#CreateYourOwnWork: 5 Questions with Heather Taylor

Continuing my trend of speaking with indie filmmakers who make strides and get wonderful work done: meet Heather Taylor! I first met Heather after seeing her excellent short film Stitched, which is busily gaining well-deserved notice. Here are Heather’s thoughts on the “twisty, splintery” path to creating one’s own work, not waiting to ask permission, patience, and more.

Heather is also currently crowdfunding for her next short horror film, Pay to Stay, which she describes as “a LGBTQ love story nestled in the heart of a monster movie.” Here’s where you go to help Heather and her team make this film happen!

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Heather Taylor

1. Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m a writer and director working in narratives, docs and interactive projects. When I’m dreaming up a new project, I pick the medium that fits the story the best and I’m always looking for innovative ways to approach storytelling. If I had to pick something I loved the most, it’d be probably be in the world sci-fi/ fantasy/ horror and I mildly obsess about space.
 
2. #CreateYourOwnWork: what does that mean for you?
I’ve always been a big advocate for creating your own work. Since I was in elementary school I was always finding ways to write stories and make my friends act them out (Yes. I was bossy, and I’m proud of it!) That instinct help me create my own work when I moved to England and again when I moved to New York. Without that drive to create, I don’t think I’d be where I am today. It’s important to make your own path and these days the paths are getting more twisty and splintery and oh, so exciting! 
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3. What have you gained by creating your own work; on the flip side, what challenges have you faced?
By creating my own work, I’ve been able to get a lot of insight into what works and doesn’t work. I also never waited to get permission to do something. If I wanted to do it, I did. But it didn’t give me patience. Why wait for someone else when you can make something now. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it has scattered my attention at times.
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Heather on set

 

4. What do you think is the most important skill for a creator building his/her career from scratch?
Can I say patience? I’d combine that with tenacity, a hard work ethic, boldness and really having no fear. At the top is self confidence. You get knocked back a lot so you have to continue to believe in yourself. Also learn what are good opportunities and which ones are time wasters. But your time and creative energy into things you really believe in and don’t look back.
 
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Actress Deborah Green in Heather’s film, “Stitched”
5. Which project of yours are you proudest of?
That’s a hard one – it’s like asking to choose a favorite child out of a huge brood! But I think my choice of writing and directing my series Raptured in under two months in time for the predicted date of the rapture and hitting my deadline was amazing. It really made me realize that when you have a vision and put yourself out there, that you can make anything your imagination can dream up. It also got me a place on a panel at Comic Con talking about creating web series and new work for online audiences. I still can’t believe that happened. Yes. A dream come true. 
 

#CreateYourOwnWork: 5 Questions With Bodine Boling

Today, continuing our trend of speaking with multitalented filmmakers, we interview Bodine Boling: producer, writer, actress, VO artist and more. Bodine’s feature film, the time-traveling tale Movement and Location, was entirely self-produced and written; you can learn more about it here.

 

unspecified-4.jpegBodine Boling (photo ©Alexis Boling)
1. Who are you, and what do you do?
My name is Bodine Boling. I’m a writer, filmmaker and voiceover artist living in Brooklyn. I made one feature, aim to make another within the year, and I’m close on draft two of a novel.
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On set for Movement and Location
2. #CreateYourOwnWork: What does that mean for you?
It means not waiting. It means I only work on things that matter to me, since it’s too flipping hard to make a thing without passion. It means learning all the time.

 

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Bodine in a still from Movement and Location
3. What have you gained by creating your own work; on the flip side, what challenges have you faced?
Control is the best thing about creating work. When you bring the ball, you get to play. A major challenge is having to front so much of the energy and effort, rather than buffering the trouble with money or letting someone with more experience take over on the hard parts.
4. What do you think is the most important skill for a creator building his/her career from scratch?
Resiliency. You have to keep working until something is done, not until you’re tired of it. You have to bounce back from rejection. The best advice on breaking in came from Steve Martin: “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”
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Photo ©Lauren Sowa
5. Which project of yours are you proudest of?
I wrote, produced, starred in and edited a science fiction feature called MOVEMENT AND LOCATION. I can’t believe I survived the experience, and there’s a lot I’d change if I had to do it over, but I also can’t imagine feeling prouder of anything.
Movement on Location is viewable on Amazon, iTunes and other platforms.
You can follow Bodine on Twitter here.

#CreateYourOwnWork: 5 Questions With Victoria Negri

 

Creative people are often skilled in many fields at once, and multi-hyphenate filmmaker Victoria Negri is no exception. I first became aware of Victoria (and her acclaimed film, Gold Star) when I saw her quoted in an article on female filmmakers who “wear all the hats” – a formidable skill in itself. I have been eagerly following Victoria’s work ever since. Read on to find out her thoughts on how confidence, knowing what you want, the particular power of artists, and more.

Gold Star, a highly personal story based on Victoria’s experience caring for her father after he suffered a stroke, featured Robert Vaughn in his last role. You can (and should) sign up for updates on the film here.

