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MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

 
  • 08 Aug 2020 2:30 PM | WIFVNE Team (Administrator)

    This Member Spotlight interview was conducted by Rosemary Owens. Rosemary Owen is a non-profit administrative professional with a passion for film and the visual arts. Along with five years of experience in fundraising, event planning, and cultivating community relationships, Rosemary has recently received a graduate degree in Arts Administration from Boston University. She is looking to bring her expertise to nonprofit arts and culture organizations needing assistance in development and communications.

    Margot Zalkind, long-time WIFVNE-member and Jane-of-all-trades, has worked in Philadelphia, New York, Connecticut, Boston, Vermont, New York again (working for Trump Real Estate!) Washington DC, Northampton, MA and now Vermont again. Her jobs have included:  Photographer’s representative, Ad agency Art Director, TV producer, Creative director, Documentary filmmaker, Marketing director, Art School assistant professor, Publisher, Executive Producer, and Film Trade School co-director.

    As she says, "Life can turn on a dime, and either we complain or adjust or both," which is certainly a great thing to keep in mind as we all navigate these challenging times. 


    Meet WIFVNE Member Margot Zalkind!

    How did you get started?
    I have “gotten started” about ten times, each time leading to another start. But I was lucky, nimble, and inquisitive. I studied many genres as an undergraduate in art school:  film, photography, welding, printmaking, typography, book design, drawing, and sculpture. These have been my underpinnings.

    Few of us have a clear path when we are 18, though we are sure we do. I began as a self-confident sculpture student, then discovered I had to earn a living. Blessedly, an advertising career presented itself after grad school. How? A friend from school became Art Director at Harper’s Bazaar, and helped me become a photographer’s rep. I cold-called, showed portfolios to hundreds of art buyers and art directors. Although petrified, 23, and shy, I got better at it, and met many art directors.

    I took a class at School of Visual Arts in “How to create television commercials.” I LOVED it. This led to a job as an assistant Art Director at Young and Rubicam. NY advertising agencies in the 70s were creative and supportive and about as juicy a job as one could want. I embraced deadlines. Parameters were my comfort zone. I created concepts for tv spots. (In those days it was usually :60 sometimes :30). Presented storyboards, met with clients, got bids, created budgets, oversaw locations, held casting sessions, worked on editing, post production. 

    I worked on short documentaries for The Peace Corps, was assistant producer and then producer on more than 40 commercials, shot in the Bahamas, in NY, and California; I worked on Showtime, Jello, General Foods, and Met Life, Johnson & Johnson and cars and dog food and even candy. I started to teach at School of Visual Arts and at Cooper Union. I loved teaching, thrilled that I helped launch some amazing careers – illustrators, camera-men and women, political cartoonists, even car designers. 

    What do you love about the work you do?
    I love solving problems. Creatively.  I ask: What is unique about whatever I am working on?  And I love learning something new—whether it be publishing or computer programs. Or editing equipment, which has changed so dramatically from film strips and razor blades to computer. 

    What was it like, being a woman in your career?
    When I started, I was trusting and ignorant. I now look back on how I was treated in the advertising industry and I am horrified. I was sexually harassed, under-supported. Underpaid. When I learned the amount of salary and bonus of my far-less-experienced (male) partner, I was aghast. His was more than six times mine. Such behavior wasn’t always a given, but often enough. 

    In my twenties, I mistook the attention of agency men for professional attention. Some was, some was just drooling lust. In an agency of more than 100 creatives, I was one of three women-- I took pride in this, but it was also an isolated position. And vulnerable.  

    I learned to never cry where anyone could see me. If I was lambasted, I excused myself and cried in the ladies’ room. Weakness was seen as a lack of dependability, and threatened to take you out of the game. 

    What has been your experience working with Action! VT Film Institute?
    How this started: We have developed a tv series based on my partner’s 32 mysteries, all set in Vermont. We have an agreement with a production company to produce the series, which is exciting, and I was asked to explore Vermont tax incentives and what the Film Commission was doing. They want to shoot here. I immersed myself in the VT film industry (and its history).

    To help understand the climate and get support for the production of the series, I met with the Governor, filmmakers and legislators, to get support. We gathered a group of professionals across the state to try and revitalize the now defunct VT Film Commission. I was then asked by legislators and college educators to create a film trade school, training professionals for below-the-line jobs. 

    But, locating internships and jobs has been a struggle. There are so few opportunities in Vermont that the end result of this education meant leaving the state, to go to states that do have strong tax incentives, like MA, NY, Georgia, which went counter to what Vermont wanted. 

    Do you have a mentor?
    At various times in my career, I have. Creative Directors who supported my going out on a creative limb. Colleagues who have enlightened, instructed, and shored me up at down times. Often though, back then, women did not always help women. (Ms. Magazine had a cover years ago, showing women trying to climb a ladder, and a woman at the top is stepping on their hands.)

    What can you tell us about your current projects? 
    I am a marketing director, a publisher, and continuing to develop the film trade school. 

    I will be an Executive Producer of the TV series if this virus lets us all resume life. 

    I am completing a book. Looking at how our upbringing can determine how much moxie we have. If we are insecure, told we are not good enough, does that push us more? Or, does it push us, cowering, into a corner? 

    Were you told or did you learn a piece of wisdom or advice you now tell others in the beginning of their career? 
    What I learned:  As a woman, Try to walk the tricky tightrope of nice vs. strong minded. Pick your battles, stand your ground. But don’t be stupid. Is it really important to you? And do you want to alienate your client? You may be disliked, which I find really difficult, but don’t be a pushover. 

    Also: If there isn’t a job , create one. Freelance, teach, start something from scratch. 

    What are some things you wish could change/would help if more women were in the industry?
    Women can help other women know they are equal. Or better.  But, to categorize all women is a mistake. Some will be kind and help those climbing up, others may not be. I have had many men be helpful, teach me. And many women treat me badly. 

    Why are you a member of WIFVNE?
    I have been a member of WIFVNE on and off for more than 30 years. Originally when I created a documentary, I was helped with fundraising, understanding fiscal sponsorship, story-telling. 

    Background: Years ago, I created a short documentary on an 85 year old Philadelphia woman who opened doors for women to row and compete. She was spunky, engaging. A terrific cameraman worked with me, we shot in three days. I directed, co-edited, and did off-camera interviewing. 

    I joined WIFVNE and Women Make Movies. Got fiscal sponsorship, attended fund raising workshops, and learned so much. The organization is a terrific resource. I have turned to WIFVNE recently on behalf of my granddaughter who is a film student, she needed a job and guidance, and WIFVNE came through, yet again. 

    How can WIFVNE support filmmakers in New England?
    More regional events, when possible. And, knowledge on what states are doing. Can we lobby Vermont as a group, to help more? Address the older members: what can we do? 

  • 08 Aug 2020 2:00 PM | WIFVNE Team (Administrator)

    This Member Spotlight interview was conducted by Rosemary Owens. Rosemary Owen is a non-profit administrative professional with a passion for film and the visual arts. Along with five years of experience in fundraising, event planning, and cultivating community relationships, Rosemary has recently received a graduate degree in Arts Administration from Boston University. She is looking to bring her expertise to nonprofit arts and culture organizations needing assistance in development and communications.

    Kate Eppers is a multi-talented actor, singer, and songwriter from Salem, MA. From her early days acting in the Ig Nobel Awards, Kate has performed in many independent films, music videos, shorts, and more. She has also composed music for several independent films and web series. Kate most recently released a music video for “The Wishing Well,” the music video accompanying her album of the same name. 

    You can check out Kate’s website here, and check out her music video for “The Wishing Well” on YouTube

    Meet WIFVNE Member Kate Eppers! 
     

    How did you get started?  
    I began performance in theater at a very young age at a comedy science show at Harvard and MIT (The Ig Nobel Awards) when I was eight. Of course I was also doing school plays and writing my own. As soon as I got a taste I knew I loved it. 
     
    What do you love about the work that you do? 
    It’s an amazing creative outlet, and I love creating and collaborating with others. Whether it’s music, theater, or film, it’s the people you meet along the way that make it magical.  

