The $23 film lady

I was lucky enough to be on a film panel at the Write Stuff Writers Presents Across The Arts at the Palladium in Carmel, IN. It was a great time and I loved the questions for our moderator and also the crowd.

across the arts

One of the questions from our moderator, Kelly Vaughn, was about how much money it takes to make a film.

Well my first “for real” film that I wrote and directed and used as a launching pad for my company Karmic Courage, was Laundry Day. I cast my husband and then four-year-old daughter – because they were available and I’d entice them with candy.

Laundry Day Postcard (small)

I wanted to do everything myself to find out what I was still good at (yes, I had made films before in school and at a TV studio) and find out what I sucked at. This way on my next film I know who’d I need to hire and how skilled they needed to be.

I leaned quickly how much I suck at lighting. Many shots I had to scrap and re-film because the light was in the shot or it was too lit and my husband look orange or I couldn’t see my daughter face.

I also learned that even though I was an editor at the TV studio, I really hated the process. I knew I could do it but it was grueling and I would walk away and try to find excuses not to come back.

What I loved was setting the shot and working with my “actors.” I tried to make it fun (even though I had a meltdown or two) and tell the story visually with interesting shots and angles.

There was also something very important about making this film. I was told since age 10 that I would never be a director. “it’s for 40-50 year old men,” they said. At age 18 I knew they all had to be wrong so I moved to Los Angeles where I found out they were right – kinda.

When my daughter was born my father was there and he was holding her and whispered “I wonder what she’ll become?”

Without thinking I said, “She’ll become what ever she wants in this world.”

That was my wake up call. That was what it took for me to step up and see if I really could write/direct a film. To prove not only to myself, but to show my daughter that a dream is worth fighting for.

I didn’t have much money so I wrote a story with the resources I had.

I made Laundry Day for $23 buying only a lighting kit from Lowes.

I really didn’t think much of the film except for an exercise and moved onto making another film this one with a cast and crew of 32 people and a budget of $200.

Then an amazing thing happened. A film festival called the Indy Awards was looking for submissions and I sent them Laundry Day. They accepted the film and a real audience of people I didn’t know and wasn’t related to came to see my film. They laughed, they awed, it’s was amazing!!

We lost the audience choice award by one vote. Not only did I get into my first film festival and almost win but something else, no one came up to me and said “you can’t because you’re a woman.”

Lost to the guy on the right. But I won the next year for “First They Came For”

Since Laundry Day I’ve make 13 more films and I’m working on another. The budgets have gotten bigger but i still work within my resources and my husband and daughter still sometimes make an appearance.

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