Interview with filmmaker: Kristin Fairweather

I’m a director. I love images and story. I am also established as a indie film producer and beginning to get more of my writing out into the world.

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What drew you into the world of filmmaking? What was your defining moment?

It’s funny because I would say that after taking 8 years to make my first feature as a producer that premiering that film at the Tribeca Film Festival would be the “defining moment”. While that is certainly a cherished accomplishment & experience, the defining moment I keep in my heart and use as my north star when things get tough in this biz is from the set of “Save the Future”, a Netflix short film I produced. I had left a successful career in politics to chase my dream of making films and “Save the Future” was my first real set. The first shot was our lead standing in a field of gorgeous red and yellow poppies. I had felt I risked it all professionally to get to this place and my heart was so full of certainty in that moment that I found my true path. Whenever I encounter obstacles I always return to that image.

What do you look for when looking for a project?

I look for different things as a director than I do when producing. The common attribute I always look for in both is humanity and heart. The stories don’t have to be sweet or always optimistic, but they need to feel true to the journey of being a person in a complex world.

What is a successful moment in your career so far?

Each festival premiere has been special. The stars have to align for any film to get off of the ground so every premiere feels like a big success. The success I’m most focused on right now is booking directing jobs. I just wrapped a commercial for American Airlines and Film Independent that is all about empowering female storytellers. We had an all-female crew. Standing on that set having the chance to direct and work with so many talented women was a big moment.

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

This is the million dollar question. It’s a hustle and it’s never a straight path. I’m working to get to the point where I can make a living writing, directing and producing in television, film , commercials and web content.

Tell us what does producing really consist of?

Producers are sounding boards, therapists, and the ultimate logistic jugglers. It’s all about managing people and expectations. I’m so grateful to have come up in this business as a producer first and then a director. I think it adds depth to my approach as a director as I’m able to pull back and look at the big picture. It’s allowed me to have an intimate understanding of all the many moving pieces required to elevate a project.

You also wear the hat of a director, do you believe a director needs to know how to operate a camera themselves?

I really like to shoot. I’m a novice. I have not mastered all aspects of the camera by a longshot. I think a director being curious, interested and engaged is the most important piece. I want to devour the knowledge on camera operation. Right now camera operation is so new to me but I love it. I probably follow as many DP’s as I do other directors. I love images and find deepest inspiration from them.

 

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

My phone is usually overheating by 11am. It’s just nonstop. The good news is that production is the ultimate rush so the long days and hectic hours fuel me. When I’m directing my day typically begins with prepping with the DP, checking in with department heads and thinking about the day. I still like to be early on set as a director so I can walk through locations and get my mind focused prior to the flurry of the first call.

One piece of advice do you have for women looking to get started in the industry?

Take chances and have faith in yourself. Don’t wait for the perfect timing, script, collaborator. Believe that your voice is worthy of entering the chorus.

What’s next for you?

I just wrapped production on the “Bonnie Award” commercial. In the past year 2 films I produced, A Rising Tide and Namour, were picked up and are being released widely this year. The commercial I directed premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival and is now playing on international flights around the world. I have a beat to take a breath and focus on what’s next. My primary focus is finding opportunities to shadow more established directors in television and film. I hope to direct on television and also find some more commercial and web content to direct. I’m finishing the screenplay for my first feature I plan to direct in the next two years.

Shivawn Hill, is a writer, director and a storyteller at heart. She’s currently in post production with her short documentary film. She believes that one day soon she’ll form the ultimate group of Storytellers who will travel the world to share the stories of creative peculiar people.

Interview with Sunshine Moxie Entertainment

Eliyannah Amirah Yisrael is the founder of Sunshine Moxie Entertainment and a Black girl from Chicago who was supposed to stay inside her box. Instead, she decided to dream big, live bigger and change the world through visual storytelling. Since 2010, she has written and directed across mediums to tell stories about the objects of her obsession: women of color.

Megan Grogan is the Producer of Hermione Granger and the Quarter Life Crisis web series, and Head of Production for Sunshine Moxie Entertainment. In addition to the hit web series, HGQLC, Megan has 3 festival accepted short films (“The Life I Carry”, “The Lot”, “The Weight of Sadness”) and 2 successful Kickstarter campaigns on her resume. Megan’s passion lies in character driven stories that explore the truths of every days lives and promoting strong female characters and leaders in the Film and Television industry.

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How did Sunshine Moxie Entertainment get started?

