Monday, June 6, 2011

Emerging Women in Film Series: Sarah E.

Happy spring everyone. I'm not sure about the rest of you, but here in Connecticut spring has only somewhat sprung. While it isn't as hot as I would like it to be. I'm proud to profile Sarah E. who is heating up the film season here in Connecticut with her documentary Swan Day CT. Thanks for your interview Sarah.

Bio: Sarah E. took her first formal screenwriting course when she was 18 years old and a student at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, Massachusetts. In 2006, she received a B.A. in Fine Arts from Eastern Connecticut State University; and then spent a month at the New York Film Academy to pursue filmmaking.  In April 2008, at the age of 23, she founded her own production company, Hells Bells Productions, LLC.

 
Miller: Please tell our audience about your documentary Swan Day? How did you get involved? Why did you decide to produce this film?
Sarah: I first got the idea to make "SWAN Day CT" when I was looking at Jennifer Hill’s MySpace page around fall 2009. She is the organizer of the CT chapter of SWAN and she had a few photo albums of the previous two years of the festival. SWAN stands for Support Women Artists Now, so it was this incredible mesh of female-fronted bands, female visual artists, jewelry-makers, sculptors and burlesque dancers. Being a female artist myself, I wanted to get involved, so I started thinking a documentary of the whole process and the show itself would not only spread the word about SWAN, but it would make a very inspiring story. So I contacted Jen, who I had never met before this, and told her about my idea. When submissions for the third annual SWAN opened in January 2010, she and I met for the first time and I brought my camera along with me. We talked a lot about the whole backstory, how SWAN is an international celebration – founded by WomenArts – and how Jen had first gotten involved. At that moment, filming was officially underway. When Jen put the word out to the artists that a documentary was being made, I received a huge response from those who wanted to be a part of it. It meant a lot to me, because as soon as I saw what this festival was all about, I couldn’t NOT be involved. It can still sometimes be very hard to be a woman in the arts, and to have one day a year where we all get together and put on an explosion of music, art and everything in between is something we should all want to get in on – women and men.

Sarah talking with an artist from SWAN Day.
Miller: What was your production timeline from pre-production to post-production?
Sarah: In October 2009, I first contacted Jennifer Hill, as well as WomenArts. I had my first phone conversation with Jennifer Hill in December 2009. She gave me the green light to do the film and we decided to meet the following month. In January 2010, Jen and I met up for the first time, which I filmed. Also that month, she sent out a mass e-mail to the artists in the show that year to let them know a documentary was being filmed, and to contact me if they wanted an interview. In February 2010, I interviewed artist Kerry Kozaczuk, vocalist Rachel Borovik and artist Laura Fitzpatrick. I also filmed Jen’s work with promoting and going through submissions. In March 2010, I interviewed the bands EULA and HannaH’s Field, singer/songwriters Sarah LeMieux and Cori Presutti, performance artist emilyis, and artists Jennifer Klepacki, Marisa Copley and Christina Cirillo. I got footage from the meet and greet, as well as a confrontation between Jennifer Hill and one of the owners of the venue. In April 2010, SWAN took place on the third of the month. I filmed the setup and the entire event, and later that same week, I wrapped up filming with an afterwards with Jennifer Hill. Through May-July 2010, I compiled and sorted through the footage, audio was balanced and put through noise reduction, and editing begins. In August 2010, editing wraps toward the end of the month, and it’s announced that the film is officially complete!

Jennifer Hill working on promoting SWAN Day online.

Miller: How much footage did you shoot and how long did it take you to edit the film?
Sarah: When filming wrapped I had 15 hours of footage, which I edited down to two and a half hours. I first began editing in May 2010 and wrapped in August that year. Both very tedious and very rewarding.

Miller: What was one of the most challenging experiences you have had making this documentary?
Sarah: The most challenging part was cutting all this incredible footage down into a two and a half hour film. I ended up getting much more than I ever expected, because as I found out, getting the show off the ground was much more dramatic than anyone had expected. Through my camera lens, I got to watch first-hand as the venue signed a contract with Jen, only to take away everything they promised her. I watched the owner belittle her on the day of the show, and try to shut the whole thing down. It was blatant sexism, the very thing that we were all trying to put an end to. So it was very difficult at times to just sit there and watch it all unfold. But the main thing I knew I had to show in this film was that these women still managed to put on an awesome show in spite of all that, and that all the drama that was going on was not caused by the artists, but by the male owners who apparently felt intimidated by a group of strong females.

