Tag Archives: cinematography

Understanding the Work: Collaborative filmmaking as the future.

28 Jan

If we reduce social life to the smallest possible unit we will find that there is no social life in the company of one. 

– Jerzy Kosinski

‘Purple,’ my short created in collaboration with the cast.

Hey all,

I hope you all survived the blizzard intact.

2015 is here, and I have big filmmaking goals. One is to shoot my feature, The Cape House, but another is to adopt a new way of working.

Almost 3 years ago, I made a short film called ‘Purple.’ ‘Purple’ was unique in how I made it. There’s a longer post about this specific subject on A-Bittersweet-Life today, but, briefly, I didn’t write a script before casting. I instead came up with a basic idea, cast the film, then, through rehearsal and conversations, wrote the movie in collaboration with my cast.

This is not a new approach. Many great directors, like Mike Leigh and John Cassavetes, have already done it or something similar. But it was a revelation for me.

I come from theatre (Yea, I’m the one rocking out). The best part of theatre, to me, was always rehearsal. Seeing the finished show open was always a rush, but there was never anything more exciting than a group of people in a room trying to solve dramatic, comedic and experimental problems.

This is the approach that I took with Purple. Four people in a room solving problems, writing the story on our feet. It was the most fun I’ve had making a film. Ever.


The actors warming up before rehearsing for ‘Purple.’

However, traditional screenwriting dominated my short ‘Future Perfect‘ and has been the main approach for ‘The Cape House.’

But a few things have happened in the past few months, which have led me back to collaborative movie writing.

I am currently writing a film with writer/director/actress Victoria Negri, who has a feature called ‘Gold Star‘ in post-production. Victoria and I connected through twitter, and had a few long conversations over coffee. We talked movies and running. Eventually, I showed her a script I had written about the weird connections people make (and don’t make) while running in New York City.

Victoria was interested, but we decided to throw out the script as it was and start fresh. But we weren’t sitting in a room with pens and paper. We’d meet and talk. We tell each other stories about our running experiences. A huge part of this script is based on things people have said to us and thoughts and feelings we’ve both had.  It was informal, but focused. Every so often, I’d write down some notes.

As a result, what we’ve written feels true. Plus, it’s proven remarkably easy to get words on paper, something I’m terribly slow about. We already have a first draft after only 3 meetings, and I feel more confident about it than any script I’ve written this far.

This is a beta test of how I want to proceed going forward. Get a group of people together, ideally an already-decided-upon cast, several other writers, and experts/advisors on the topic, and have long sessions where we work together through conversation and improvisation. I believe the alchemy of people could get something really interesting going.

Most of all, I think it will get out of my own way, which has always been my goal. No idea of mine has been made worse by collaborating with others. It reminds me of why we tell stories, and why I wandered into a theatre when I was kid anyways: to meet and be close to others who understood me. The energy of collaboration always brings out my best.

I am also in the early stages of putting together a collective of filmmakers to make features. We are ironing out the details, but I am excited about its potential. More to come.

As it gets cheaper and cheaper to make films, more films are being made and less are getting equal levels of attention. Great films receive little-to-no traction. A good way, I believe, to counteract this trend is to give your team ownership on the film, thus getting them excited about the film. How to do that? Involve your team in the creation. Make them part of the conversation. Filmmaking is a social art.

So make it social.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out the post on ‘A Bittersweet Life.



#RealWorldArt: Bonnie Blue Edwards.

8 May

Whenever I read about artists who are successful at making their own work, I always wonder ‘how the hell did they do this and live a real life while doing so?’ As a working artist, I find achieving a life/art balance to be incredibly difficult. I am always on the lookout for advice about how to do it. When my former theater professors at the University of New Hampshire asked me to speak to a group of artists about life post-school, I went to social media to get new perspectives. Over 40 people commented, and my friend (and blogger/filmmaker extraordinaire) Michael DiBiasio asked me to guest blog. The response was so good that I’ve decided to conduct interviews with working artists on a semi-regular basis.