Eliyannah – I was raised by people that started and ran their own school so my foundation and my pre-disposition is to initiate structure and organization when I see a need for it. Once film found me (in college), my journey was something like 1.) Directing is definitely what I want to do 2.) What do I want to direct? What do I want to create? 3.) What companies are focused on telling black women’s stories? 4.) I need to consistently be able to greenlight myself and also greenlight other people who want to tell black women’s stories and other women of color.

Megan – When Eliyannah and I first met it was the creative partner equivalent to love at first sight. A day after we met we had started the conversation of our first film together. We are opposite women in many ways, but not only was I pulled into to the “sunshine moxie” of her personality, but it felt not only did I have some of that same quality but our partnership brought it out of me more. It was clear we both wanted to tell stories of women, stories that are often ignored, and as our work grew, it was clear the foundation of Sunshine Moxie was growing.

Tell us a little about yourself as individuals & what role you play in the project HGQLC?

Eliyannah – I think of myself as a director with a focus on story. It’s the only thing that matters. I’m also a Taurus, a Ravenclaw, an INFP, Southside Chi till I die and a lifetime dreamer.

I created HGQLC, I’m the showrunner and I direct all the episodes. Wow. It’s amazing to look at those words!

Megan- I’m a writer and producer from Detroit, MI (on some days that makes the moxie a little more than the sunshine!), and I care about people and their stories. I like to know what happens in the moments between the chaos. For HGQLC, I actually came on as the producer after the first 2 episodes, which is crazy to think because I feel so much a part of this show!

How big is your production team (and who does that include)? How did you go about finding your team?

Megan – The official Sunshine Moxie production team consists of Eliyannah and I. We have many amazing and talented people who we work with on projects, but when it comes to the core, it’s just us.

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Eliyannah how did you come up with the concept for HGQLC? Tell us a little about the project. Also do you feel the need or push for us as indie filmmakers to venture more into the genre of fantasy as women filmmakers?

Eliyannah – Hermione’s quarter life crisis was honestly inspired by my own. First of all, I am Hermione Granger. I’ve never related to a character in a book more than I did with her. Also, In January of 2016, I was (31, not 25 lol) in Park City, Utah volunteering for Sundance Film Festival and I was at such a low & frustrating point in my life. I felt like I was going nowhere really quickly, that maybe I had made some huge wrong turn somewhere and I had no clue how to right it.

I was in Park City legitimately planning to not go back home but to change my flight to Spokane, Washington, change my number, get a job as a secretary and never speak to anyone again. Except my mom, but she had to swear not to tell anyone. It was lunacy. But I was so tired and I was so embarrassed that I wasn’t who & what I wanted to be yet. I was also reading a Hermione fanfic at the time and after I climbed off the ledge, I was on the bus leaving a film thinking about what was I gonna do and how I needed to have fun again working on a project and it just…came to me. I’ve always hated the epilogue, it always rang untrue to me, and I just thought to myself that Hermione had to have broken down at some point the same way that I had. And I thought it would be fun to explore what that looked like.

As far as women and independent filmmakers venturing into fantasy, I think it’s necessary and critical and it must happen. And I think, especially, to see black women at the center of fantasy genre stories. The world needs it. As all of the adjectives that I identify with (independent, black, female) It’s easy to shy away from the genre and for the barriers to be bigger than the opportunities but fantasy drama is my favorite place to be and I didn’t climb out of Chicago’s south side just to play it safe. We don’t do as much magic on HGQLC as I would like because it’s not the focus of the story but that black girl has literal magic and we will show it as often as we can.

The show follows Hermione Granger who’s a 25 year old African American trying to figure her life out. How were you two able to relate to her character and then translate that into your roles as a director and producer?

Megan – I think any women over the age of 25 can relate to the feeling of a quarter life crisis. Wizard or not, magic doesn’t help you figure that out! Watching this character certainly made me more grateful of where I am and what I’ve achieved, but also I think it made me a more compassionate producer. Most of our cast and crew are around this age, and as a producer it’s important to understand the people you are working with in order to get the best out of them and of course for them to get the most out of what they are doing.

Eliyannah – I just really got out of my quarter life crisis, around 32/33, so I directly relate as a director but as the creator of the show and as the studio behind it, I’m glad that I get to put a black girl finding herself front & center. I wish I’d had this show or something like it!

Why did you two decide to pursue independent filmmaking?