Miller: Have you submitted Swan Day to film festivals? How has the process gone?
Sarah: I’ve been submitting to wide range of different festivals, and I’m thrilled to say that it has been selected to screen at the next International Film Festival Ireland in September this year. It blew me away when they told me it had been accepted, and now I’m eager to hear back from the other festivals. I’ve submitted to Citizen Jane Film Festival, which I would love to get into because they are such an advocate of strong women in the arts. I’ve also submitted to The Indie Gathering, which I’ve submitted to in the past, and I’d love to work with them again. I want to reach as many new audiences as I can, and if I can do that and spread the word about what SWAN represents, then I’ll know I’ve accomplished something.
  
Miller: How did you go about organizing and coordinating the world premiere screening you have coming up on Saturday, June 18, 2011 at The Lutz Museum in Manchester, CT?
Sarah: I spoke to Alexander Andriulli of the Connecticut Film Industry Mixer and he put me in touch with Christiane O’Brien, the President of the Manchester Arts Association. I told her that I’d been hoping to premiere the film for some time now, and she was immediately able to secure a night with Lutz Children’s Museum in Manchester. Once she told me we had a date set, I jumped right into creating a flyer, putting event listings on Facebook and Eventful, sending out mass e-mails, and I even got to promote it in an upcoming episode of “Jaki’s Buzz.” I’m excited and nervous, and I’m hoping for a decent turnout. Jennifer Hill even volunteered to play some music for us that night!

Miller: In addition to film festivals and your upcoming screening, what other vehicles are you using to promote this film and expand the audience for this film?
Sarah: I started a facebook page for the film at www.facebook.com/swandayctfilm, which has developed a strong following. Also, I had submitted to a festival called NewFilmmakers and they provided the film with a page on their website at http://www.newfilmmakersonline.com/, where it is now available to download, watch online, or burn to a DVD, for just $10. Anyone who wants a copy of the film can just visit their site and search for “SWAN Day CT.” Jennifer Hill also has a page for the annual event at www.facebook.com/swandayct.

Miller: What's up next for your production company Hells Bells Productions, LLC?
Sarah: We’ve got quite a few things lined up at the moment. We recently finished editing another film, called “Rides,” that I wrote and directed. We’ve also just finished up the film “Stalemate,” written and directed by Tina Parziale, and “Alien Sensation,” written and directed by Patrick Clark. Patrick and I are also developing a new TV series and a monthly web series, which we plan to release in the next couple months. In addition to the projects above I'm also co-producing a new film festival with Duckie Emory Flemister of Molotov Angel Productions, called the Dreamland Film Festival, scheduled for October this year. So there’s a lot on my plate right now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I hope everyone will join in on the madness at http://www.hellsbellsproductions.com/ and www.facebook.com/hellsbellsproductions.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ready to Go Back to School

It's hard to believe that it was just two years ago that I received my MFA in Professional Writing from Western Connecticut State University. Time flies. Since graduating from the program I've been slowly but surely working on screenplays and enjoying the free time I've gained back. However, the free time I've come to enjoy is going to get ready for another hiatus. Why? Because I've decided to go back to school.

Even though continuing one's education can be tough at times, I believe the benefits I will receive will make the overall experience worth while. And though I still dream of the day when I option (sell) one of my screenplays or have the money and the connections to self-finance a film (I'm not giving up on that dream either) I have to live in the here and now. Lately, I've been thinking about specific things I can do today that will impact my life tomorrow.

I'm blessed to work in the field of communications. It's work I truly enjoy and not everyone gets to do the work they enjoy. I know a few people who went to college and majored in a degree program but weren't able to find work in their majors upon graduation. After I received my BA, I didn't start out with a job in my field either. I was a teacher's assistant, gymnastics instructor, high school cheerleading coach, and waitress at a country club. Thankfully that changed. I attribute that change to persistance on my part. My work in communications includes jobs in radio, television, film and video as well as public relations (which is what I currently do). The skills I've acquired and enhanced throughout the years have helped me to grow both professionally and personally. I see going back to school as part of my continued professional development.

Currently, I'm looking at a handful of schools and have actually started the application process for one. This will be a new chapter for me and I'm glad to be sharing it with you.