What was the moment that defined you choosing filmmaking?
I have always been drawn to filmmaking. Whenever I was given creative license on a project at school, I would make a video. But for some reason when I chose to go after a creatively driven career, I leaned on my love for writing. The defining moment came when I wrote a script and someone I knew offered to help me bring it to life. In the preliminary stages of trying to get funding we tried to make a video explaining the characters and the plot. When it was time to edit the video, I was told that I couldn’t have any input because I was “just a writer.” In that moment, I decided to learn everything I could about filmmaking. I was going to write, edit, produce, direct… everything. I chose to put the execution of my vision into my own hands.
What movies or stories inspire your creativity?
I’m a sucker for a good love story. Most of the stories I tell are about romantic relationships. I also love movies with magical themes. But no matter the genre, if the story makes me sit in the theater until the lights come on, and then plug my dying phone into a random outlet in the theater, so that I can write down my thoughts, then it’s my type of movie. I love characters with layers. I love the stories where I feel like I can peek into the character’s brain, fill in the holes in the story, pick up where the story ends, and create new characters that could live separately in their universe.
What’s the best advice you can give writers to help them develop their own unique voice and style?
When it comes to honing your own voice and style, I say observe, and learn but don’t copy. When I was younger if I loved a genre then I would write only stories from that genre. I fell in love with a Michael Crichton book in 7th grade, and only wrote sci-fi stories that whole year. Then I read the Fear Street series by R.L. Stine and only wanted to write about teenagers who were being tortured by some paranormal figure. I grew as a writer because of that. Without knowing it I was learning how to write well rounded characters from other worlds.
Every writer I admire says if you want to write then you should read everything, and write often even if it’s bad. The filmmakers have said to read every script you can get your hands on. I completely agree. I would also add: Watch everything more than once. I watch the movies and shows I love first for the story. I am listening and imagining the way the script looks. Then when I watch it again, I study the technical aspects. I’m looking for how they transition between scenes, how they use lighting and sound, how the characters are positioned, etc.
After doing all of that, I create something or go over what you’ve already created, and make sure it’s so uniquely yours that when someone reads it or sees it then they know without a doubt that it’s yours.
You are just getting started with cinematography what has been your go to camera to film on?
I’m obsessed with filming on old cameras. I own a Super8 camera, and before that I would use apps that simulated the look of VHS or the Super8 format. Right now, I am learning to shoot on the Panasonic AVC models 40, 80, and 90. My favorite is the 90. I am looking forward to getting my hands on some of the other high tech cameras that I ogle over on the @filmschool feed on Instagram.
How are you working on growing in the craft of cinematography?
I started out by purchasing books on filmmaking but it was pretty much gibberish to me because I didn’t understand many of the terms. I did research on film schools but I found that the local public access station in my city was offering classes on everything from shooting, producing, and editing, to how to produce in a television studio. I have already taken some of the editing classes and their field production classes. I have found that I have a love for editing, and though I want to be able to do everything, I will leave the lighting to someone else on my crew.
Now that I understand more about how the cameras and editing software works, I am back to reading as many books as I can, and I’m reading scripts. I’m also watching as many tutorials as I can on the craft.
What suggestion do you have for someone who is considering filmmaking and don’t know where to start?
Write. Shoot something. Try everything. Find someone who is already immersed in the film world and ask how you could be of help. When I realized that I would learn better if I had hands-on experience I sent a formal inquiry to acquaintances who I knew were actively making their own film or web series. I didn’t ask to pick their brains, I stated all of the experience I have that could be helpful and then I asked to volunteer on their sets in exchange for an opportunity to be around active filmmaking.
How do you deal with writer’s block?
After I pout and hit the like button on several memes about writer’s block, I re-read some of the things that I’ve written that I know don’t completely suck to gain the confidence to start writing. If I’m stuck on a storyline, then I try to just focus on one of the characters. I put that character through random situations. If it doesn’t break my block, at least I kept in the habit of writing. I think the worst thing to do when you’re blocked is to stop writing. When you try again you still end up having to write out of the crap that was blocking you from the good stuff anyway.
What is your ultimate goal as a filmmaker?
I want the credits to roll on a film and for it to say: Written by Simone Waugh, Directed by Simone Waugh, Produced by Simone Waugh.
I want to make romantic comedies/ dramas that men will volunteer to go see. I want to make movies that touch everyone.
What’s next for you?
I’m spending this year taking more classes, and practicing working with the software and equipment. I am securing an apprenticeship with a filmmaker who has worked on big projects and who has made his own films as well. I’m writing my butt off. I hope to be in the casting stages for my project by the end of 2017.
How can we keep up with you?