Megan- To be honest, I know this sounds cheesy, but I don’t think either of us chose independent filmmaking. No one does really, it chooses you. We joke together because we both have back up plans if we want to give up, and both of our back up plans involve disappearing to some hidden or exotic place and writing some masterpiece to come back with! When you are an artist, of any kind, you see the world in a different way and you can’t stop yourself from creating. The purpose and vision might change, but you will make your creative voice heard.

Eliyannah – I actually think that I’ll always be somewhat independent, even when I’m directing $200 million studio films. Besides that, I agree with Megan. I think it’s as simple as desperately needing to create and making a way to do it. I was created to create and I have to do that, no matter what.

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Megan what did a typical day look like for you while in full production for this project?Like a blur! Just kidding! When in production for something like HGQLC it’s non-stop.

Everything we do is low budget, sometimes no budget, which means every person is playing multiple roles. So it’s a matter of going through each department and piece of production and either following up with those people, or in a lot of cases taking care of it yourself because being a producer on projects like this can often mean being the location manager, the prop master and even craft service. Eliyannah and myself both work full time while building Sunshine Moxie, so each project we do takes every minute of every day. I get up at 5:00am and have sent 10 emails before my first cup of coffee, every free second I have while working is sending schedules, booking crew, re-booking crew who have canceled, ordering parchment paper on amazon for a prop, and then am up until 1am sending more follow up emails because I didn’t get off work until 8pm. Some people might think it’s easy to get some people together and make something, but when you care about what you are doing it’s a lot more work. You have to put 100 puzzle pieces together but also make sure your director is getting everything she needs because if the vision isn’t coming to life then what’s the point?

How do you recommend that filmmakers break in?

Eliyannah – Tell everyone around you that you want to be working in film/tv because you never know who they know, create something every chance you got, find a new line of work if you’re not willing to lay it all on the table and don’t be afraid to cry it out as often as you need!!!

Megan – I always hate this question! haha. There’s no right way or no answer. The biggest thing I can say is take every single opportunity, be willing to do anything, talk to everyone, work hard and be available. Don’t be shy or wait for the opportunity to find you, it won’t, you have to make it yourself.

Cost is always a factor how do you fund “green light” projects?

Megan – We see how much is in our bank account.

Eliyannah – *cackles with laughter*

Megan – Honestly though, you just find a way to make it happen. For some projects, we use all of our own money. We’ve used Kickstarter as an option in the past (with success!!) and we’ve been fortunate enough to find a small production company to partner with us in helping to fund some of HGQLC. It’s a matter of putting it all on the table. Some projects that interest people it’s easier to try and find money, but others you just have to believe in enough. We are still paying for some projects!

What is your social media strategy as business owners but also finding that balance as a creative?

Eliyannah -Strategy:

A.) Find someone amazing to run the social media accounts for HGQLC.

B.) Panic ever 7-9 days because I haven’t posted to any of the Sunshine Moxie accounts and hope that Megan can figure out Twitter before 2027.

C.) Request that anybody reading this interview and is interested in running the social media pages for a new production company with a focus on centering black women across genres email us at sunshinemoxie@gmail.com 😀

What legacy do you want Sunshine Moxie Entertainment to leave behind?

Eliyannah – I always ask the question, “why can’t I be the Warner Brothers? Why can’t I be Walt Disney?” and I mean it. I want to Sunshine Moxie to be remembered as a pioneering company that revolutionized film and television. 300 years from now, I want Sunshine Moxie to still be at the forefront of telling compelling stories about black women and other women of color in new and interesting ways. If not, I’ll come back from the dead and stage a hostile takeover.

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Where do you see HGQLC headed in the future?

Eliyannah – That’s not a fair question for me to answer because I started this show with a solid idea in my head of how long it would be and how it would end and while the past 1.5 years have altered her path there, the ending of the story remains the same.That said, I see HGQLC getting darker in some ways and lighter in others. For me, it’s Hermione’s story but it’s also the story of these 4 young women coming into their own and creating lives they can love. Hermione will have to deal with the dysfunction in her family and we’ll see her navigating the loss of a parent. She has so many parts of her life and her personality that were stopped and put on hold so it’ll be interesting to see how she starts putting the pieces together one by one. What I’m most excited about, honestly, is seeing 2 black girls come of age. That’s one of my favorite types of stories, internal conflict in general, and we don’t get to see black women explore that kind of question on screen very often so I see HGQLC diving head first into letting theyoung, black woman figure out who she is and how she fits in the world.