    You've acted in music videos, web-series, period feature films, and more locally.  What do you enjoy about acting in the New England region? What projects do you seek out? 
    Although I live out of state now, I grew up in Salem, Massachusetts and truly enjoy using film to showcase the beauty of our region. There is such a wonderful community of actors and musicians and I am so thankful for the opportunities that I found and fell into. 

    You also write and perform music. Can you tell us more about your music, especially that new music video that dropped on 1/1/2020?
    I wrote my first album quickly but spent years recording it as it was self-funded. As an independent musician it’s wonderful to have creative control, but it’s also great to work with others who provide amazing ideas you may not have thought of for your art. I wished to create music videos during the writing process, and I now have a total of three for this album. The music I write is largely theatrical thus it’s only natural that a short film (aka music video) was to be created to truly showcase the message and visual aesthetic I’m hoping to present with the music. 

    My latest video came out in January, and it’s the title track from the album entitled “The Wishing Well.” I saved the best for last as this is my favorite song on the album. I wanted this music video to be full whimsy and magic like the song. It came out lovely and starred local independent actors, and local independent film crews in Melrose and Newburyport filmed it. 

    How does writing your own music compare with the process of composing for a film?
    It’s similar because music is the soundtrack to your own life, some would say. The music for this album in particular was the soundtrack to my world as it unfolded during the summer I wrote it. It’s a timestamp of everything I was going through and feeling; emotions melted into piano chords and melodies along with progressively materializing lyrics, making it the musical embodiment of my real life emotions and experiences. 

    What has your experience as a woman in the industry been like?  
    It’s been a wonderful experience and of course there are always safety concerns that we have to consider that men may not have to. It’s a wonderful community and I’ve had nothing but positive encounters most of the time. But it’s important to always be aware, ask questions and do your homework before getting involved in projects. From my own experiences I have found the film community of New England to be very welcoming and female friendly. 

     


    “Staring Down a Barrel” (Sanford Film Festival, Script to Screen Winner) Stills (Actor)


    Were you told or did you learn a piece of wisdom or advice you now tell others in the beginning of their career?
    It’s OK to say no and don’t feel you have to take every opportunity that comes to you. At the same time it’s good to start out doing small things, volunteering, being an extra in films. This is a wonderful way to get involved and get familiar with your community, and to make friends and connections. Making new connections and becoming involved in projects will not only lead to wonderful friendships, it could also put you on the path to your next amazing opportunity. 

    What are some things you wish could change/would help if more women were in the industry? 
    I would love to see the numbers of female screenwriters and directors grow, and in reality it’s happening! Some of the most amazing projects I’ve been involved with were female led. I know this will continue and women in leadership roles in film will continue to grow and flourish. 

    Why are you a member of WIFVNE?
    I was so happy to have recently joined WIFVNE.  Being part of a female led community of filmmakers, writers, actors etc. can only be beneficial. Women working together, supporting one another’s endeavors, mentoring, performing various community outreach projects, etc., will continue to make the community of women in film and video stronger.
     


  • 28 Sep 2019 8:00 AM | WIFVNE Team (Administrator)

    Rosi Amador is a native Spanish/English voiceover actor with no accent whatsoever in either language. She was raised both in Puerto Rico and the U.S.mainland, bicultural and equally comfortable in both worlds.  She is part of the family business, Amador Bilingual Voiceovers, and family Latin band Sol y Canto. Meet her Latino Bilingual Voiceover Family in this 70-second animated video, “MEET THE AMADORS”. Rosi won the 2018 SOVAS award in the category of Outstanding Commercial Demo Reel; the Society of Voice Arts and Sciences’ Voice Arts® Awards have been described as the Oscars of voice acting.

    Rosi will be attending WIFVNE’s Annual Meeting at WGBH on October 2, ready to connect with fellow members.  So register now! To learn more about Amador Bilingual Voiceovers, visit the website at https://amadorbilingualvoiceovers.com/.


    How did you get started?  
    I started recording an educational narration project back in the mid 90’s, by invitation from a fan of our Latin band who asked me to sing and narrate grammar lessons bilingually for her series called “Global Child”. Many years later when I found it challenging to tour with my pre-teen twins, I made a conscious commitment to pursue a bilingual voiceover career so I could tour less and be with my family. In  2010, my husband, Brian Amador  and  formally launched Amador Bilingual Voiceovers, which today includes  our 23-year-old daughter Alisa.

    What can you tell us about Amador Bilingual Voiceovers?  
    Very much like our Latin band Sol y Canto, Amador Bilingual Voiceovers is a way for me to use my voice to build cross-cultural bridges. My family and I record in both our native, accent-free English and Spanish from our professional private studio in Cambridge. We help global media producers, filmmakers and nonprofits who are creating media in both English and Spanish that shines a light on multicultural issues, diversity, inclusion, and many other educational topics as well as providing voiceovers  to announce products and services. Our voices inform, inspire, educate and entertain.

    We record narrations and commercials about or for Latinos and North American listeners and viewers alike from travel narrations, to corporate videos, children’s audiobooks, and health and wellness/medical narration to TV and radio ads. Our clients include the Smithsonian, NASA, PBS, L’Oreal, Expedia Travel, Mattress Firm (I am their Spanish TV and radio voice!), The National Fire Protection Association, the ACLU, the American Cancer Society, museum audio for Northern Light, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (I’m the voice of their telephone system) to, most recently, the FEMA emergency preparedness campaign bilingual PSA’s for Ready.gov. and MA Department of Health PSA’s for MORE Advertising, one of my earliest and favorite clients.

    What do you love about the work that you do?  
    I love the variety! It’s never boring. On any given day I might deliver a few Hispanic-accented English character voices for an educational game app, an overdub of a NASA video, commercials in Spanish for McDonald’s, narrating children’s books for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt or a children’s book publisher to a political ad, a bilingual public service announcement to prepare your family for natural disasters or to disseminate important medical messages for the American Cancer Society.  Voice acting is so much fun! I get to play so many characters from doctors and patients to disgruntled employees and moms trying to get their kid to act responsibly. I also love the generous community of voice actors that I belong to and feel so comfortable navigating. I participate or have created several online and  in-person voiceover support groups. I never feel alone despite working in a studio most of the time. Thirdly, I love voicing for causes I believe in from human rights and social justice to access to medical care, and of course, issues that impact the Latino community. Anytime we can use our voices to help others we’re especially happy, in feeling that we’re making a difference.

    Why should someone use a voiceover artist, and not just record something themselves?  
    This is a common question and many people and many people think that what we do is easy. But it’s not! A  pro voice talent must be a skilled actor as well as being able to deliver high quality sound files. A seasoned voiceover actor understands the need to be  a flexible actor capable of offering  a variety of reads depending on the subject matter, the intended audience, the length of the spot, the intention of the script writer, or what might drive the listener  to act, buy, listen, reflect, or do or feel something new. I have found that while I had natural talent when I went into VO full-time, I’ve had to study with a number of voiceover and acting coaches to improve my chops so that I can be ready to record just about any type of script for any client. You also have to figure out what you’re good at and what you’re not. Sounding “real” or “natural, conversational” is the trend these days, particularly in advertising, but frequently in educational, industrial and corporate narration as well. It’s not as easy as one might think when the copy is written in a style that doesn’t organically sound that way. You have to make it your own by injecting your personality into it, while finding the balance with what the client intends.

    What has your experience as a woman in the industry been like?  
    I have had nothing but positive experiences as a female voice actor in my industry. I’ve always been treated with respect and consideration and have been very fortunate to have had next to no disrespectful incidents beyond occasionally haggling with a low-paying client who doesn’t appreciate the investment of time and education that it takes to be a skilled voiceover talent. I particularly enjoy working with women producers with a strong vision, which unfortunately doesn’t happen all that often in the advertising world, but much more in the nonprofit and educational and documentary realm.

    What do you enjoy about recording audiobooks?
    I only record children’s audiobooks since I’m fortunately too busy to do adult audio books. I adore them! I get to do character voices and use my most sing-songy children’s narration voices. My voice is naturally melodious and even when I try to sound authoritative it’s challenging to tone myself down, so you can imagine how much fun I have letting myself go when I do children’s audiobooks! I’ve played an iguana, a mom, a grand mom and so many fun characters. Plus, my husband Brian is a composer for both adult and children’s projects and I occasionally get to sing for some of the audiobooks, for example in Barefoot Book’s “Wheels on the Bus” set in Guatemala, which we recorded (sang) in both English and Spanish. Or for Live Oak Media, the publisher that has used us for countless books, I got to sing in a wonderful book called “Esquivel: Space Age Sound Artist” where I got to sing snippets of famous Mexican songs.

