It's 2am, a soft snow falls as moonlight shines through the slats of the long-abandoned barn, and I'm covered in frozen blood. Not real blood; it's peanut butter, paint, and dish soap, which creates a sickly smell that will forever give me nauseating flashbacks to this moment. It lays against my bare skin while the camera operator buttons up my shirt, thus sealing my freezing fate. We've been at this since nightfall, which in Kansas winter takes place around 6pm. The February winds are howling and the snow is covered in a layer of ice, courtesy of the polar vortex that pushed through the Midwest this weekend. I should be miserable, tired, hungry, and perhaps I am. But mostly, I'm having an absolute blast.
Last week, I spoke to the University of Kansas Screenwriter's Club about the ins and outs of producing your own work. I haven't posted here about the short horror film I made because it's still in post-production, but I was able to share stories from that experience as well as the webseries and some of my school projects. The audience seemed to enjoy my Fyre Festival-themed talk, and they had great questions afterwards, including one of the harder ones to answer: "What was your favorite and least-favorite part of production?" My answers were both from the webseries, with the worst experience being when our editor cut huge chunks of footage - AS IN SCENES - without telling anyone and then posted the video live, which left the director and I scrambling until 2am to do damage control. My favorite part of that project, however, was when we found out that we had won an award in a festival for it. That feeling, knowing that someone else thought that we'd made something worthwhile, made everything else worth it by far.
As soon as my last music video ended, I joined up with Autumn again to work on a new one. It was a new challenge for both of us, as she was attempting to create a more stylistic atmosphere, and I was experiencing acting in the extreme close-up, and without anything to play off of: In the scenes where I'm "watching TV," I am actually watching the director Claire's hands flickering over a plastic light, and avoiding looking Autumn's camera right in the lens. Claire is shouting out "Now look like this! Now feel this!" and I'm adjusting in the moment. This was a blast to shoot, and seeing my name in marquee lights didn't hurt, either.
Shortly after Botfly ended, I was given the opportunity to act in a music video for my friend Autumn, who is a very gifted cinematographer and still finishing up film school. After months of shooting scenes with heavy dialogue, it was a fun challenge to convey feeling without words. I also got to experience acting in a romantic space, which I had not tried my hand at before. And, of course, there was the thrill of enduring the elements and trying not to break a bone.
This webseries, consisting of 6 episodes, was my post-graduation project. Having grown up on the Adam West Batman TV show and movies, I developed an affinity for superheroes early on. Now that we exist in a beautiful superhero era, with countless films and TV shows to choose from, inspiration is everywhere. All of this, in addition to post-grad anxiety, gave birth to a comedy series about an awkward, albeit clueless girl just searching for meaning in her life. In other words, Emily is just me.
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My favorite guilty pleasure is teen drama. Shows like Pretty Little Liars, Gossip Girl, and Vampire Diaries, to name a few, have captivated my attention for years. This was my final project for my Directing Actors/Acting for the Camera class, which was incidentally the class that inspired me to pursue acting, and every stage of this film was a blast. The idea came from my own personal experience of attempting to cut back into a show too late, and therefore missing every single reference made by the over-dramatic characters in it. Then I thought, "What if that happened to the main character?" Directing this was a joy, mostly because the actors got to just let themselves go as far as they wanted, and watching it over again in class was the highlight of my semester.
This was one of my final film school projects and absolutely one of my favorites. My love of boxing and martial arts allowed me not only to create the idea, but also to train the main actress. That being said, the intensity came from her, and getting to play opposite someone who could fully invest herself was thrilling. I never get tired of watching the visually stunning fight scenes that my crew was able to create, and after being nominated for a University award for best music video, this is one of my proudest directing moments from film school.
When Wonder Woman came out, a film that brought me one step closer to discovering my love for acting, we found ourselves inspired yet again. This came soon after I'd learned to weld and ride a motorcycle, and had been in the university boxing club for a semester, so I thought it would be fitting to do a series showcasing these skills. Or, as my friend put it at the time, "You welding in a Wonder Woman shirt would be badass." And so, the photo series was born.
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