 Megan – That’s not a fair question for me to answer because I started this show with a solid idea in my head of how long it would be and how it would end and while the past 1.5 years have altered her path there, the ending of the story remains the same. I see HGQLC continuing to be a place where HP fans, women in their 20’s struggling, and most importantly African-American women go for comfort, a good laugh and a fresh take on some of literatures favorite characters. It’s an amazing thing that we’ve been able to create a show with a strong black woman as the lead, and have it received so well. Sure, there are people who only want to see Emma Watson, but we are making this show for all of the people who either read Hermione as a black woman, or fantasized what it would be like to see someone looking like them play Hermione. As a white female myself, I have enough people that look like me telling my story, so I’m excited to be a part of a company that takes an opportunity to put women of color in the narrative and in front of the screen.

What’s next for Sunshine Moxie Entertainment?

Eliyannah – I just completed a short film, “We Love Us Cause Ya’ll Won’t” that’s being entered into contests and festivals so hopefully there are some updates for that one soon!

Megan just produced a concert for an independent singer/songwriter here in LA. We have a few films and series in development that we feel very excited to be writing and both of us are generally living up to the mantra of “always be creating”.

We’re planning to be back in production for HGQLC soon and will be announcing any and every new project on our social media and our (coming!!!) website.

Megan – So many things! Sunshine Moxie has never been at a more exciting time than now. We are in the middle of writing our first feature film, a possible 2nd web series, and a podcast! Hopefully by the time you are reading this our first episode will be up for our podcast “With Sunshine and Moxie”, which is podcast for dreamers. It’s the two of us on our journey and podcasting is literally a dream come true for me so just doing it feels incredible! Lots, lots, lots to come from Sunshine Moxie!

 

How can we keep in contact with you?

http://www.sunshinemoxie.com

http://www.hermioneseries.com

http://www.eliyannahdirect.com

http://www.instgram.com/sunshinemoxie

http://www.instagram.com/hermioneseries

http://www.instagram.com/eliyannahdirect

http://www.instagram.com/megankgrogan

http://www.facebook.com/sunshinemoxie

http://www.facebook.com/hermioneseries

http://www.tumblr.hermioneseries.com

Shivawn Hill, is a writer, director and a storyteller at heart. She’s currently in post production with her short documentary film. She believes that one day soon she’ll form the ultimate group of Storytellers who will travel the world to share the stories of creative peculiar people.

Interview with Storyteller: Lande Yoosuf

I am a first generation Nigerian-American born woman. My views are rooted in helping voiceless black women become empowered and self-actualized. I struggled to speak up, own my truest self and validate who I am because I allowed of exterior stimuli to influence the way I saw myself—I know I am not the only one who has experienced this. I want to contribute to new outlets for black women to grow and be themselves, mainly through the art of visual story telling—film, television and web/mobile video content. If I aid in that mission, I will feel content with the work that I do.

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Why did you start One Scribe Media?

I started One Scribe Media because I knew I always wanted to own a production company. When I had the opportunity to work with clients as an independent contractor, it was clear that establishing my own company was necessary. So I created One Scribe Media in 2010.

Since pursuing a career in the entertainment industry, I’ve learned so much about myself—I’m a leader, I’m a great listener, I love history, I love to debate, I am passionate about socio-cultural issues and I love to write.

 

 

How did you find your team for Scribe Media and who does your team consist of? 

I work solo and hire folks on a project based basis. But they are always AMAZING!

 

You are known for your casting background and the ability to find the right fit for any project what made you want to venture into production and writing?

I really enjoyed casting when the opportunity was presented to him. Talking to people and learning about their lives is fascinating—I took tons of sociology electives in college and casting just provided another outlet for this field of study.

 

But after casting for several years, I got an itch to work on some of my own ideas. By default of working in casting and development and production, I was asked to produce shoots. I knew I had the skills, so the main challenge was finding something to shoot. Once I had a story that was ready to go, I dived right in!

 

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Congrats on the crowdfunding success for your project Privilege Unhinged, tell us about this upcoming film and what do you attribute to a successful crowdfunding campaign? 

Thank you! Crowdfunding was such a challenge for me. Asking people for money in such a public way was something that made me so uncomfortable. But I had to get over my pride and ego, and have some humility. Once I finally let that go, the realization that I had so many people that were supporting me was really overwhelming. I am truly lucky and blessed.