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Victoria Negri (©Leslie Hassler)

1. Who are you, and what do you do?
I’m a Writer/Director/Actress/Producer. I wear many hats and am focused on telling character-driven stories with beautifully flawed characters. I love collaborating with people who challenge me and vice versa. If I’m not on set or working on a film in some capacity, I’m probably watching a film.

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Victoria Negri and Robert Vaughn on the set of Gold Star (©Ben Jarosch)
2. #CreateYourOwnWork: what does that mean for you?
#CreateYourOwnWork means being brave enough to say to the world, “This is a story I want to tell and it is worth telling.” It doesn’t necessarily even mean doing something as a multi-hyphenate writer/director/actress, what have you. To me, it means knowing what you want and taking the necessary steps to go from wanting to make a film, to making it.
 
3. What have you gained by creating your own work; on the flip side, what challenges have you faced?
The first thing I think of is the confidence I’ve gained. Something that was once an idea in my head is now playing on movie screens in festivals across the country. It’s surreal. The challenges are maintaining stamina and energy to keep pushing. I’ve been working on this feature Gold Star for five years now. It’s worth it, but every single day I’ve ticked something off a list of things to do, which can take a toll. Self-care is important and sometimes ignored. Reminding myself to focus on small tasks rather than insurmountable ones can be challenging and overwhelming. So yeah, there are lots of challenges!
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Victoria Negri on set (©Lora Warnick)
4. What do you think is the most important skill for a creator building his/her career from scratch?
I think communication. To be able to clearly communicate your ideas to somebody else, a potential crew member, an investor, an audience. To be concise, passionate, engaging, all while being a leader is important. People want to support somebody they believe in. Energy and passion, I’ve often found in those I admire and want to work with, is contagious.
 
5. Which project of yours are you proudest of?
I’m proud of my debut feature Gold Star. There were many people who told me not to direct myself acting in almost every scene in a feature, but I knew what I wanted. What’s been so rewarding for me is the journey. I made this film as a means of therapy for feeling stuck. I felt stuck as an actress and stuck helping care for my father after he suffered a massive stroke. The film’s content confronts that directly, as does the actual making of the film. I feel like I’ve come out the other side of this film journey a completely different human being. I lost a parent, and in screening this film around the country, I’ve connected with people dealing with similar situations, and it’s been a wonderful experience. Artists have the power to turn pain into something beautiful and meaningful, and through that, to make others feel less alone.

#CreateYourOwnWork: 5 Questions with Carrie Hawks

Today’s #CreateYourOwnWork interviewee is Carrie Hawks, whom I met awhile back at a NYWIFT event. Like many others I meet through that organization, she’s a multi-hyphenate (artist, filmmaker, animator and more), whose film black enuf* is due to premiere on April 27. Read on to find out more about Carrie, including her thoughts on seeking out independent projects, collaboration, the value of deadlines and accountability partners, and more.

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Carrie Hawks

1. Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Carrie Hawks. I’m a motion graphics designer/animator, artist, and filmmaker. Currently, I work full-time for Bustle, a website geared towards millennial women. On my own time, I participate in various art groups including Diverse Filmmakers Alliance, LASS (Ladies Animated Short Screening), Black Women Artists for Black Lives Matter, and just finished my second animated documentary.

 
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Still from Carrie’s film, black enuf*

2. #CreateYourOwnWork: what does that mean for you?

To me, #createyourownwork means that I take time to make and seek out projects beyond my given responsibilities. I find a way to learn and explore new ways of storytelling. This could mean applying a new animation method to an independent project, or making up my own project at work and presenting it to my colleagues. By working on outside or independent projects, my thinking expands. If I limited my creativity to my assignments, I would not be as fulfilled artistically. When I wanted to get into more illustration, I worked on a pro bono project for a sound design studio in Colombia. It was great for my portfolio and paid work followed.
 
3. What have you gained by creating your own work; on the flip side, what challenges have you faced?
The biggest challenge is running out of time! Especially when I have a full-time job, it’s hard to find the time to work on various projects and still eat, sleep, see friends, exercise, and do laundry. I’ve been listening to the Animation is Hard podcast lately and they have a great episode on what you have to sacrifice in order to make your independent project come to lifeAs for the positives, I’m growing, learning, and love manifesting my ideas. I’ve met a lot of great artists, learned so much about animation and filmmaking by working with other animators and filmmakers. Recently, I’ve been collaborating with others which has challenged my hold on control and made projects more broad.
 
4. What do you think is the most important skill for a creator building his/her career from scratch?
Motivation. If you’re making up a project, job, or method on your own, no one is asking for it. No one gives you a deadline, and no one knows what’s happening. I’ve found that working with accountability partners help. It could be letting folks know what you’re doing so they ask about it. Or joining a critique group where you present your ideas for feedback. For my last two films, I picked a festival deadline as my end goal. That helped me stay on task and finish on time.
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5. Which project of yours are you proudest of?
My latest film, black enuf* It will premiere on April 27th. I worked on it for a few years, so it’s a huge part of me now. I was anxious to get it out the door and into the world. It’s also the biggest production that I’ve lead. For my documentary, I did the interview, shooting, animation, and editing. For this film, I worked with an editor, sound designer, sound engineer, voice over actors, camera person, and colorist. It’s been exciting to direct real-live people and a bit overwhelming.

