp fiction.’ That is his words. That got me really juiced to make this five-minute short film.




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