Interview with screenwriter : Anika Jarrett 

Jamaican-Canadian; Toronto native; twin sister; and recent LA transplant. Entrepreneur. Writer with a background in social work, community development and business management. Content creator. Award-winning filmmaker of in the dark.

When did you fall in love with writing (your defining moment)?

I’ve always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with writing. But we’re very much in love right now and deeply inspired.

What movies or stories inspire your creativity?

Manchild in the Promised Land (Book); Ruby (Book); Life is Beautiful (Movie); Malcolm X (Movie); The Wire (TV); Sons of Anarchy (TV)

I love a good crime drama…or a coming of age story with a nostalgic feel that tugs at my emotions =)


We saw that you were recently selected for the Master Class in Television Pilot writing with Phil Kellard. What was the process for applying for that program and what has been your experience so far?

I spent quite a bit of time online researching the top writer development courses and programs locally and abroad. The 6-month Master Class in Television Pilot writing offered at UCLA was exactly what I needed to gain professional credibility and experience as a working writer. The application process requires applicants to provide a personal statement; a copy of their completed spec or original tv script; a synopsis of their completed spec or original tv script, and 3 or more original story premises. It is a fairly competitive course with only 8 applicants selected per year. How is the course? I love every second of it! The on-going feedback and support received from Phil and my classmates, coupled with the collaborative work environment has been an invaluable part of my learning experience thus far!

What’s the best advice you can give writers to help them develop their own unique voice and style?

Be observant of people and personal encounters with others. Find inspiration from all walks of life, particularly within your own lived experiences. This will lead your unique voice and guide your writing style. Your unique style can be further developed in how you tell your story and what your characters bring to your story. Infusing the personal intricacies of your characters will guide any plot. Everything has already been done so focus on bringing a fresh angle to a familiar subject in order to appeal to your target audience.

You made the big move that most filmmakers dream of (packing up and moving to Hollywood) what prompted this big leap and what does that look like?

I was way too comfortable back home. My life and daily routine had become all too familiar. I had been developing my craft for a few years off and on and decided to get more serious this past year. After deciding on the Master Class, I opened a few savings accounts, took some extra shifts at my 2nd job, and rented out my Toronto apartment on Airbnb while couch surfing for most of the summer. I did my research on budget friendly Los Angeles neighborhoods that had a high transit score and walk score (I don’t drive), was approved for a leave of absence from work, and made my move! I’ve been in LA for almost 2 months now. It took me a week to find an apartment. I spent my first 2 weeks with Airbnb just to be on the safe side. I should also mention that although the move was planned well in advance, my acceptance into the program didn’t come until after my move. Thankfully, everything worked out! But I would have never known had I not invested in myself and taken that risk!

What questions should a writer ask herself prior to crafting their story?

What kind of writer do you want to be? What kind of story do you want to tell? What are your main character’s goals, fears and motivations? Who do you want your target audience to be? What kind of message do you want to convey through your story telling?

What’s your favorite quote?

Jessie Williams’ entire acceptance speech when he received the BET Humanitarian Award!!! Check it out on YouTube if you haven’t seen it already =).

What’s next for you?

I’m currently working on a few TV Pilots; one of which is a period piece that I’ll be pitching pretty soon. I also hope to do some much needed international travel.


Provide your website and social media links.

Rebel Junction 





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Interview with filmmaker : Mélisa Breiner-Sanders

I am an actor, producer, and creator in Film, TV, New Media and Theatre. I’m originally from outside of the DC area (Northern VA), lived in NYC for 8 years, and am currently in Chicago in my 3rd year of my Acting MFA program at The Theatre School at DePaul University. 

When did you fall in love with the art of storytelling (your defining moment)?

I’ve always been a storyteller, it is in my blood. My father is a depression era baby, born on a farm in Richmond, IN, number 9 of 10 kids. They had to be creative with their entertainment, and I think telling stories naturally evolved from that. And then keeping those adventures alive by telling your children bedtime stories, or gathering at family reunions and all the brothers and sisters telling stories on each other. I learned from them the art of drawing an audience in, how far you can exaggerate before you lose believability, how much to act out, all of it. Of course at the time I had no idea I was learning that, I was just enjoying the hell out of it. And the rare times that we all do gather again as an extended family, I can see where the structure of my storytelling originated from. The twists, the turns, the humor, the edge of devilishness, and love. Always love. 
How do you determine if someone is truly meant to collaborate with?