 

These are the things I think I did well that helped my campaign:

–       I did it for 30 days only to add to the urgency of the campaign

–       I spoke to a crowd funding consultant

–       I shot video content to tell my story, share my dreams of being a filmmaker, wanting to tell a very specific story, etc.

–       I gave snippets and previews of the campaign on social media before officially launching.

–       I contacted a close group of friends right before I launched the campaign for their opinions on the packaging.

–       I sent polite text reminders to folks who wanted to contribute but are forgetful about checking their email/social media accounts. I got almost half of my money because of this.

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I noted that you have a mission for women to have increased control, ownership, and management of media by writing and producing. How can we as creatives ensure that this happens? 

I think the main thing we can do is hire women and pay them fairly if possible. Share tips, resources and suggestions for other women, then pay it forward when a young lady who is ready to learn reaches out to you.

More importantly—don’t be a man in the shell of a woman in the workplace. It’s okay to be feminine and assertive, or to have a kinder approach to leadership. I’ve seen so many women lead with hostility and it turns women off from working with each other. I’ve made mental notes of my own to invest in helping other women succeed, but to do so with grace, humility and integrity. However, lay down the law when necessary.

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There are a lot of women in our collective who have finished up their screenplays and are ready to move forward. However, most of them get stuck with pitching and what’s next. What is one mistake that you see most make in pitching their projects? 

Firstly, I would say a strong pitch has a compelling protagonist goal, with an equally as engaging antagonist. Establishing opportunity for conflict is really important or you’ll bore your audience.

Secondly, every story should also have a beginning, middle and end—it all needs to blend well together and make sense.

Thirdly, the pitcher should really flush out opportunities for continuity. Make sense of how each character can have long-term goals that fit into the larger theme of the project.

Lastly—why should you tell the story? What new access or perspectives are you adding to the existing marketplace of content creation? Know your competition, the stories they are telling, and why the networks/platforms you are pitching to should invest a large sum of money into your unique take on the subject matter your project explores.

 

We are in the time of everything video. As storytellers do you think we have a responsibility with the influence we carry?

Absolutely. People consume content because it resonates with them, whether it is consciously or subconsciously. It’s up to us to decide how we want to contribute to that.

People will always be uncomfortable with certain topics—it’s on you as a creator to know why you’re telling the story you are telling and be okay with the backlash, especially if your motives are well intentioned.

 

 

What suggestion do you have for women who want to break into the industry but can’t attend college for education? 

Make something and do it now. Don’t wait, life is too short—there will never be a perfect time to do anything.

I would also say to take workshops or go to continuing education courses to brush up on some skills. Books, podcasts, blogs and Youtube are really helpful also!

 

What’s next for you? 

I’ll be making and pitching more films!

 

How can we keep in touch with you? 

–       www.onescribemedia.com

–       www.privilegeunhinged.com

–       www.facebook.com/OneScribeMedia

–       www.facebook.com/BlackFilmSpace

–       Instagram: @LandeYoosuf, @OneScribeMedia, @BlackFilmSpace

 

Shivawn Hill, is a writer, director and a storyteller at heart. She’s currently in post production with her short documentary film. She believes that one day soon she’ll form the ultimate group of Storytellers who will travel the world to share the stories of creative peculiar people.

Interview with Stage Manager: Christna Letang

Hi, I’m Christna Letang and I work in television production. Currently I work for the Charlie Rose Show but my career objective is to work in scripted television and create my own television show. In other words, Shonda Rhimes, I’m coming for you.

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

I was always very much into storytelling. I am the youngest of my siblings by quite a few years so while they were preteens and teenagers, I was a preschooler and, of course, they wanted nothing to do with me. I turned to barbie dolls and those became my biggest obsession. It jumpstarted my active imagination and I was consumed with creating dramatic stories for my dolls. As I got a little older, I watched a lot of television and was drawn to the overly cheesy and cliche storylines of the most popular Disney Channel shows.

When I was 12 years old, I decided to create my own TV show for the Disney Channel. I wrote the script, character analyses, treatments and even wrote the theme song! I sent a letter and an email to the Disney Channel CEO with my show idea, hoping to be hired as a writer. Though the CEO graciously wrote back and rejected me in the kindest way possible, I was instantly hooked to telling stories and I knew that that was what I wanted to do with my life.
Tell us about your experience with WEEN Academy? How did this experience propel your filmmaking/tv career? Are there any gems or takeaways you would like to share?
The WEEN Academy played a huge role in showing me by example that my dreams could actually be a reality. We visited many different entertainment companies and met so many people from all walks of the industry and that in itself was influential because it showed us people who looked like us or came from similar backgrounds as us working careers that we once dreamt of.