My subject this week is film and theatre producer Bonnie Blue Edwards. I met Bonnie through a mutual contact who often introduces me to people within my field. Often these meetings go nowhere, but Bonnie and I instantly hit it off and became pals. We bounce ideas and projects off of each other, and I find her work ethic impressive and inspiring. As she is working on her first project as a director, I thought now would be a great time to highlight her! So, read on, and enjoy!



Bonnie and cinematographer Jeanette Sears shooting a scene from her documentary, Out in Alabama.


Have you always wanted to be a filmmaker, or did you evolve into it? How did it come about?

I suppose, at some level, I always wanted to be a filmmaker. It was a childhood hope that I kept kicking aside as I lived the depths of Alabama, with no exposure to the film world.. Yet, here I am!  But, overall, it was an evolution sparked by intuition. After studying international business, doing a bit of traveling, moving to NYC, and gearing up for graduate school in development, I opted for an unpaid internship at The Moth instead. I had this aching feeling that my life-time profession needed to have an artistic backbone to it, as opposed to my previous jobs working in trade and politics. At the time, I felt uncertain what art form was the most compatible with my skills and figured all art was a bit of storytelling, so why not start there! Once I dove into the internship, then opportunities began to arise for me to produce–first theatre and literary events, then film. Specifically, how it came about was through blatant requests for introductions to people who might want to guide or mentor me. You never get what you don’t ask for… so I just started asking around and people offered to give me experience. Sometimes the experience was much trickier than I thought, but I just kept moving forward, following that achey intuition.

How have your expectations changed the longer you’ve been making art, and how has the art you’ve made changed?

Initially, because I trusted people to follow through with projects and ideas, I was generous with how long I would wait for their lead. After two years of being a freelancer, I realize that a lot of talk is, well, just talk. And that the best way to do the type of projects that interest me with the type of people I admire is to start them myself. Before, I felt like I was always supporting other artists and projects, and sometimes those projects ended up not being what I expected or simply failing to start at all. Of course, many projects did take off and I forever cherish those that changed my career. But, for the others, I took them as valuable lessons on gaging when to get the ball moving, even in another direction. I feel empowered to approach things in a much more direct way–which ultimately alters the art itself. It is much more hands-on.

What role does your day job (or jobs) play in your creativity? How has being a producer shaped your own work?

I am a full-time freelancer, so I choose projects that inspire my creative side and fuel further empowerment of others. Whether I am producing avant-garde theatre or putting together a period-piece short film, all of my projects are geared towards getting a message across in some way. Being a producer means that I see things in a macro-sense–full of longterm objectives and multifaceted collaborations. More than a producer, I have an entrepreneurial spirit. So, I am always thinking of how to make something as engaging as possible.

How do you balance making art and dealing with your everyday life, job, and responsibilities?

It is hard to stop working, when your profession is something you care so much about. The way I balance everyday life with my career is through the people around me. Friends, colleagues, and family. I try to surround myself with positive, good-hearted people who are also passionate about their own dreams. That way, we support each other in our different times of need. Plus, my boyfriend is an artist who understands the challenges of my work–while I understand his professional challenges as well. So, when I am overworked, barely eating, looking like a wild woman, he forces me to step away from my computer and go on a walk. His support, and the support from my friends and family, is important. So it is important for me to know when to use their support, and when to take a break.

What’s next for you?

Inspired by my life’s journey which you have somewhat experienced through the previous questions, I am currently fundraising for my documentary OUT IN ALABAMA–about the brave Alabama communities that embrace LGBT rights. As an Alabama-native, the project is dear to my heart and a way to spark a movement while also turning the stereotype of the South on its head. Additionally, the film is a focus on the individuals who support one another, as we are all shaped by those around us. If we get the funding we are seeking ($25,000) the documentary will serve as my directorial debut. And, with Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Cynthia Wade on board as consultant, I am hoping this film reaches a broad audience–with artistic recognition through festivals as well as social impact through inspiration.

So there you have it. Bonnie’s film is exciting and important, and needs your support! Crowdfunding is becoming an increasingly important way to get films made that you want to see. So, if this is the kind of doc you’d like to see, this is for you. Click the photo to check out the film on kickstarter! For more on Bonnie, check out her website!


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My best until next time,