    Do you have a mentor?
    I have had several mentors, all of whom had more extensive experience in the field of voiceover and were generous enough to guide me when I had so many questions about how to move ahead in my VO career. One of my earliest mentors was a gentleman who is the web master of the invaluable resource, www.voiceoverxtra.com He took the time to connect me to other bilingual seasoned pros and recommended I attend a voiceover conference that changed my career dramatically, leading me to find agents and resources it may have taken me years to find on my own. Currently some of my mentors are my coaches who are helping me to grow and learn as a voice actor all the time. Mary Lynn Wissner of Voices VoiceCasting has been casting voices in LA for decades and is an excellent VO coach to pros. She’s been kind enough to mentor me as well.

    Were you told or did you learn a piece of wisdom or advice you now tell others in the beginning of their career?
    Be reliable, consistent, and keep growing! Study, be curious, be willing to stretch beyond your comfort zone, take risks, and be kind. This is very important. There is enough work for everyone, so believe that there’s abundance, refer other colleagues for work, and you will not fall into scarcity thinking. What’s in your control? Studying various types of voiceover genres so that you can be ready if an audition comes up that you would love to book and you increase your chances of booking it. Be patient. This is a career that takes years to build. Make sure you have other sources of income while you build it.

    Where would you like to go in your work?  
    I’m passionate about using my voice to further the causes I believe in and leave this world a bit better than how I found it. In that spirit I would love to work with filmmakers who focus on nonprofits, documentaries, and any type of media addressing immigration, health and wellness, Latino empowerment and education, women’s rights, human rights, social justice and environmental stewardship. I hope to narrate some impactful documentaries and work with more producers of educational games and innovative curriculum for young students and families, so I can let my character voices run wild! I look forward to recording more museum audio tours in 2020 as well as more promos for PBS stations around the country, which I thoroughly enjoy.

    What can you share about what you are working on now?
    I’m currently focusing on rehearsing like crazy for a live CD recording which will take place at a concert in Boston on Sunday, October 6th at 4pm with my family’s Latin band, Sol y Canto, which is the centerpiece of an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign which runs through the first week in November. Here’s a special web page on the WIFVNE website with the details for both the concert and Indiegogo campaign.  I recently voiced eight regional and national FEMA video PSA’s for emergency preparedness bilingually, working with locally based Newfangled Studios, that I’m very proud of, and finally, I’m honored to have voiced these bilingual television PSA’s for the American Cancer Society.

    Why are you a member of WIFVNE?
    I have been a member for quite a few years now and have to say that what I most love about WIFVNE is the opportunity it has given me to meet other members, particularly women, who are creating socially conscious media that aims to move the needle forward in our hurting world that needs our healing touch. I have not only forged important professional relationships, I have also made dear friends, who share my values and my commitment to using our creativity to make a difference in this world and to lift one another, celebrate one another and make this a more receptive world to our contributions. The events I have attended have always been terrific, but they keep getting better. Congratulations and muchas gracias for all the board and leadership does to create a great organization!

  • 17 Sep 2019 6:30 AM | WIFVNE Team (Administrator)

    Melissa Paradice is the owner of Paradice Casting, and a Casting Director. She grew up in Scituate, MA, and fell in love with theater at a young age. After attending Emerson College and graduating with a BA in Theater Education with a Minor in Dance, she fell into casting when hired by Maura Tighe in 2004. When not casting Melissa spends her free time watching improv and stand up comedy around Boston–known far and wide for her laugh, reading on the porch, hiking/kayaking, crocheting or playing with her little nieces.

    Melissa will be attending WIFVNE’s Annual Meeting at WGBH on October 2, ready to meet fellow members.  So register now! To learn more about Paradice Casting, visit her website at https://www.paradicecasting.com


    Meet WIFVNE Member Melissa Paradice! 

    How did you get started?  Can you tell us about the start of your company, and where it is now?
    I fell into casting kind of by accident. I majored in Theater Education at Emerson College, but by graduation I already knew I wanted no part of being a teacher. Maura Tighe owned the company then, in 2004, and my best friend babysat her kids. She mentioned to him one day that she was looking for a new assistant and was having a hard time finding anyone, my BFF told her that I’d just graduated Emerson but didn’t have any specific plans as yet, and that “she always knows everyone’s phone number off the top of her head”. Maura and I had known each other casually (as we all lived in Scituate).  She called me up and offered me a trial run of three months to see if I liked the casting business and if she liked me.  Turns out I LOVED it and was good at it. When she sold the company in 2009 to Christine Wyse, part of the deal was that I would be retained as an employee. When Christine decided to pursue something else in 2017, I bought the company from her.

    What do you love about the work that you do?  
    I love that every day is a little different. Aside from the creative part of giving direction and adjustments to talent, I really enjoy the organizational aspects of being a casting director. I’ve always had a knack for ironing out complicated things. I also really enjoy the social aspect.  On session days, I get to visit and chat with the actors that come in and I genuinely like most of them, so it’s always fun.

    What can you tell us about the world of casting?  
    Casting is largely organizational, and a lot of paperwork. It’s finding the right talent, scheduling them for auditions, facilitating holds and bookings and any union paperwork pertaining to the talent (if it’s a union shoot). It’s keeping a lot of balls in the air at the same time.

    I think the most misunderstood thing about casting is who picks the people who get the jobs.  My job is to show the best options available to the clients, and THEY pick who they want to book.  99% of the time the people I’m hired by don’t care what I think about the talent. They don’t ask who I think they should book.  On occasion I’m asked for my opinion about the strength of someone, but generally, the only choosing I do is who comes in to audition for the project.

    Typically, over a year I’m casting for 75-100 different projects. Some years less, some years more. September, October, April, May, and June are all typically very busy months.  November, December and August are typically really slow. That said, sometimes the year surprises us and we’re busy in normally slow times, or slow in normally busy times.

    For producers, writers, directors:  the more info you can give to your casting director, the better job they’ll be able to do. I get a lot of specs that are just an age and ethnicity, but with no description of the kind of person the character is. Casting Directors don’t need like a whole bio/backstory, but the more specific you can be about “specs” the more likely you are to get exactly what you’re looking for. Also, casting doesn’t have to cost a million dollars, there are many ways to go about finding talent on a budget.

    For talent:  relax, casting WANTS you to do well. My motto generally is, “casting directors are only as good as the talent they bring in can make them look”.  So, take a deep breath and be yourself. You got this.

    In the last several years here in New England, I’ve noticed a shift in the kind of projects that are coming to town.  There has been a huge influx of film and tv work, and as a result many of our local talent have had an opportunity to grow, and I think as a whole the caliber of talent here in New England has increased. People are realizing they don’t HAVE to necessarily move to NY or LA to be able to work, and many who may have had to give up the dream because their spouse has an amazing job here, or because they have elderly parents and can’t move etc. are now able to still pursue that dream right here in New England.

    What has your experience as a woman in the industry been like?  
    I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve been able to work with some amazing women on my way up the ladder. Being able to see them as strong, independent and business owners, I think opened up a new world of possibilities for me. It also made me feel more protected in a way, I knew that if anything creepy ever happened, I’d be able to tell them, and they would believe me.

    What has been your experience casting for a PBS show?
    When the company was Maura’s and then Christine’s, we did all the casting for a PBS show called “Fetch! With Ruff Ruffman”.  We’d audition a couple thousand kids over a weekend at WGBH and go through rounds and rounds of callbacks.  The show was looking for bright, personable kids, as the focus was generally science based and educational.  It was probably the most labor-intensive project I’ve ever worked on. It was a TON of organization and scheduling.  We’d usually have three rooms going, a casting director in each room, and we’d bring kids in to the audition in groups of like 10 or 12 I think. In the end they’d book six kids, I think, to be on the show each year. I would float usually between running a room, and managing the “front of house”. So, getting people checked in, answering questions, keeping us moving on time and trouble shooting any issues we ran into.  Maura and I also were running a non-profit youth summer theater program out of Scituate at the time as well, so we’d bring a long a pile of our high school students to be our runners, and take the kids from the waiting area to the audition rooms and back again. It was always amazing amounts of fun, but exhausting!

