When Lucille Ball formed Desilu Studios with her husband, Desi Arnez, few people had any idea she was a woman visionary claiming a place in history for women pioneers in television. When Penny Marshall flounced and frolicked as a comedic eightball on Laverne & Shirley, who would have guessed she'd become one of the top women directors in all of Hollywood? Did anyone think Betty Thomas, as the rough, tough woman cop on Hill Street Blues would also carve out a niche in the future as a directing dynamo in great demand?
The list of women who have forever changed the landscape of movies and television through their behind-the-scenes power and prowess is surprisingly long to those still unaware of the strength of women in these industries. Have you ever noticed the toga-clad woman with a torch on the opening reel of some major studio films that looks just like Ida Lupino? It may well be her, since Lupino blazed new trails in post-World War II Hollywood as she became the leading and most influential female filmmaker of her era. Lupino was only the second woman to be admitted to the Directors Guild of America (DGA), and directed half-a-dozen features for her own company and other film and television projects as diverse as the TV shows Dr. Kildare, the Donna Reed Show and Have Gun Will Travel." Her work for The Filmmakers [her own production company]," said Carrie Rickey of The Village Voice," could serve as a model of modern feminist moviemaking. Not only did Lupino take control of production, direction and screenplay, but each of her movies addresses the brutal repercussions of sexuality, independence, and dependence."
What does all this mean to Nevada Women? Inspiration, hopefully. We have many, many talented and dynamic industry up-and-comers and active go-getters among the women in our own backyard. Local Parris Lane is busily engaged in an animated Christian children's program she's written and produced, Michele Fiore-Kaime recently screened her original indie flick "Siren" which she wrote, produced and starred in along with Erin Gray; Audrey Roberts of ARTV recently mounted a major art awards event for television; Amy Greenspun's film "The Anarchist's Cookbook" from her own company, Spun Out Productions, has made inroads in indie-land. Quality women producers abound in Las Vegas, from Goodwyn Productions' Maryann Ferguson who's also a screenwriter, to Amy Carelli who's working on a national reality TV program, and in the recent past has gone full-bore into producing campy horror flicks with legendary auteur Ted Mikels. Kimberlie Chambers of DK Productions shoots award-winning projects as glamorous and glitzy as you'll find anywhere, and Noelle Kale has tackled aching social subjects like baby abandonment in her "Baby Doe's Heartbeat" documentary. Extraordinary females dot our countryside in Nevada, with some home-basing here while others trek to New York and Hollywood and all venues in between, to make a name and career for themselves. Production managers like Kim Houser and Vikki Henry have a full dance card all the time, working on shows like C.S.I and America's Most Wanted. Former TV star Maggie Mancuso from Andy Griffith/Mayberry fame was a sought-after location scout/location manager for major feature films for many years. Such talent, springing forth from Nevada women! And not nearly enough space to list them all!
So, how does a woman go about breaking into "the business?" First and foremost, she must have a grasp of what she wants and where she intends to go to get it. Direct? Produce? Write? Scout? Design? Cast? Do it all?!?! As the old song says, she can "bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, W-O-M-A-N
" Often, it's that multitasking nature of women that opens doors, as they fearlessly tackle whatever is given to them. Education of all kinds leading to specific job skills is imperative, whether we choose trade schools, internships, volunteer work, expanding OTJ experience, offerings on college campuses, self-taught courses of study through books, videos, online and distance learning, etc. Be motivated! Be willing to work! Be eager to learn!
A good example of a woman on a mission to earn her place in the production sun was Suzy, a 21-year-old transplant to Las Vegas. She said after moving here, "The best advice I ever got, at the age of 15 while working part time in a beauty salon after school, was to find a better part time job that fed my goalsone specifically related to television and film production, because that's where I wanted to go." She practically left skid marks outside the salon as she headed over to a cable television station that did live "talk TV" where she spent the next several years learning and doing everything from running TelePrompters to writing promo copy, operating cameras to loading VTR decks, building set pieces to craft services. It put her on track, built her resume, helped pay for college, and she's now actively earning a living working on television programs, commercials and feature films in numerous capacities. Her goals: write, produce, direct, achieve. Noteworthy ambition backed up by the proverbial elbow grease to do the work and learn, learn, learn. She's also recently engaged to a high-powered AD from London she worked with on a Toyota commercial!
Networking is right on the heels of education when it comes to success in film and television production. Joining worthwhile trade organizations and participating in industry events, meeting new people and meetings-of-the-minds with like people of similar interests. Building relationships, building bridges to people who know more, do more, and have more experience than you do. This does not mean parasitic hanging on or pestering; it does not mean trying to worm your way in to someone's business or project. It does mean letting others get to know you, having discussion and dialog with professionals and listening as well as speaking maturely and concisely to showcase your knowledge without being overbearing or an egomaniac.
Learning what the "60-second-pitch" means when it comes to creating interest in your project and yourself is invaluable, too, and when networking produces an opportunity to pitch you're ready with a dynamite, razzle dazzle that says everything you need to say in as few words as possible (some people call that the "elevator pitch"can you sum it up in the time it takes the elevator to reach their floor?). Being willing to give of yourself, your time and your talent is also key to networking; beware the "what's in it for me" attitude and replace it with a positive understanding of "what goes around comes around." Cliches, yes, but truisms as well. Recently, one of the biggest screenwriting conferences in the world offered free and complete access and attendance to its event in exchange for volunteers who would work one single six-hour shift at the conference. Now there's synergy!
So, if you're a Nevada woman seeking success in the worlds of film and television, build your skills, build your relationships and build a foundation of give-and-take that proves your value and worth to others. And remember Nevada when you reach the top; we believed in you throughout your journey to get there!
LINKS & RESOURCES:
www.nevadafilm.com The Nevada Film Office online resource directory, listing production companies, crew, vendors, equipment, etc. A great way to get an overview of who does what in the Nevada production community, both in and around Las Vegas and statewide; make contacts! Make friends!
(702) 486-2727 The NFO free hotline that lists work, casting and educational options available around town. Updated when "new stuff" is received.
Women In Film (W.I.F.)
Local chapter: www.wiflasvegas.com
African American Women Filmmakers www.africanamericanfilm.org
Example website listing educational facilities for media training:
www.educhoices.org search online programs and over 1000 campus locations nationwide.
www.hcdonline.com/jobs/default.asp The Hollywood Creative Directory free online job listing. A little insight into types of jobs available in L.A., for perspective!
Local Unions that work on film and television production:
The Teamsters www.Teamsterslocal631.org
IATSE Local 720, (702) 873-3450
Screen Actors Guild www.sag.org (no local office right now)
Women's Image Network www.winfemme.com
Directors Guild of America (DGA) www.dga.org
Writers Guild of America www.wga.org
A few periodicals which specialize in filmmaking:
The Independent Film & Video Monthly
The Hollywood Reporter
A few online publications:
indieWIRE (online news publication with free daily email)
The D-Word (online documentary community)
Multimedia Producer's Handbook, Mark Litwak
The Complete Film Production Handbook, Eve Light Honthaner
Interactive Television Production, Mark Gawlinski
The Film & Video Career Directory, Morgan & Palmisano
100 Best Careers in Entertainment, Shelly Field
Television Careers, Linda Guiess Farris
Internships: A Directory for Career Finders, Sara Dulaney Gilbert
Working in Hollywood, Alexandra Brouwer & Thomas Lee Wright
The Hollywood Job-Hunter's Survival Guide, Hugh Taylor