How do I choose who I want to work with or what projects I pursue? I wish I could give some elegant answer about how I know, but most times I just go with my gut. Does it feel like a story I believe in? Do I believe in the people involved? Do I just like them? Am I inspired by someone’s vision? All of these are possible reasons. And then there are practical ones of whether I can afford it, what the timing is. Every situation, especially when you are a freelancer, is so individual. 
A general rule of thumb that has served me well across all mediums and careers is this: you have 3 things to consider with each project, people, pay, and project. Who is working on it and with you, how much are you being paid, and what it is that you are working on. If you are happy with the conditions in 2 of the 3 categories, then it’s a gig worth taking. 
 How do you earn a living and sustain a career doing what you love?
Oof, this is always the question, right? It’s really tough, and when you are entering into the arts, there isn’t a whole lot of cultural support for it, so unless you come from money or have family that is willing to support you, you inevitably have to balance working a survival job. And I really want to emphasize that there is no shame in that, and you are just as much of an artist and storyteller if you need to take a break and work your ass off to make money so you can make rent and eat food. You need to take care of yourself as a person and get the basics in order to do your work and keep your sanity. 
My journey? Currently I’m lucky and am in grad school so I’m living off student loans. That’s great cause I don’t have to worry about where the money is coming from, it also means I don’t have a ton of free time to work on my own projects so it can be a little limiting. I pick up some extra money helping friends out with website design, making reels, and putting people on tape. 
Before grad school I worked full time as an administrative/executive assistant at UBS in NYC. I was able to work it with my bosses that I could flex my schedule a little bit to be able to act in off-broadway shows. I lived below what I made so that I could finance my own short films. I invested other money in buying equipment so I could have a little run-n-gun operation. Not to mention the skills I learned while on the job that I use while producing for film. Everything has kind of flowed into each other in that way that each area of my life can serve and influence the other. 
Before that I worked promo gigs, temp jobs, background work, and a lot of other freelance gigs. I never worked service industry, but a lot of people do. It’s just pursuing that freelance lifestyle to the best of your ability. The bottom line is, no matter where you go, there you are. All of what you do, whether it’s writing your next screenplay or bartending, is all working to support you as a person and, ultimately, what you love to do. So earning a living, whether in the particular way you want to or not, is still sustaining your career, because it is sustaining you as a person. 

How does a typical day (for you) begin when you are in full swing production?
I usually get up a few hours before calltime, I like to have at least an hour and a half before I have to leave the house. Coffee is the first order of business, and I’ll try to eat something before I leave too. Of course there is always crafty onset (good food, coffee, sugar, water and available at most times = happy crew), but I never know what direction the day is going to pull me in. I can’t depend on having the time at the beginning of the day on set to sit and eat, so I need to be fueled before hand. I’ve usually set my paperwork aside the night before, but I’ll double check that again. Check my email for any changes, questions, I’m-running-lates. I’ve probably already gotten a few text messages confirming everything is moving, especially from drivers picking up vans or gear trucks. I pack my bag with the essentials: pens, pencils, sharpie, poncho if it’s supposed to rain, extra change of clothes if its hot as hell, external batter charge for my phone. Although there are a lot of instances where my crew will have really stepped up and taken care of everything for me going above and beyond (because the crew people I work with are awesome, always, I love them to death and they constantly amaze me), I always like to also be self-sufficient on lower budget projects since everyone is already stretched thin as it is. Wait, did I answer the question or head off in another tangent again?
Do you work in multiple areas: film, television, web, or are you focused in one area? How easy has it been for you to move between areas if you do? What do you see as the appeal of the various formats?
As an actor, I work in all mediums and that’s been pretty easy to go between and is expected. As a producer, I prefer to work in film, though I have produced for some theatre pieces as well. Theatre has the allure of having the audience right there with you along for the ride and you get immediate feedback from them. It’s a collective experience where a community of people have all gathered in a room in order to listen to and tell a story. There is a palpable energy in the room that can’t be replaced, especially when you are watching exceptional work. Or when you are on that stage and you know that you are so in tune with both the story and the audience, and you are able to fulfill that massive responsibility to take care of the audience, and speak truth…there is just nothing like it. 
For film, there is a permanence to it that is super appealing. And having the ability to capture a fleeting moment and share it with others. You can also create full worlds on film in a way that isn’t always possible with theatre because you see the edges of the stage or there are financial restrictions. Because you only see the edges of the screen, you can imagine that a world continues beyond it, even if we’ve decided toy keep the frame tight because we only had budget to dress a 10’x10′ space. There is a quickness of transition in film that also appeals to me and is more difficult to do in theatre. I really enjoy the process of post (although it’s also maddening) and putting the story back together again with the images you have.  
After directing, producing and writing in Him & Her & Him, which do you prefer to do and why?
I don’t think there is one that I want to choose over another. Each has it’s own set of challenges and rewards, and what those are are so project specific. For writing, I’m not a writer for hire. The idea has to really grab me for me to be into it, and then it takes on a life of it’s own in a way and I get to just follow it. It’s fun to see the characters come to life and see how people understand the story and take their spin with it.
For directing, I’m super new to it, and it was never something I thought I would enjoy doing or have any interest in. And as I’m sure you and many of your readers have encountered, it’s never been something that I, as a woman, have been encouraged to do. But I’m starting to learn I have a really good eye, and can sense the way a story needs to go, and can speak to actors in a language they understand (because I am one), and I have the potential to really grow as a director. 
Producing is the area I have the most experience in and, therefore, comes easiest to me at the moment. I love solving problems, bringing people together, supporting the work and just making it happen. There is something very satisfying about checking items off a to-do list and organizing into spreadsheets. It’s hard and exhausting work, you very rarely get the recognition, and very few people in or out of the industry know how much you do. If you’re good at it (like I am), even the people onset will never know the obstacles you overcame, the miracles you made happen, and the fires you put out. But you’ll know you made it happen when no one else could, and sometimes, that’s enough. 

