Tell us who Casey Gates is?
Casey Gates is an emerging writer and filmmaker, creating and spotlighting original, female-driven work through her film initiative Lady Brain. By day she works on various television sets as a social media guru, filming and capturing behind-the-scenes content for NBC. And when not hustling she loves to practice yoga, play in the sun, and attempt to make her apartment pinterest-worthy-on-a-budget chic.
What inspired you to become a film director?
Ever since I was young I was fascinated with storytelling. I started in theatre and gravitated toward performing initially, while directing seemed to be this unreachable, far-off dream. Or one that might only become available if I “made it” as an actor. So while pursuing acting I was repeatedly encouraged to create my own work, and it was through that experience I realized how fulfilling and drawn to that part of the creative process I was. Performing is still a passion, but writing and directing is now my mission.
How did you learn the craft of directing? What skills are needed to be a great director (in your opinion)?
I started off directing theatre and gained a lot of confidence there to make the leap to film. The instructor I had at the time, Stuart Rogers, was pivotal in helping me find my voice and approach to shaping a story. I would direct a piece for the stage, put it up in class, and be asked to deliver my notes and work with actors in front of everyone, because you better get used to having to do that on set. Then I would receive a critique and feedback, and come back a few weeks later with my revised scene.
From my experience, the most important skill to have as a director is a clear vision. Ask yourself, “Why this story? Why now?”. Then find the balance in sticking to your vision while staying open to collaboration and input from your team.
Do you think it’s necessary that a director know the basics of the camera in order to be a successful/well rounded director?
This is definitely an area I’m trying to further educate myself on, but I don’t think understanding the technical will automatically make anyone a great director. Basically– don’t wait to direct until you have a film degree. Knowing camera and gear will serve you immensely, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with learning as you go and hiring partners and a crew that you trust and can lean on and learn from.
How do you earn a living and sustain a career doing what you love?
I look forward to the day that I can make my living as a creative, but I also believe day jobs can be very rewarding for artists. I’ve mined some of my best stories from the different kinds of day jobs that I’ve had over the years. It places you into a community and environment you might not otherwise be exposed to, so use it. Just don’t stop that side hustle.
What do you look for when looking for a project?
Writing my own material or at least having a hand in the development has, so far, been the most effective and rewarding path for my directing so far. I geek out on breaking story and finding the blueprints. But if approached to direct someone else’s piece, I would look for something emotionally resonate for me as well as a clear reason why this thing needs to exist in the world right now and why I might be uniquely qualified to help create it.
How would you describe your process working with the actors?
I love rehearsal and definitely see that continuing to be a part of my process with actors. I understand we’re not always given that luxury, so I always hope to show up to set with empathy. Meet the actors where they are as best I can so I may guide them and give them permission to arrive to the moment and circumstances.
How has your style evolved?
When I started I think I was a bit more into lyrical and poetic styles of storytelling. But as I gain more experience, I’ve gravitated toward more subtle and clean shots and scenes that move quickly, therefore earning the moments where we linger.
What is the Lady Brain Series about?
It’s a vlog series that I created to help show what it looks like for me as a beginning filmmaker to learn, stumble, and take risks in pursing this career.
How did you connect with these other creative women and why did you all opt to utilize iPhones to capture this “Insta Film”?
It was a team of female creators who helped Hollywood Dramedy happen.
Katina Nikou came up with the idea originally and also wrote the piece. She is a friend of mine who is in my writer’s group and she approached me to help shape the story and to direct. With my experience working in social media, it seemed like a great way to utilize this storytelling device (literally called Stories) for narrative purposes. And mostly it was just great fun and we hope to do more!
Tell us about the project “Was It Rape Then?”. How did you become involved in this much needed conversation? Do you feel there is a certain responsibility that filmmakers have to use their voice through film to bring awareness to various topics that aren’t usually addressed?
This piece was actually directed by Kari Lee Cartwright but I came on board to help lead the online distribution and PR strategy, as well as host the film on the Lady Brain Vimeo as a presenting partner. Kari’s husband Tad produced and is also in my writer’s group, which is how I was connected to the project. (Building artistic communities is vital for collaboration and moving ahead, I believe)
And yes, I absolutely think we have a responsibility as artists to reflect the world we’re living in, for better or worse. As well as to challenge our society to see things differently. I was honored to help this film reach so many people and share an important message in an elegant and creative way.
What’s next for you?
I directed and co-wrote a short film called Girl Code (www.facebook.com/girlcodefilm) that is premiering at the Los Angeles International Short Film Festival August 4th in the 7:45pm block. We are also going to be announcing a few more upcoming festival screenings soon!
Additionally, I am continuing to write my own material. I am on the second draft of an original pilot called Blissed Out which I plan to host on The Blacklist and apply for their Episodic Lab, co-hosted by Women in Film.
Watch the trailer for Girl Code here : https://vimeo.com/210675690
How can we stay connected?