    Do you have a mentor?  Do you mentor anyone?  
    Maura Tighe and Christine Wyse are my mentors.  I would not be where I am today without either of them. I still reach out to them sometimes just to bounce things off them.  I’m not currently mentoring anyone–I’ve had interns in the past–but I’m a terrible delegator, it’s my biggest weakness, not being able to delegate things. That’s something I’m working on.

    Were you told or did you learn a piece of wisdom or advice you now tell others in the beginning of their career?
    Be nice to people. Be the person everyone wants to work with because you’re easy and fun to work with. The intern of today is tomorrow’s CEO.  One of my favorite things someone ever said to me was “we’re not doing open heart surgery, it’s a commercial, no one is going to bleed out on the table”.  What we do IS important, but it’s not life or death. When something goes wrong, as inevitable something will, take a deep breath, step back and figure out how to fix it.

    What are some things you wish could change/would help if more women were in the industry? 
    The more women we have in positions of power and authority, the less likely we are to have inappropriate and uncomfortable incidents.  The more female writers we have, the less flat boring and devoid of personality female characters we have. The more female directors, the more we can see the female perspective.  For so long, white and male has been the default of everything, the more women we have pushing the envelope and boundaries, the better the end product (and the future of our industry) will be.

    Where would you like to go in your work? 
    I’d love to do more work on indie films. The bulk of my work is commercials, which is great, I love the quick turnaround on those, but there’s something so rewarding about REALLY working with actors to push them to rise to the level of leads in films.

    What can you share about what you are working on now?  
    I just finished casting a period piece about the Latter Day Saints. The thing I loved most about it was seeing people I know are good actors come in and be great actors. There’s only so much acting you can put in a 30 second commercial spot, so to be able to explore a scene and be truly wowed by people I’ve known for years is incredible.

    Why are you a member of WIFVNE?
    I became a member because I think in this world and in today’s society, as women, we need to support each other. In order to make New England a more viable option for productions, we need to work together. As a smaller community, and I think that’s the way to think about us, a community, it’s important for us to collaborate rather than compete. If we work together, rather than fight against each other, we can accomplish so much more.

  • 14 Aug 2019 7:30 AM | WIFVNE Team (Administrator)

    Sharon Contillo is the President of Middle Center Productions, LLC which focuses on female and family-centric stories, films, books, and productions. Sharon produces films and stories with female leads of all ages and within all genres, focusing on the underrepresented to give them a platform to be seen and heard. Sharon is a screenwriter, executive producer, director, actor, and author. She has won awards for her feature scripts, Madam President and Sandwitched.  She has won the 2019 Master Storyteller award for IBM. Sharon wrote, produced and starred in four IBM commercials made for trade shows and conferences around the world.  She won first place at the IBM WebSphere Technical Conference for her short film, SIGN. Her feature-length original animation script, The Little Christmas Ornament, is available as a youth chapter book and available on Amazon.com. Among her other writings, Sharon has written five other features that expand genres including horror, romantic comedy, family comedy, science fiction and animation.

    Sharon recently launched a crowdfunding campaign for her short film, CURLS, which takes aim at the inaccurate portrayal of women and girls in media and advertising.  Sharon has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Rhode Island.  She studied filmmaking and writing at the New York Film Academy and ScreenwritingU.

    Sharon is a 2019 winner of the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts grant.  Learn more about Sharon at www.middlecentprod.com


    Meet WIFVNE Member Sharon Contillo! 

    How did you get started?  When did you start your company?
    I started Middle Center Productions, in 2014, with the goal of creating a production company that made stories with female leads.  I was at a film networking event in NYC back then and a man approached me and asked about my films.  I told him that I write and produce stories with all female leads.  He burst out laughing and told me I’d never get them sold.  Well, much has happened in the industry since then to prove him wrong, but there’s still more distance to gain and I plan on doing just that.

    In 2005, my girls were 4 and 6, and I was working a corporate job.  I took advantage of being a work from home employee and commuted to NYC to learn to be a director.  I traveled from RI to NYC three days a week via car, train and subway, to take night classes at the NY Film Academy.  We would then have to be in either NY or NJ on the weekends to shoot our student films.  It was very difficult travel and extremely long hours.  My family thought I was crazy, but I was loving every minute of it.  I have been determined and driven all my life to make stories come to life and I’m excited to be making it all become a reality now.

    What do you love about the work that you do? 
    I love to create things, whether it’s a story, a film, a book, a special cake for my girls.  I love the different mediums.  And I like doing it to evoke emotions in people.   

    What can you tell us about CURLS?  
    My role is the writer, producer, and director. My team members are Raz Cunningham (co-producer and “go to guy” when I need advice and just about anything. Katherine Castro is my DP, Mark Greene is my AD, Beth Ricci is my sound mixer, Alicia Rush is hair and make-up, and Eileen Slavin is my editor. And I would like to mention Animus Studios. Wendy Raad and Arty Gold have been amazing supporters of me and this project. I truly would not be this far in the production process, the quality of my auditions would not have been professional looking without the generous use of their studio and their time. I am so grateful to have them in my life for guidance and support. They are so busy over there producing their own great content and yet always find time for me for those maybe not so quick questions. You just can’t go it alone in this business and finding good people like Wendy and Arty is priceless.

    CURLS: Little eight-year-old Maddie is completely ashamed of her twisted frizzy hair so much so that she does everything within her power to hide it.  Until in one moment, with the help of an unlikely ally, she musters up the courage to embrace her true self.

    I’m passionate about this story because it was inspired by my daughter Mackenzie, where at 5 years old she believed that she needed to have straight hair to be considered beautiful.  As a result, she has struggled with self-confidence.  My goal is to give girls a positive outlet for inspiration. Although this story is about hair, it’s not only about hair.  It’s about being body confident and embracing your true you.  I had my own body confidence issues when I was young and still do at times as a woman. I was ashamed of my height and got picked on for being short. I even had someone sing that “short people got no reason to live” song when I was a young teenager.  All my friends were taller than me and so whenever we went in the car, I was given the hump seat in the back of a car.  No one knew they were hurting my feelings and making me feel inferior.

    Principal photography starts on Sept 7th and ends on the evening of Sept 8th.  Follow our progress at the Facebook Curls page, here.

    When building your crew, what considerations are important to you? 
    I like driven and conscientious people.  People that love their work no matter what the exterior forces are.  I strive to hire a diverse team of all races, genders and orientations.

    What can you tell us about crowdsourcing funding for CURLS?
    I learned how to tell my story better.  To create a vision and emotions with words so that others could see and feel what I feel.  This was not easy.  When you have a great idea for a film, you think everyone will get it.  It doesn’t happen that way.  I have seen blank stares reflected back at me and people being kind in their words but truly not seeing the vision and purpose of the story.  It’s my job as a story teller to tell the story even when I pitch it.  I also learned how hard it is to funded a project one dollar at a time.  How to write emails, texts, leave messages and follow up, trying not to sound desperate and aggressive.  I learned how to find my audience and it wasn’t always whom I thought it would be.  It is not easy!  And I learned a lot from the people that contributed.  Many of them had their own stories, many we very generous with their money and very generous with sharing the CURLS message.

    When writing, what keeps you motivated when faced with a blank page?  Do you participate in a writer’s group? 
    I do not participate in a writers’ group although I’ve heard some wonderful things and certainly understand the camaraderie.  Being a single mom for so many years, I’ve had to write on my own in the middle of the night or early morning hours.  One of the techniques that I use to avoid the blank page is to not start writing the script until the story is formed.  I write notes, create outlines, ID all the characters first and their roles and personalities, ID all the plot points and jot down what the main character’s hopes and fears are.  When you have all that information, you have so much to write when it comes time to put it in script form.