What is the best piece of advice you’ve heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
Be nice to everyone, especially the people below you. That and if you are asking people to work for free or cheap, you better make sure crafty is good and well stocked. 
What’s next for you?

In the next week or so we are announcing the acquisition of “Seven Lovers” by Premiere Digital. It’s an ultra-low-budget SAG feature film that I produced in NYC staring Erin Darke (Good Girls Revolt), Fran Kranz (Dollhouse, Cabin In The Woods), and Max von Essen (American in Paris). We are gearing up for a Valentines Day release, since the story is a romantic one, and plan to have a couple of event screenings on the coasts. 
I’m also going to be graduating this year! Getting my MFA in Acting has been one of the most challenging things in my life that I have taken on and I’m thrilled to have (almost) made it through!
After that, I will have to see where the work takes me. 

How can we stay connected? 


Breiner Sanders Productions

Breiner Sanders FB  


Interview with Editing Filmmaker: Spenser Reich 

I’m Spenser. I was born and raised in the Bay Area and moved down to Los Angeles to pursue filmmaking. I am currently a freelance editor and can’t imagine having a career doing anything else. 

What made you become an editor?

Well, I started off as a writer. I moved to Los Angeles to pursue a writing/directing career, but I quickly learned how much I did not want to direct whatsoever. Learning that kind of lead me into exploring other options and I had dabbled a bit in editing a long time ago, so I explored this option with the most excitement and openness. The more I started learning it and doing it the more I fell in love with it and came to the conclusion that editing is what I’m meant to do.

What education, schooling or skills are needed to become an editor? And what suggestion do you have someone who can’t go to traditional school but wants to become an editor?

The best education is through practice. I did go to film school and it definitely helped me get a start in editing, but I feel like I’ve learned way more through practicing and trial and error than I ever did in film school. I’m not knocking film school, but I don’t think it’s a necessity for learning to edit. There are so many amazing tutorials out there and if you’re dedicated to it, you can teach yourself.
As far as skills go, does dedication count as a skill? I mean, art is so subjective, so to say you need to be creative or have the right “eye” is meaningless because that’s different to every person. I think it’s more important to be dedicated to editing and hone in on your craft. If you want to be an editor, become so dedicated to it that you can list it as one of your skills without hesitation, you know?
When you start editing, do you stick to the script and the storyboard, or do you start interpreting right away?

Man. It’s hard to give a definitive answer on this because I approach each project differently. I’ve approached projects each of those ways. I guess if I’m leaning one way or the other, I think I lean more towards interpretation rather than the script, especially with dramas. With comedies I tend to look a bit more at the script because comedic actors, from my experience, tend to veer off the script a bit more, so I want to make sure I’m still hitting the important beats that the script hits. With dramas, though, I don’t want to be as influenced by what the script says compared to what the actors’ performances are giving me. The thing is, is that whatever they shot on set is the most your movie can ever be. No matter what the script says, if it wasn’t shot, it doesn’t exist. For that reason, I think it’s really important to read the script once so you can get a feel for the intention of the film, but then kind of put it away forever unless you absolutely need to reference back to it. For me, at least, I want to work off what I have – the footage – rather than what it could have been – the script.
Do you cut to music or without sound? How does sound influence your cutting?