#CreateYourOwnWork: 5 Questions with Jarod Facknitz & Erin Flynn

Today in this ongoing series of people I know creating cool stuff: meet Jarod Facknitz and Erin Flynn. They’re the Chicago-based creators of How Do We Sing?, a uniquely quiet, contemplative webseries showcasing three puppets finding their way in the world. I’ve been a fan of theirs for some time (I interviewed them previously for Indieactivity), so I was only too happy to speak with them again for this blog.

These two are remarkably good at articulating the process of creating one’s own work – the good and bad alike. Read on to find out why they’ve devoted themselves to a life of “no money, no audition, no compromise.”

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Harumph, Fantashtick and Bellabird, the puppet stars of How Do We Sing?

1) Who are you, and what do you do?
Erin Flynn: I am Erin Flynn. I teach young children; I design and manage music programs for children at The Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago; I write songs for children; I make music with my friends; I mother an 8 year old boy; I dream; I make puppets; I puppeteer; and I help create How Do We Sing?  

Jarod Facknitz: I’m referred to as Jarod Facknitz. I compose, film, do voiceovers, and find artsy ways of passing time. I’m also the Co-creator of How Do We Sing?

2. #CreateYourOwnWork: what does that mean for you?
EF: It means making art on your own terms.  Super challenging and brave.  It means creating something out of nothing.  It means hope and cardboard and puppets and art in nature.  It means no money, no audition, no compromise.
JF: Staying true to your impulses by eschewing pre-determined notions of what constitutes right or wrong, striving to avoid compromise, if only because you’re convinced (within your warped mind) that you have something to say, and others might benefit from hearing that voice speak honestly instead of sounding like it’s held at gunpoint.
3. What have you gained by creating your own work; on the flip side, what challenges have you faced?
EF: We’ve learned to produce art at our own pace; to allow ourselves time in the process – to make everything mostly how we dream it should be. We are careful with the art; it is precious and bigger than us.  We’ve learned to say no to invitations we realize won’t be a good fit for our vision for the project. We’ve learned to stay focused on our stories, vision and energy for the project; and not allow others’ intentions to alter that.
JF: The benefits come from self-actualizing, taking something from your imagination and incorporating it into reality. The challenge is getting from start to finish; all the pitfalls, roadblocks, and unforeseen blunders that stand in the way as you focus solely on that goal when what you should probably be focusing on is mental health, world problems, and personal relationships.
4. What do you think is the most important skill for a creator building his/her career from scratch?
EF: Character traits would be confidence, passion, and trust.  I suppose diligence is also a character trait – to have a rigorous practice of studying the art form and then to work with great care and patient understanding.  So, the most important skill would totally depend on the art form.  Musicianship, camera skills, editing, writing, and puppetry are all necessary skills for our project.  But, above all, you have to be a learner!  Staying in the growth mindset and having your heart open to learning – to working hard, to trying again and again, to grow with each step on the path.
 JF: The fact that a great deal of art can’t exist without money is a terrible shame, because in order to get money, we often compromise ourselves. When you’re creating something from within, it’s a sacred exchange between dreams and reality. A career is more often about financial stability. The more money we expect or agree to, the less freedoms we usually have. I’ve rarely made money for anything deeply personal (I’ve lost much more, in fact!), but no one can tell me what to do, make me do ads for fast food chains or turn my characters into plastic toys manufactured by kids in China. So if anybody wants a career in the arts, I’d advise them to do something in which they have little to no personal investment, but I might be the last person they should ask.
Which project of yours are you proudest of?
EF: I’d have to say How Do We Sing? I’m smiling every time I see these creatures come to life and as much as I am proud of the puppeteering moments that hit their marks on the screen, it all comes together because of the keen eye behind the camera and the magic in editing – like a perfect poem.  In second place is my work with Redmoon Theater in The Cabinet in 2005.  We would have run that show for months on end but had to close in late July because the theater had no air conditioning.  We puppeteered inside this fantastic enormous Cabinet.  In that theater, I was safe and free to play.  Even though the piece was dark and solemn, working with those gorgeous puppets and my four dear friends, I was in my happy place.  I could have done that show forever.  In third place is playing Peter Pan in seventh grade.  All I can say is that I truly believed.  I loved being Peter Pan more than anything.
JF: I’m proudest of How Do We Sing? It’s the world where I drop my cynicism, hangups, reservations, and permit myself to fall in love. That’s harder to do as we get older.

MusicBed: “How to Be Inspired (Without Being a Thief)”

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Image from MusicBed

“Everything came from something else. Each one of us is the accumulation and culmination of everything we’ve ever seen. Embrace it. Stop worrying about being original. You just have to be authentic.” As usual, this article from MusicBed’s blog is an excellent read.

As my dad used to say, “no idea is original.” Which sounds disappointing, but I don’t think it is, actually. I think the question is, how do you put across that idea? It’s all in the execution.

Oh, and perhaps the most fundamental takeaway from this article: DON’T PLAGIARIZE.