    What has your experience as a woman in the industry been like?
    Being on the East Coast has helped and being in a small state [Rhode Island] makes it even better because people get to know you faster.  I have dealt with some folks out West and I get the feeling that it’s not as easy for women out that way to have many opportunities.  And finding enough skilled women to crew up in areas has been difficult.  I’m hoping that changes soon.

    Were you told or did you learn a piece of wisdom or advice you now tell others in the beginning of their career?
    I say a few things to my girls, who are 18 and 20 now.  You can always change your mind and remember that anything that comes into your path is for a reason.  Learn from it, forgive yourself and do not dwell on it.  Move on.  One of my favorite Winston Churchill quotes is, “If you’re going through hell, keep going!”.

    What are some things you wish could change/would help if more women were in the industry?
    I think if more women were in the industry that would help with equal pay.  I would certainly change that if I could.  I pay women the same as I would pay a man on my crew.

    Why are you a member of WIFVNE?
    I’m a member because I like to hear what others are doing, I like to network with my fellow filmmakers, and I’ve benefited from WIFVNE’s help in finding crew for my projects.  Being able to tap into other peoples’ wisdom and skills helps me create a better film.  I feel that by highlighting WIFVNE members’ projects, it helps and encourages others to continue with their own projects.  And to someday be on the spotlight, too.  This is not easy work and I think many people find themselves alone.  WIFVNE’s strength is bringing us all together.  It’s a nice community and I’m grateful for WIFVNE.

    Photo credits
    1. Sharon Contillo
    2. CURLS teaser poster
    3. Casting for CURLS at Animus Studios
    4. Sharon, outside Animus Studios, ready for casting of CURLS

  • 07 May 2019 8:00 AM | WIFVNE Team (Administrator)

    Liane Brandon is an award-winning independent filmmaker, photographer, and University of Massachusetts/Amherst Professor Emerita. She was one of the first independent women filmmakers to emerge from the Women’s Movement. She is a co-founder of New Day Films, the nationally known cooperative that pioneered in the distribution of feminist/social issue films and videos.

    Her photography credits include production stills for the PBS series American ExperienceNova, and American Masters, as well as Unsolved Mysteries and many others.  Her photos have been published in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Boston GlobeNew York Daily News, and many other publications.

    Her classic films include “Anything You Want To Be”, “Betty Tells Her Story”, “Once Upon A Choice”, and “How To Prevent A Nuclear War”. They have won numerous awards and have been featured on HBO, TLC, USA Cable, and Cinemax. They have also been presented at the Museum of Modern Art, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Chicago Art Institute, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and other venues. “Betty Tells Her Story” was nominated for inclusion in the National Film Registry and “Anything You Want To Be” was featured at the Tribeca Film Festival.

    Learn more about Liane at https://www.newday.com/filmmaker/42

    Liane Brandon photo

    Meet WIFVNE Member Liane Brandon!

    How did you get started in the work that you do?  
    As a filmmaker:   I was a member of Bread and Roses in Cambridge, one of the first “Women’s Liberation” collectives in the country.

    I realized that there were almost no films about the issues girls and women were facing — or about the lives of ordinary women.  We needed films to expand and strengthen the Women’s Movement, so I decided to make them.  When I started making films in 1969, there was no portable video and very few people had access to 16mm cameras and editing equipment.  Film schools were few and far between and very few women were admitted. With no filmmaking experience, I had to borrow a high school football team’s 16mm camera in the off season and teach myself how to use it to make my first film.

    As a still photographer:  When one of my friends was shooting for the TV series “Unsolved Mysteries”, I got a call saying they needed a still photographer to document some of the stunts they were shooting, and since I had worked as a stuntwoman, they thought I would be good for the job.  That led to work shooting stills for many PBS series including “Nova”, “American Masters”, “American Experience”, etc.


    What do you love about the work that you do?  
    It’s challenging and creative:  a mix of art, craft and technology.  I get to work on interesting projects or explore subjects that I am passionate about.

    What is one of your favorite projects you have worked on?

    I’ve been involved in so many different projects, it’s hard to pick a favorite.  One of my personal still photography projects was documenting four women powerlifters who have won national or world competitions.  They range in age from 27 to 62, and they are smart, interesting, strong women.

    Candace Puopolo training at Total Performance Sports, Everett, MA 2013

    What has your experience as a woman in the industry been like?  
    When I started making films, I was one of 3 women filmmakers in New England.   There were virtually no outlets for political or social issue films, let alone films directed by women.

    Distributors said there was no audience for films about women’s issues — so we started our own distribution co-op, New Day Films.  We were told that we’d fail in a year.  New Day is now 48 years old and a leading distributor of social issue films!   Fortunately times have changed for women filmmakers, but there is still a long way to go.

    Do you have a mentor?  Are you a mentor? 
    I’ve mentored many filmmakers over the years (and I taught filmmaking at UMass Amherst).

    What is some advice you would give to someone who wants to do what do? 
    Learn as much as you can.  Work hard.  Persevere.


    Production still from “Louisa May Alcott: the Woman Behind Little Women”

    What are some things you wish could change/would help if more women were in the industry?  
    Ageism:  the stereotypical portrayal of older women in film and TV as nagging, befuddled, meddling, cranky, etc.  We need more portrayals of wise, thoughtful, active, courageous older women.

    Less graphic portrayal of violence against women in film and TV shows.

    What can you share about what you are working on now?
    Two projects:  Working with Duke University to preserve my early films of the Women’s Movement and to archive the history of New Day Films.  And new photo project…


    Photo (c) Liane Brandon
    Executive Producer/Writer/Director: Eric Stange

    Why are you a member of WIFVNE?
    I’m a member of WIFVNE because of its support and advocacy for women in the industry.   Having been a member since its beginning over 35 years ago (!) I’m so proud of WIFVNE for its long history of empowerment of women filmmakers.

    Liane’s interview was conducted by WIFVNE intern Dina Klein.

    Photo credits
    1.  Liane Brandon: photo by Boyd Estus
    2.  Still from “Anything You Want to Be” (c) Liane Brandon
    3.  Powerlifters Series (c) Liane Brandon
    4.  Alcott Poster photos (c) Liane Brandon
    3.  Poe poster photo (c) Liane Brandon

  • 07 May 2019 7:30 AM | WIFVNE Team (Administrator)

    Heather Cassano epitomizes how independent documentary producers are connected in the local film community, learning from one another: she teaches documentary production in Boston to students and finds mentorship for herself from seasoned pros, such as those in the The Non-Fiction Cartel.  Heather’s first feature-length documentary, “The Limits of My World” was a huge challenge personally and professionally, as it delves into her own family history and discusses the traumas of growing up with a severely autistic sibling.  To learn more about the film, visit www.thelimitsofmyworld.com 

    Meet WIFVNE Member Heather Cassano! 

    How did you get started in the work that you do?  
    I started working in documentary film during my undergrad at Elon University. I was pursuing a career in photojournalism until my Junior year when I discovered the power of documentary film. After I graduated, I moved to New York and took an internship with Hard Working Movies to work on Jeremiah Zagar’s documentary “CAPTIVATED: The Trials of Pamela Smart.” The internship turned into a part-time production assistant job. It was there that I learned how to produce an independent documentary. After a year or so of living and freelancing in New York, I realized that I wanted to direct my own films. I moved to Boston to pursue my MFA in Film and Media Art at Emerson College. There I produced my first feature-length documentary, “The Limits of My World.”

    What do you love about the work that you do?  
    Documentary film gives us the opportunity to understand each other. I have met so many people through my work that I never would have met under other circumstances. I believe that documentary film is the key to bridging gaps between cultures and classes. It gives the audience a lens through which they can understand another person’s story.

    I’ve always felt at home telling non-fiction stories. I love the idea that a person can walk into a theater knowing nothing about a subject and walk out after the film a mini-expert on the subject. This has happened to me personally many times. I think of documentaries like “Pervert Park” and “The Wolfpack” that showed me worlds I didn’t know existed. It’s telling these individual stories that shine a light on greater issues within our society.

    Who is one person you really want to work with?
    Kirsten Johnson: I admire her cinematography. The way she builds relationships with her subjects and captures the beauty within everyday life is astonishing. I recommend that every aspiring documentary director and cinematographer watch her film “Cameraperson.” I would love to work with her as a DP on one of my future films.