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One of the best things I learned from the WEEN Academy is the importance of work ethic and research. When pursuing a creative career, we often think that talent is what will get us the job. I’ve learned that, more than talent, consistency and hard work KEEPS the job. The best thing to do to stand out is to outwork everyone. It takes absolutely zero talent to show up early, be enthusiastic and really know your stuff about the company or people you work for. Start there and you can always go far.
Where are you currently in your filmmaking career? What are your plans?
Currently, I work for a TV show that is considered “news.” It is an unscripted television talk show and focuses mainly on politics, though we do quite a few segments with actors and artists. My plan while I am at this job is to soak up as much knowledge as I can. Though I eventually want to work in scripted television, it’s way too early in my career to limit myself to just one career option. I want to learn how to do technical direction, operate the robotic cameras and even learn what it takes to produce a segment of the show. I don’t think you can ever learn too much.
Tell us about your experience working on the set of the Charlie Rose show on PBS? You were the stage manager with that. Tell us what that consisted.
My everyday duties as a stage manager at The Charlie Rose Show include getting the guests mic’d up, preparing the studio for interviews, making sure Charlie Rose has the prep, moving the cameras around so the control room can get their shots and being the point person on the floor to communicate any complications to the director.

Any advice that you want to give young ladies that are interested in film/tv and don’t know where to start?

My advice for any young lady interested in film/tv would be to find a group of people interested in the same thing. I can’t explain how helpful it was for me to find something like the WEEN Academy, which introduced me to women who were my peers and were chasing a dream like mine.

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Everyday I see these ladies reaching new heights in their careers whether it be music, PR, or television. I think, sometimes, the thing that holds us back the most from starting is us believing that it’s not possible–that it’s just a pipe dream. Find some people just like you and never be afraid to ask for help. But don’t forget to give help as well. When one of us makes it, we all make it.
What has been a successful moment for you so far?

My mini “I made it” moment came when I saw my name in the credits of the TV show I work on now. That was the first time I saw my name on TV and it definitely gave me all the feels. It’s something so little but it meant a lot to me. I come from immigrant parents who never understood how I could possibly make a career out of studying film. To this day, honestly, they’re still not very sure of what it is that I do. But when I showed them my name in the credits, I think they finally started to grasp everything that I was working towards. They still don’t understand it, but I know they’re proud. And it’s just the beginning.

How can we keep in touch? 

Instagram: @chrisneezyy
Shivawn Hill, is a writer, director and a storyteller at heart. She’s currently in post production with her short documentary film. She believes that one day soon she’ll form the ultimate group of Storytellers who will travel the world to share the stories of creative peculiar people. Come hang out with her on Instagram.

12 Affirmations for Women Filmmakers 

As creatives we know how hard we can be on ourselves. We start looking at other filmmakers on the internet  who seem to have it all together and we think we’ll never arrive like they have. And before you know it we’ve talked ourselves out of even starting. 


Well it’s time to get out of your head and to speak positive about your dreams as a filmmaker. We’ve listed some affirmations below to start you off on your day or even blurt out while your knee deep in creating. 

1. I am a unique creative filmmaker that will inspire other women to use their voice. 
2. I am a risk taker, willing to develop my own Filmmaking style rather than copying others. 
3. I will not make excuses or wait on others in order to develop my Filmmaking skills. 
4. I am directing screenplays that have never been seen before that are penned by my own hands. 
5. I am connected to a creative tribe that will push me to my full potential as a filmmaker. 
6. I am a filmmaker that wears her art on her sleeve. 
7. I am a filmmaker that operates with integrity never stepping on top of others to reach my own agenda. 
8. I’m not afraid to ask for help and I recognize the power in collaboration. 
9. I am inspired by human interaction and I will make time to disconnected from social media. 
10. I’m destined to be a filmmaker and it’s never too late for me to start this dream/journey. 
11. I have all the resources needed for my project. 
12. I will not compare my projects to any other filmmaker. I will focus on creating in my own lane. 

If you have your own affirmations to share drop them below and inspire another woman in our collective. 

