Friday, February 08, 2008

Dark Embrace Films: My Internship Experience

This semester, I will be interning with Dark Embrace Films (DEF), a small independent digital film company, established by Lawrence King. I first met Mr. King in 2003 at an entertainment industry mixer for freelance directors, producers, writers, and actors in Connecticut. He was one of the few professionals that I connected with that night. Industry mixers can be a good networking tool and a way to get started in the film business, especially if you have no prior connections or little work experience on your resume. However, industry mixers can also be a catch 22, because there are no guarantees that the so-called professionals you meet and hope to build professional relationships will become fruitful.

Lawrence was a “true professional” with a passion to pursue indie film projects. His production company was run out of his house, and although he didn’t have any projects in the works, his down to earth nature led to a conversation about our expectations and our goals for the future. We discovered that we had quite a few similarities. That evening, he and I acknowledged that it has taken each of us a while – (sometimes too long) to grasp our dreams and create a plan on how we should go about achieving our goals. We both are employed full-time and choose to pursue our dream to write and produce films on a part-time basis.

Since my intial meeting with Lawrence, we have collaborated on a few projects. I had a supporting role in The Anniversary, a short film he wrote and directed, and we wrote Out of the Box, a short script that looks at the lives and struggles of five women of color who are living with HIV/AIDS. This past summer, I also helped him produce Lifetime Membership, another short film he wrote and directed.

My various work experiences in theater, television and film production have ranged from being an actress in front of the camera to working behind the scenes, starting out as a production assistant. After I was laid-off from my sales assistant position in radio, I made the decision to get back into T.V and film production. I freelanced from 2002 to 2005. During those years, I worked on non-union commercials, short films, corporate videos, Health for Children (an educational video series for children), and an independent film entitled Moonshine (2006 Sundance Film Festival selection). These various and diverse jobs made me realize my joy in the storytelling aspect of the work in television and film production. My goal, from then on, is to be the proprietor of my own production company and work full-time as a screenwriter and filmmaker telling my stories. Getting to that place hasn’t been easy, as a freelancer I was barely making enough to get by (even with living at home), so in 2005 a full-time job opportunity availed itself and I decided to take it. I refuse to be a starving artist, and having benefits like health insurance and a retirement plan are important to me; I have made a professional compromise, and in so doing, I am taking the road less traveled to my goal.

Filmmaking is a very complex business; it does not matter if you come at it as an actor, writer, producer, or director. Taking a story idea and transforming it to fluid cinematic images on screen takes a great deal of work – it is blood, sweat and tears. After the story is written, revised, and rewritten again and again, the producer/director (which can be the same person) has to procure financing to make the film. A cast and crew need to be hired and preparation for pre-production, production, and post-production will ensue. This process is a struggle for even the most established and successful filmmakers like Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, and Steve Soderbergh who have major studio dollars backing their films as well as the monies to mount national and international publicity campaigns to accompany their films. It is much more complicated for the filmmaker with no money and no resources. What we have is a dream, a story and if he or she is lucky maybe a camera.

I would like to further develop the skill set it takes to be a successful filmmaker in this internship. My area of focus will be production management. Production Managers are attuned to the roles and responsibilities of writers, producers, and directors. Each of these roles is very different, but equally important to the filmmaking process. Although film is a collaborative medium, it is essential that an individual who wants to operate a production company understand how the roles and responsibilities of each position in production work together to produce films.

I plan to make the most out of this opportunity by fully engaging myself in tasks such as research, script reading, writing film grant proposals, publicity, learning implications of new media and technology in independent film. I have had experience in these areas in the past, but each job can provide new insight and/or opportunities that I hope will propel me forward. In the fall of 2008, I plan to produce and direct a short film for my enrichment project. This internship is going to help sharpen the skills I already have, expand my networking opportunities, and give me production credits for a reel and resume.

Productions companies, directors, and agents want good stories. Well-written scripts translate to good films and good films captivate audiences. The script is the blueprint for television and film. Without it the director has no vision, no budget can be created, there is no wardrobe, sets, actors, or crew. Screenplays lay the foundation upon where films are developed. My back ground as a screenwriter will be an asset for the DEF team and I believe I will be a stronger writer after this experience.


esther said...

One question - when do you sleep?

Aaliyah said...

Barely...thank goodness for the weekends.