    What is one of your favorite projects you have worked on?
    My first feature-length documentary “The Limits of My World” is probably my favorite project thus far. The film follows my brother Brian as he navigates adulthood with severe autism. Brian aged out of the school system when he turned 21 years old and was forced to make the transition from residential school to semi-independent living. The film is an exploration of what it means to be a nonverbal disabled person in today’s society.

    The film was also extremely rewarding. It allowed me to forge a relationship with my brother and we are now closer than we have ever been before. Making “The Limits of My World” allowed me to better understand my brother Brian.

    What has your experience as a woman in the industry been like?  
    Being a woman in the film industry definitely has its challenges, but I think the documentary film community is much more welcoming to women then other aspects of the industry. This was part of the reason I chose to work in documentary film. In my experience, women are often overlooked on narrative film sets. They aren’t chosen for some of the more technical jobs, like the camera department. In documentary, the roles are much more malleable and being a woman can be an asset in the more nuanced relationships with your subjects.

    Do you have a mentor?  Are you a mentor? The Limits of My World poster
    Many of my mentors have come from my experience in academia. The filmmakers and professors on my thesis committee were invaluable during the making of “The Limits of My World.” Professionally, I’ve found the most useful mentorship within groups of peers. The Non-Fiction Cartel, a working collaborative of documentary filmmakers in Boston, has been a huge asset to me. Many of the filmmakers in the Cartel are a few years ahead of me in my career. Learning from their experiences as I begin production on my next film has been indispensable.

    I teach documentary production at Emerson College. Seeing my students develop a passion for documentary film has been very exciting for me. As I progress in my career, I anticipate that mentorship will become an important part of my creative practice.

    What can you share about what you are working on now?  
    My next film, “The Fate of Human Beings,” is currently in development. In Waltham, Massachusetts there is a cemetery where 310 unidentified people are buried. Graves are marked only with a letter and a number. “C” stands for Catholic and “P” for Protestant, the number indicating the order in which they were buried. The cemetery, known as the Metfern Cemetery, served as a burial site for patients housed within the walls of nearby mental institutions: The Fernald School for “feeble-minded” children, and The Metropolitan State Hospital. Hidden among the trees of Beaver Brook Reservation, Metfern Cemetery is only accessible by hiking trails. 310 lives suspended in anonymity. “The Fate of Human Beings” uncovers the stories of the unidentified people buried in the Metfern Cemetery, interrogating the collective memory of mental institutions held by the surrounding city of Waltham.

    To learn more about the film, visit our page on the Center for Independent Documentary website: https://www.documentaries.org/the-fate-of-human-beings

    Why are you a member of WIFVNE?
    I chose to become a member of WIFVNE because I believe in creating a supportive network of female filmmakers across New England. Through my involvement with other peer-to-peer organizations, I’ve seen how helpful it can be to have a community you can turn to for advice and to share your work. WIFVNE is a wonderful part of the film community in the Boston area and I’m looking forward to seeing it grow even more.

    Interview conducted by Dina Klein.

    Photo credits
    1.  Heather Cassano
    2.  Heather at work
    3.  Film still from “The Limits of My World”
    4.  Film still from “The Limits of My World”
    3.  “The Limits of My World” poster

  • 01 Mar 2019 8:00 AM | WIFVNE Team (Administrator)

    This Member Spotlight interview was conducted by Dina Klein. Dina is our intern at WIFVNE and is a senior studying Visual Media Art at Emerson College. She is originally from Chicago and has had a passion for Film and Television since a young age. She is also an aspiring writer and screenwriter.

    Even though cinematographer Amanda McGrady came up as a digital shooter, she loves shooting on film when possible. She is inspired by practical FX and good old-fashioned movie magic. Over the years Amanda has shot a variety of projects including feature and short films that have screened at festivals around the world.


    How did you get started? 
    I started shooting horror films in high school. After that I was hooked and went to film school at Emerson College where I learned everything I could about making movies. I loved all of the departments, but in the end, I felt most inspired by shooting. I worked at Rule Boston Camera to learn more about cameras and that sort of propelled me into this obsession with cinematography that has become a career.  

    Who is someone you really want to work with? 
    Kathryn Bigelow 

    What do you love about the work that you do?  
    I love the creative process and collaboration of artists. I love telling a story and making the audience feel. Film is so powerful the way it can translate an experience from the characters to the viewer. A lot of that is a great story and great acting. The right lighting and camera movement can bring it to life.


    What can you tell us about your newest project, The Luring?
    The Luring is a psychological thriller set in Vermont. The feature film recently premiered at Panic Fest and got a great response from the audience. There is a lot more news coming soon so be sure to follow The Luring on Facebook and Instagram to find out where you can see the movie. 


    What has your experience as a woman in the industry been like?  
    This is a big question and I always find it hard to answer. I can only tell you about my experience and for me shooting films has always come naturally, shooting horror films is my favorite thing to do in the whole world. So there has never been a question of whether I belong or anything like that, because I’ve been determined to do it despite any barriers. I have been very fortunate to have been embraced by the people around me. I have to thank the men who are like brothers to me and taught me everything I know. Of course, there are times I don’t get a job because they want a guy, but there are also times I do get a job because they want a woman. In the end, I hope that people hire me because they like my work and like working with me regardless of my gender. 


    What has your experience working on The Luring?
    My experience on The Luring was very positive. We spent a lot of time working in preiproduction and it was well worth it. Months before principal photography we shot a fundraising piece and that was a great opportunity for the director, Christopher Wells, and I to get to know each other. We shot in Vermont. The town was gorgeous and everyone was very supportive. It was also challenging because we had to bring in everything necessary, even wi-fi. We spent two weeks right before the shoot going to locations, shot listing, walking through the action, and working with the Assistant Director to get everything prepared. Once we started shooting things fell into place.


    Do you have a mentor?  Are you a mentor?
    I’ve had some wonderful mentors over the years, primarily the folks I met at Rule Boston Camera. I am a mentor as well. Usually someone starts as an assistant and I teach them everything I can.

    Were you told or did you learn a piece of wisdom or advice you now tell others in the beginning of their career? 
    So many things! One thing I heard early on is that you have to make a living from this. You have to push yourself as a Director of Photography, you can’t do it on the weekends. 

    What are some things you think would help if more women were in the industry?
    I think we can be more supportive of each other and hopefully we can see that on screen as well. I would like to see more stories with women supporting each other and building each other up, not fighting or competing. 


    Where would you like to go in your work?  
    I hope to make films that audiences love watching. Creating worlds really excites me that’s why I’m drawn to horror and fantasy, but I’m open to different genres. 

    Why are you a member of WIFVNE?
    I think WIFVNE is awesome because we are in a small market here and that means we have a great opportunity to work together and make change. WIFVNE can help us network and support each other. 


    Photo credits
    1.  Amanda McGrady, Cinematographer 
    2. Talking about the next shot with The Luring director Christopher Wells 
    3.  Setting up a Night Exterior for The Luring:1st AD Michael Toscano, 1st AC Samuel Lusted, DP Amanda McGrady, PD Keenan McCarthy
    4. Location scout for The Luring just a few weeks before shooting
    5. Screen shot from The Luring featuring “Garrett” Rick Irwin and “Claire” Michaela Sprague
    6. Steadicam Operator Lisa Sene frames up a shot
    7. Screen shot from The Luring featuring “Jennifer” played by Molly Fahey

    With Amanda, we are kicking off featuring a Woman a Day on our site for Women’s History Month, but focusing on the present & our future!
  • 28 Feb 2019 8:00 AM | WIFVNE Team (Administrator)

    This Member Spotlight interview was conducted by Dina Klein. Dina is our intern at WIFVNE and is a senior studying Visual Media Art at Emerson College. She is originally from Chicago and has had a passion for Film and Television since a young age. She is also an aspiring writer and screenwriter.


    Worcester, Massachusetts native Caitlin McCarthy (www.caitlinmccarthy.com) received her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Emerson College.  An award-winning screenwriter at international film festivals and labs, Caitlin has written feature screenplays including WONDER DRUG and RESISTANCE. Caitlin is writing/creating the TV series “Free Skate,” named “One To Watch” on WeForShe’s WriteHer List; and partnering on writing/creating the TV series “Pass/Fail” with Jim Forbes (a multiple Emmy, ALMA, AP and Golden Mic award-winning writer, producer, correspondent, and narrator).  In addition to screenwriting, Caitlin serves as an English teacher at an urban public high school. Prior to education, she worked in public relations, where she fostered relationships with the press and crafted messages for companies that were delivered worldwide.  