Usually without sound, but again, it depends on the project. I cut a music video and I, of course, cut to the song for that project, but I typically prefer to cut without sound. The reason being is I’m a highly sensitive person so if I’m cutting to music it will have a heavy impact on the way I’m editing. I want to watch the performances and draw my emotion out from the actors, the setting, the cinematography, etc. rather than an outside force like a piece of music. Although, I did recently cut a scene while listening to a metronome to see how I felt about it and I have to admit that I kind of liked it. That was more of a focusing thing rather than an emotional thing, though.
Are there rules for editing certain types of scenes (i.e. comedy, dialogue, action) that you like to follow – or like to break? Examples?

I don’t think I’m following/breaking rules when I’m editing. Or at least, that’s not my focus. There’s not a great way to explain when I know I want a cut in there, but I can feel it. I know when something feels wrong and I know when something is speaking to me. I do think my approach is different depending on the type of scene, though, but that’s dictated more by what I’ve found works or doesn’t work in past projects and translating what works into new projects. Like I know for comedies, I love if I can have an awkward pause in there somewhere. Not such an awkward pause that the audience is hating me for it, but I love to be able to elicit an uncomfortable response in comedies. That’s a fun, I guess, “rule” I have when cutting comedies.
What have you learned about editing that they don’t tell you in film school?

Well hopefully a lot. Film school is great, but experience is the best education you can get for something like editing. The most important thing I’ve learned, that schools are not going to tell you, is that if you don’t love it you shouldn’t do it and if you do love it, you should pursue it like you’ve pursued nothing else before. Editing is so much work. It takes your nights, weekends, sleep, and social life away when you’re an in-work editor and it’s absolutely worth it – if you love it. If you love it, it doesn’t matter that you haven’t had a full night of sleep in ages or a weekend for months because you lose yourself in your work. I can’t imagine putting myself through so much for something I didn’t love as much as I love editing. But I think that’s true for any career you want to pursue. If you don’t love it, do something else. Put your whole heart into the thing you love because if it’s going to be your career, you are spending so much of your life doing it and why wouldn’t you want your life to be full of something you love..?

What kinds of things inspire you? Do you have any personal rituals, or maybe a creative exercise you do to get your head in the right mood before you start?

Other movies inspire me, of course. Also, just day-to-day interactions with other people inspire me. It’s crazy how much I feel inspired in my editing just from day-to-day interactions.

When I have a full day of editing ahead of me, I like to get up on my first alarm without any snooze button crap. This might seem like a small thing, but to get in the right headspace, I really want to start my day off with wanting to edit. If I’m hitting my Snooze button every ten minutes for an hour, I find it much harder to get into editing. Not like it’s impossible, but I have to fight myself more to do it if I start my day off weird.

Also, if I start off editing for an hour or two pretty early in the morning and then take a break to eat breakfast, that works really well for me. It helps me start my day off by knowing I’m going to be editing all day, but that I’m still going to take care of myself which will end up helping my edit in the long run.
What are the three most common mistakes you see beginning editors make?

A big mistake I made when I first began is being overly confident. I think it’s something a lot of beginners have at first. I got excited in how much I was progressing, so I would enter some harder or lengthier projects with the same mindset that I had on easier or shorter projects. I think it’s good to have confidence in yourself and your ability, but getting to the place you want to takes time and you can’t jump from the beginning to your end goal just because you’d like to. The journey is super important. That’s one common mistake I see in beginning editors.
Besides that, I think a common mistake I see in beginning editors is they can become defensive when people critique their work. Directors, producers, the audience, etc. will all have an opinion and it can be really tough to listen to those opinions at times. When I first started, I had a hard time taking criticism if it wasn’t one-on-one. Meaning if there were a few people around all giving notes at once, I would clam up a bit. It can kind of crush your spirit to hear something you put a lot of effort into isn’t coming across the way you thought it did. Developing a thick skin and being able to absorb these critiques is a really important part of being an editor. It can only help you grow and learn to be best editor you can be if you can take people’s notes in with an openness. There’s value in listening to the good and the bad notes alike, so shutting down will never help you in learning how to absorb the good and to discard the bad.

 How do you earn a living and sustain a career doing what you love?