Shivawn Hill, is a writer, director and a storyteller at heart. She’s currently in post production with her short documentary film. She believes that one day soon she’ll form the ultimate group of Storytellers who will travel the world to share the stories of creative peculiar people. Come hang out with her on Instagram.

Interview with Filmmaker: Isela Quijas

Isela Quijas is an independent filmmaker and editor who takes pride in coming from low socio-economic neighborhoods in Southern California. Some of her work has been nationally recognized and commended by organizations like Mountain Dew, Blaze Pizza and CIFOR. She’s currently a member of Women In Film in Los Angeles and is spearheading a visual research project called ‘When The Streets Read’ at the University of California, Riverside.

What made you become interested in filmmaking?

It was an aggregate of things. Mostly, I like that it allows me to implement various personal interest into one medium and that it’s a viable tool to communicate ideas with my low socio-economic neighborhood.

 

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

Traditional school isn’t necessary to learn the skills to edit and in my opinion, very few institutions can teach you everything about editing because it’s a craft that’s constantly developing. However, I find that most things are online or at the library. I would say don’t wait for an institution to feed you this knowledge to get started, take it anyway and from anywhere you can find it.

When you start editing, do you stick to the script and the storyboard, or do you start interpreting right away?

That depends on the project and how much creative freedom the director wants me to have.

Do you cut to music or without sound? How does sound influence your cutting?

I love cutting to music but not every project calls for it. However, when it does, I allow it to govern the pacing of my cutting an animation.

 

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 never felt comfortable adhering to the notion that there’s set “rules” in the filmmaking process but rather guidelines. However, in my experience, as simple as they are, L cuts and J cuts are imperative to most kinds of scenes regardless of the genre. People have an intuitive knack and notice something is slightly off when they aren’t used.

 

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?

My low socio economic neighborhood inspires me. I live 15 minutes away from the location in San Bernardino that was attacked by terrorist in 2015 and the school shooting that happened in April of this year.  This community is deeply disregarded and misunderstood. It’s why I started an ongoing academic visual research project that challenges the way these communities are widely perceived and I use filmmaking, street art and graphic design as a tool to do this. We’re still not completely developed but you can visit whenthestreetsread.org to learn more.

 

We see that you are apart of the Women in Film Los Angeles and you’ve also interned for PBS. How have these two internships aided in your development as a filmmaker? And what would you tell someone who maybe interested in interning for film (any suggestions)?

I’m more of a member than an intern but I’d say apply but beware of seeing them as the end all be all. I worked various positions on sets for free and it helped me understand the significance of every role and whether they suited me as an individual. It was only after these experiences and directing my own projects that becoming a member at WIF was a possibility.

At WIF, I got the opportunity to meet the Ava Duvernay. She will never remember me but her encouraging words to me will forever be etched in my mind. So I would recommend you apply! There’s nothing to lose.

We see that not only do you wear the hat of an editor but you also director. What inspired you to become a film director?

I was curious to see if I could do it the first time and when I did it again and again, it was by necessity. I realized no one was going to create the visual project I always yearned for when I was younger so there was really no other option but to create it myself.

Do you think it’s necessary that a director know the basics of the camera in order to be a successful/well rounded director?

Perhaps it’s not necessary if you have a great Director of Photography who understands your intention but having some cognizance of a camera allows you to explore the aesthetic of the film further. Cinematography is a strong tool to set a films tone. It definitely can’t hurt.

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

Well, I’m still a student so scholarships definitely help. However, I also hold a job at RCC’s film department as an editor and graphic designer and I freelance on the side. Some days, I may PA on a commercial shoot for money and other days I’ll take on video editing and design gigs from fellow filmmakers

 

How did you also become interested in animation? Do you see yourself working in this area more?

My boyfriend taught me some motion graphics and design so I wouldn’t have to depend or pay anyone else to this for my film projects. It allowed me to have more control. Now, it’s these skills that are paying off the most. I definitely see myself working more in this area.

What’s next for you?

Hopefully, I can get my visual research project another grant that will allow me to take it to conferences.

How can we keep in touch with you?

Instagram: @Iselabrate

Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/user27396162

Behance: https://www.behance.net/IselaQuijas

Visual Research: Whenthestreetsread.org

Shivawn Hill, is a writer, director and a storyteller at heart. She’s currently in post production with her short documentary film. She believes that one day soon she’ll form the ultimate group of Storytellers who will travel the world to share the stories of creative peculiar people. Come hang out with her on Instagram.