    Caitlin is represented by Barry Krost of Barry Krost Management (BKM). 

    How did you get started?   
    As an MFA student at Emerson College, I envisioned myself becoming a novelist. But a serendipitous meeting with Diane Ayoche, a teacher at Brockton High School, changed the course of my life. We met when I was transitioning out of a career in public relations and participating in a teacher training program. While chatting between classes, I mentioned that I had just finished writing a novel. Diane said, “Oh! I should introduce you to my cousin.” Her cousin turned out to be Oscar-nominated director Matia Karrell!  Matia read my unpublished novel and asked if I could turn it into a screenplay. I said yes, even though I had never written one before. I bought Final Draft software and The Screenwriter’s Bible by David Trottier, and then wrote several drafts under Matia’s tutelage. So, thanks to the interest and generosity of two women, I’m now a screenwriter.

    Who is one person in the industry you would want to work with? 
    Ava DuVernay. Is there anything she can’t do? She’s a film director, producer, screenwriter, film marketer, and film distributor. She also champions other artists and speaks tirelessly on the need for inclusion in the entertainment industry.  Everyone knows who you mean when you say “Ava.” She is a rock star and role model. I’d love to work with and learn from her.

    What is your favorite movie of all time or favorite screenplay?  
    THE GODFATHER. I love the multiple layers of this film. It’s not just a mafia movie. It’s a story about family, what brings us together and what drives us apart. It also explores the theme of the American Dream turning into the American nightmare. This is a theme that I find myself exploring again and again in my feature and TV scripts. THE GODFATHER is endlessly quotable, and even interjects humor into scenes (“Leave the gun, take the cannoli” is priceless). I would love to write a screenplay that people continue to quote years later.


    With actor/director/writer Tom Gilroy and actor Steve Guttenberg at the 15th Annual Hamptons International Film Festival. WONDER DRUG was selected as an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation script for the Hamptons Screenwriters Lab and chosen for a live staged reading of select scenes at the 15th Annual Hamptons International Film Festival, sponsored by the Sloan Foundation. Reading was directed by Tom Gilroy and starred Steve Guttenberg.

    What can you tell us about your screenplay WONDER DRUG? 
    WONDER DRUG is a scientific drama that focuses on the DES (diethylstilbestrol) drug disaster. I was inspired to write the script because I am a DES Daughter. My goal was to educate and enlighten audiences about the DES tragedy while also entertaining them. (No one wants a lecture!) 

    WONDER DRUG was promoted as “Featured Script” on The Black List website in 2018; honored on the 2017 Bitch List; selected as a Semifinalist in the 2017 Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting (one of only 151 entries to advance from the Quarterfinal Round, with 7,102 scripts entered); named winner of the Grand Jury Award for Best Feature Screenplay at the 2018 Richmond International Film & Music Festival; chosen as an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation script for the Hamptons Screenwriters Lab; and provided a live staged reading of select scenes at the Hamptons International Film Festival, sponsored by the Sloan Foundation.  I’m hopeful that this screenplay will be produced in the near future. 

    The Black List created a special poster to promote WONDER DRUG as a "Featured Script" on its website in 2018. Poster credit: Benjamin Finkel.

    What has your experience as a woman in the industry been like?  
    I can’t, and won’t, lie. It’s been a serious challenge at times. But here’s the thing: I’ve always been a writer. That will continue whether my work is produced or not. After one of those “dark nights of the soul,” I made a decision: If I didn’t like the way things were in the entertainment industry, then I’d have to “be the change,” even if that meant risking being labeled a troublemaker. 

    I participated in the inaugural Women’s Media Summit held in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Together, we brainstormed ways for all women (not just white ones) to get ahead and support each other in the industry. I’ve also banded with likeminded women and men online: in The Black List’s “Go into The Story” writing group; and the Film Brigade’s Writer Accountability (WRAC) initiative. We share information, cheer each other on, and provide words of support during tough times.     

    Through it all, I keep writing – not just feature screenplays and TV pilots, but essays that have been published in anthologies. I’ve gone out on book tours and connected with audiences in real life and online.  I’ve turned myself into a working writer – maybe not in the paid sense, but in terms of working towards a more inclusive future. My words are part of a larger chorus of women and men who are changing the Hollywood narrative. I couldn’t be in better company.

    Do you have a mentor?  
    I’ve been blessed with several mentors. Matia Karrell was my first one. And at various screenwriting labs, I’ve worked under amazing talents such as: Tom Gilroy (THE COLD LANDS); Joshua Marston (MARIA FULL OF GRACE); P.K. Simonds (“Party of Five”); Joy Lusco Kecken (“The Wire”); and Michael Lucker (“Vampire in Brooklyn”). 

    A truly special mentor is producer Stephen Nemeth, who formed and heads up Rhino Films. He has championed my screenwriting since the 2013 Squaw Valley Screenwriters Conference, but that’s not where we first met. I recently discovered that we had crossed paths decades earlier, at Game 2 of the 1984 NBA Playoffs between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. I was an eighth grader and beyond excited to find Timothy Hutton and (who I presumed to be) Andy Gibb sitting several seats down from me at the old Boston Garden. Before the game started, I approached them for an autograph. Tim kindly signed my program while his friend shared with a smile that he wasn’t Andy Gibb. Flash forward to 2018. Timothy Hutton’s name came up during a conversation with Stephen. I told my Celtics story and soon learned that I had mistaken Stephen for Andy Gibb all those years ago. I was blown away!  I clearly remember Stephen treating me with respect back then, which he continues to do now. The industry needs more feminist gentlemen like him.


    Were you told or did you learn a piece of wisdom or advice you now tell others in the beginning of their career? 
    I like to share the advice that I received from Beth Colt, a former Hollywood manager/producer who now owns the Woods Hole Inn with her husband P.K. Simonds. Beth said, “Just keep doing it. Write another spec, submit again. Rinse, repeat. Each one gets better, the cumulative matters. Don’t give up! All the struggle will pay off in the end. Good writing is fueled by life experience.”   

    Where would you like to go in your work?  
     
    I’d love to be a produced feature film and TV writer. And someday, I want to start a production company and develop not just my own work, but other voices. Inclusiveness is important to me. As Ava DuVernay has said, “If your dream only includes you, it’s too small.”

    Why are you a member of WIFVNE? 
    I can’t imagine being a screenwriter in New England and not belonging to it. WIFVNE truly lives up to its mission of supporting the accomplishments of women in film, video, and new media industries. Whenever I get an email from WIFVNE, I pause to read it, as if a friend is sharing cool news or a fun invitation with me. It’s very easy to feel isolated as a woman in the entertainment industry, especially when you don’t live in Los Angeles or New York City. WIFVNE makes me feel less alone.

    Photo credits 
    1.  Photo by Anthony Rugnetta 
    2. Caitlin with actor/director/writer Tom Gilroy and actor Steve Guttenberg at the 15th Annual Hamptons International Film Festival. WONDER DRUG was selected as an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation script for the Hamptons Screenwriters Lab and chosen for a live staged reading of select scenes at the 15th Annual Hamptons International Film Festival, sponsored by the Sloan Foundation. Reading was directed by Tom Gilroy and starred Steve Guttenberg. 
    3.  The Black List created a special poster to promote WONDER DRUG as a “Featured Script” on its website in 2018. Poster credit: Benjamin Finkel. 
    4.  Timothy Hutton autograph from the 1984 NBA World Championship Playoffs.

  • 28 Jan 2019 7:30 AM | WIFVNE Team (Administrator)

    Murphy McCann

    Lindsay Taylor Jackson is the Producer/Director/DP of the documentary feature Velvet Citizen, still in production.  Velvet Citizen tells the extraordinary story of Jaroslav and his fearless effort to pursue his lifelong dream of sailing around the world.  Jackson was recently one of nineteen (out of 750 applicants) chosen by the American Film Institute (AFI) for the very first Cinematography Introductory Intensive for Women (CIIW). This tuition-free program was sponsored by 21st Century Fox and in partnership with The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC).