You just do it. You do it every day as much as you can. You accept as much work as you can at the beginning so you can build your talent as well as your resume until you’ve reached the point where you’re making money off of every project you take on and, even more importantly, until you can be just as picky as you want to be with the projects you take on. 
How does a typical day (for you) begin when you are in full swing of editing?

It varies, but I do like to get up right away and start immediately. I will take a break about an hour or two in to have breakfast, take a shower, brush my teeth, and all of that, but I like to start first with editing. I want to feel like I’m in the swing of things with editing so I don’t put it off or get distracted and end up wasting more time than I meant to. So yeah, it’s really important to me to sit my butt down in front of my computer and start editing right away.
What’s next for you?

Being a freelancer is tricky because the future is always a little uncertain. I’m currently working on a few projects, but then I’ll be gone for almost a month, so I have to take a bit of an editing hiatus. Once I’m back I do have a couple of projects lined up, but we’ll see what happens outside of that. I would like to be an editor on a documentary, so I would love to make that happen in the future. I would also be really excited to work on a feature-length horror film because I’m a huge horror fan, when they’re done well. My husband is a composer so I also look forward to the day when we can both work together on a project because we both respect each other’s artistic outlooks and I think it’d be a lot of fun to work on a project together. Besides that, it’s all possible. I’m happy when I’m editing, so as long as I can keep doing this thing I love for as long as I want (forever – haha), then I’m pretty satisfied.
IG: @spenserreich


Twitter: @spenserreich

Interview with filmmaker: Natasha Straley 

I am an independent filmmaker based in New York City (originally from Texas). My work tends to explore the uncomfortable aspects of the human condition while pulling hope to the surface. My directorial debut, FINISHED, will release fall 2016. I am scheduled to direct three more short films and produce two more projects before 2017.

When did you fall in love with the art of “storytelling” screenwriting (your defining moment)?

I remember watching films like American Beauty and feeling my mind bust open. Then along came then Black Swan and now Tallulah shedding light on aspects of society I thought we aren’t supposed to talk about. I realized then that filmmaking is a powerful way to shift an audience’s perspective. I now work on projects that provide a healing element while holding up a lurid mirror, boldly reflecting society.
How do you determine if someone is truly worth collaborating with?

I seek people who appreciate the delicate nuances within human relationships because this concept is typically at the core of the stories I tell. I find it important to work with folks who have a similar, strong work ethic while bringing a unique perspective to the table. It’s also important to me to surround myself with a balanced crew of women and men who are good at what they do. If I can trust you to do your job and do it well in a timely manner, we’re golden. If you have an idea to support the story, I want to hear it. If you are passionate, driven, excited, supportive and focused, I want to work with you. Bonus points if you have a sense of humor.
 How do you earn a living and sustain a career doing what you love?

I am still working toward filmmaking full time, but I am grateful to have the situation I have. I am able to choose which projects I take on because I maintain a day job where I work in an office a few days per week. I feel empowered to only accept projects I am excited about. Someday I’ll be able to let that desk job go, but it works really well for now. 

How does a typical day (for you) begin when you are in full swing production?

I wake up at 3am and stare at my phone waiting for the first emergency of the day haha

No, but really, I’m pretty good about lining up everything before the shoot so we’re ready to go and have a smooth production. It’s important to me that my cast and crew are smiling, that we’re all having a good time, so being fully prepared is essential. We are filmmaking. Find the joy while we get work done. 
Do you work in multiple areas: film, television, web, or are you focused in one area?

I resonate most naturally with the indie film world. I’ve done some webseries projects and TV and enjoy them as well, but there’s something very special about the film world.

  How easy has it been for you to move between areas if you do? What do you see as the appeal of the various formats 
I love film because of the depths you can explore.

I love television because of the speed at which you work.

I love web because it’s just a good time.

All areas have a particular flow I enjoy and embrace.


What is the best piece of advice you’ve heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?

Attempt to be present in everything you do. Live in the moment. Listen.

What’s next for you?

I have a film I wrote and directed, FINISHED, now in post production. I’ll be dedicating a lot of my energy to finalizing sound design and color correction soon. I am also excited to say I’ll be co-directing a short film, SHOW & TELL TANGO, with interpretive dance interweaving with a love affair’s demise in November. I’ll then direct a sketch comedy with a dark core, CAULIFLOWER, at YouTube Studios in December. I am in preproduction for a short dramatic film I’m producing, GONE. We are set to shoot this spring with a stellar team (can’t announce names just yet!). And, of course, I am always looking for and/or writing the next script.
How can we stay connected to you? 

Natasha Straley 

@natashastraley (Insta/Twitter/FB)