    How did you get started?  
    I’ve had a camera in my hands since I was five years old. The classical educational structure I grew up in was often not how my brain worked. I always did my homework and studied constantly, but still struggled in school. I had low self-confidence because of my test scores and what I was being told. Life through a lens was always how I studied and explored the world. I thank my younger self for following my intuition. I now recognize filmmaking as a form of intelligence. It is my outlet, my motivation, and my first love.

    What do you love about the work that you do?  
    I often ask myself why I love filmmaking. It’s been a long road of watching my bank account drain, facing rejection until I gain more of a reputation, and lacking stability in anything long-term. However, through the stress of these challenges, I realize the set-backs are what cultivate the things I want in my life. Of course, there is a physical film at the end of each project, but I most value the things through-out the process that are non-material:  Storytelling is something that has the potential to bring interesting people around you and in front of your lens. A vision is something that everyone wants to reach together.

    I have yet to meet a filmmaker who regrets pouring their scarce, fragile, and heart-driven existence into their passionate visions. I appreciate the unpredictability, always being on the go in terms of travel, and meeting new people. The thing I love most, however, is the relationships in film. As I grow older, I am starting to grasp most experiences are about the relationships. It is about finding crews you work well with and meeting subjects who share their stories. And as a Director of Photography, my favorite relationship is the one which occurs between the film’s subject and my lens. It is a silent communication of a visual dance–a powerful interaction.  

    What can you tell us about your time in Prague and the Czech Republic, and about Velvet Citizen?
    I studied abroad at FAMU (The Film and Television School of the Academy of Performing Arts) in Prague of the Czech Republic in 2011. I submitted my photography and film portfolio, was accepted, and got on my first flight ever at the age of twenty. It was heavily academic and production-focused (which was a great experience); so, I made myself a promise at age twenty that I would return someday to explore and interact with the culture outside of a classroom and through a lens. When I returned to America, for three years I carried a 100 czk Czech Koruna bill in my wallet. That way, every day when I opened my wallet, I would see it and hold myself accountable. In my head I would say, “I am getting back there, and I am making a film.”  


    When I returned to Prague in 2014, I posted on a local social media page for expats asking if anyone knew of any interesting subjects for a documentary (preferably someone who had lived through the vast changes of the country’s recent history). I found my subject and moved to a tiny Czech village (an hour and a half outside of Prague) by myself. Setting out to make this film gave me the foreign cultural experience I desired. Language barriers and all, it allowed me to meet some of the most incredible people I would have never met otherwise. I shot this film for about three years, basically self-funded. I would travel back and forth from Prague to shoot commercial work and meet up with friends to help me translate interview questions correctly from my broken basic Czech language attempts.

    Velvet Citizen: This documentary feature film is the extraordinary story of Jaroslav and his fearless effort to pursue his lifelong dream of sailing around the world. He has spent over forty years building his boat by hand in his backyard in the landlocked country of former Czechoslovakia. Forty years ago, when he started building his boat, he was living under a harsh communist rule which allowed him very little sailing to foreign waters. He still had the hope of someday gaining the freedom to sail in these prohibited oceans. He continued to build his boat and earn the miles of his captain’s license little by little during the one time of year citizens were allowed to sail in certain designated locations. 

    The Velvet Revolution of 1989 was the fall of Communism, which allowed the citizens of former Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) to gain long-lost freedoms. Jaroslav would continue to build his boat for many more years, but with a renewed independence of reaching the once forbidden waters. The film is a beautiful story about hope, the journey to freedom, the philosophical wisdom shared with aging, and the perseverance against all odds to reach his lifelong dream of unlimited sailing.

    I am the Director, Director of Photography, and Producer. I was a one-woman band, but occasionally friends would come out to help me on days they were free. It was an opportunity to prove to myself what I am capable of as a filmmaker. I knew if I could take on this challenge, then I could tackle anything in my future. I have been building a post-production crew over the last few years, and Velvet Citizen is aimed to be done this year, and the its first destination is, hopefully, the film festival circuit. Craig Mellish, ACE., will be editing the film, and there couldn’t be a more promising and talented editor in my eyes. I’m grateful every day for the people this project has brought into my life.



     What has your experience as a woman in the industry been like?  

    Starting out as a PA in film when I was in college was difficult, but it influenced a lot of my life and career choices. I faced sexual harassment from established men on an abundance of sets; they knew I would keep quiet because I was just beginning my career. Sometimes, if there was only one other woman present, I found other women could be really nasty towards me. I never understood it because we were already outnumbered, so why wouldn’t we support each other? These are big reasons I wanted to take off and prove to myself what I could do. I wanted to gain more confidence and knew I deserved more respect than I was being shown.

    Now, as I grow more established, I make it a point to always pull young women onto my sets. I try to empower them, teach them, and be an ally. Since I cannot go back in time and tell my younger self that I do not have to just accept sexual harassment in order to have a career, I use that energy to empower other women in film. I’ve developed some incredible friendships with women in film, and I, now, only surround myself with men I trust. It’s important for me to be happy making work. Happiness is any time I am creating my own work, adding my creative input to projects, and any time I am learning new things. Happiness is also feeling safe, supported, supportive, and respected, and that only felt possible after I proved to myself who I could be.   

    What has your experience working with Ken Burns and Florentine Films been like?
    Working at Florentine Films was an incredible experience. To say it was life-altering would be an understatement. I am fortunate to have been an active participant in these larger-than-life visions. I value the education I gained, I made great connections, and it really influenced me to set off on a documentary trajectory for a few years afterwards. They have an incredible process, and I feel fortunate that I was a part of making such monumental films. I will always owe my gratitude to Ken, Craig, and the crew for giving me a chance. I will forever be structured by the artistic integrity I witnessed at Florentine Films. I am very thankful. 

    Do you have a mentor?
    My mentor is Craig Mellish, ACE., who is the editor for Velvet Citizen. I’ve always been told that every good cinematographer should learn how to edit first; and Craig (whom I assisted at Florentine Films) took the time to teach me editing. I’m appreciative that he acknowledged my potential and constantly offered (and still offers) constructive criticism. The best people in your life are the ones who constantly want you to grow and succeed.

    My other mentor, from my years in college, was Jonathan Schwartz. All of my professors in college were so important and influential in my life. Jonathan’s classes changed my ways of thinking. I constantly went to Jonathan’s office outside of class and talked to him for a few hours every day. He helped me to understand so much about life and filmmaking and how the two could be married. They did not have to be separated, but instead celebrate each other. He helped me see the beauty in this world. He helped me to feel as a filmmaker.

    Were you told or did you learn a piece of wisdom or advice you now tell others in the beginning of their career?
    “It’s okay to not have all of the answers right now…but you must keep trying.”  Professor Jonathan Schwartz, to his students.

    What are some things you wish could change/would help if more women were in the industry? 
    For women, I hope this shift of being heard continues. The amount of sexual harassment in the film industry (and all industries) is sickening. I think women empowering younger women and helping them understand that they have good people they can work with is important; having more groups that empower instead of intimidate is great.

    Where would you like to go in your work?  
    Above all, I’m hoping to become the best Director of Photography that I am capable of becoming. I want to continue to work on stories that I care about. I like being extremely versatile; I shoot documentary, narrative, and experimental film, and I like to blend these styles together when I can. I shoot for others, and I shoot for myself. I enjoy collaborating and I enjoy independent projects. It is important that I am happy and feeling the best I can about what I am making. I know in the future, at times, I will shoot certain things that I do not necessarily agree with, but I will always make sure to bring as much respect as I can with my role in others’ visions. I have a job to represent subjects well. My biggest goal is to always be making work.   

    Why are you a member of WIFVNE?
    WIFVNE is a network I could join that felt safe and comfortable. Women empowering one another was the main draw for me. It is also a group where all genders want to empower women. I have met some incredible filmmakers and friends at WIFVNE events! Last year I went to see a Panasonic presentation at Talamas, and now, because of that event and introductions, I am shooting on that well-known camera for that representative. This group has brought great and supportive people into my life! 

     


  


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