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Advice from the pros

From: 2011 SBIFF Women's Panel: Creative Forces: Women in the Business

Video: Advice from the pros

Madelyn Hammond: So Colleen, what would be one piece of advice that you'd give someone if they said, "I think I can be a costume designer. I love color, I love fashion. My friends always ask me if this makes their butt look big." What else do you need besides that? Bigger collar, I assume. Collen Atwood: Yes, it does make your butt look big. Don't be afraid to tell the truth. But also like-- I have probably said it here before, but I really think that as you are in school, out of school, whatever your position is, is that even if you can get a job on something, whether it's a dance thing, a theatrical piece, an independent film, as an intern volunteer for no money, take the job.

Advice from the pros

Madelyn Hammond: So Colleen, what would be one piece of advice that you'd give someone if they said, "I think I can be a costume designer. I love color, I love fashion. My friends always ask me if this makes their butt look big." What else do you need besides that? Bigger collar, I assume. Collen Atwood: Yes, it does make your butt look big. Don't be afraid to tell the truth. But also like-- I have probably said it here before, but I really think that as you are in school, out of school, whatever your position is, is that even if you can get a job on something, whether it's a dance thing, a theatrical piece, an independent film, as an intern volunteer for no money, take the job.

Even if it relates to what you do. And do the best work that you can do. Because as you go through life, these people reoccur in your life and they reoccur in different formations. And it's really important that maybe you don't want to be the lunch girl, but you go do to lunch really great with enthusiasm, and somebody will remember that you cared about it. And I think it's really important for people. Like it always irritates me when I get these interns that go, "Can I make the dress over there," and you go, "No." This woman that's sitting here that's making the dress, you might be able to do it, but right now it's not your time to make the dress, because this person has actually done this for of more than two weeks.

And is technically incredibly skilled. And there is just sort of a beauty in the naivety that you think that you can do it. And you can do it. But also a sort of importance to recognize that the people are very committed to this work and care about it in a way their whole lives. It's not just something you care about for one job. It's a commitment. Madelyn Hammond: Well, especially that person then, it took a long time for them to get that position to make that dress, and then someone new who comes in, it's very all about Eve.

It's great to have that... Collen Atwood: It's great to find new talent. I mean nothing is more exciting than talent in this world. It's a very exciting feeling to really find somebody that's really an artist, that's working for you, that's a young person, and sort of to say, "All right, go over there and dress that person" and you kind of watch how they do it. And you go, "Great, you did it. You figured it out." It's really a very good feeling, but it might not be what you do the first day you are at work. Madelyn Hammond: Yeah, I agree. You got to do it right. What about you, Lesley? What if someone says, "I love docs. I want to do it too. I have got an idea"? What do you tell them? Run? Lesley Chilcott: Well, run.

I think what's great about docs, with all these consumer digital technology available, is you can just make one. I mean that sounds-- I am oversimplifying a little bit. You don't have to cast actors. You don't have to come up with the money. You don't have to figure out what your distribution chain is. At least not until later. So, you can-- Our crew generally consists of five people. So if you could get a group of friends that were into doing this with you or when I'm in situations, I do sound. I do cameras. What you do, you kind of learn to do whatever you need to do.

So I think documentaries are a great way for people to enter the industry and it's a great boot camp. You can learn about every position and you can just go and do it and if no one wants to see it, you can just put it up on YouTube and people will still see it. (Laughter) Gloria Borders: So, it's a good idea. Madelyn Hammond: That's true. There is an audience and now with all these different kinds of alternative forms of distribution, it isn't just going the theatrical route. And I know, Alix, you must have thought a time or two with Winter's Bone before Roadside picked it up. Which is, God, what are we going to do? Do we have to go VOD? But you have got to get it seen and now there is more options for you.

Alix Medigan: That's very true. Anne Rosellini, the other producer, and I reminisce about the fact that right before Sundance last year we were looking at a DIY options. And our biggest dream in the movie really was to get some sort of small theatrical release for it. It really was. We never expected it to have the life that it did. Honestly. But this year's Sundance was particularly robust and there were a lot of really healthy sales and particularly for films that didn't have huge casts in it. So I think it's-- I hope it's not an isolated bubbled year and all these films don't do well at the box office and then we're kind of back to square one.

But I think it's a hopeful time again for independents and that's really exciting. Madelyn Hammond: I think you're right. I think Sundance this year, there was more deals this year than there has been in quite sometime and great film, and you are right. You never know what's going to happen. Was it the Sundance's crazy fever that happens and some people just buy things up? But you don't know. The one that I heard was, if you went to Sundance, did you see The Devil's Double, the one of Uday Hussein's? Alix Medigan: I didn't. I really want to see that though. It sounds amazing. Madelyn Hammond: This actor Dominic Cooper and he played-- I haven't seen the film obviously. I didn't got to Sundance. But he played the double for Uday Hussein and obviously all the horrific things that happened.

But they said that that amongst many other films made people just talking like it was a real resurgence of love for independent film. Alix Medigan: It sounds great. Madelyn Hammond: When they are talking about the Uday Hussein film, that's pretty darn good, right? So Gloria, so if someone says, " I got to get into it. I love it. I love the whole craft of making the film with visual effects. I am on my computer 50 million hours a day. What do I do? Do I have a future?" I know you said more now, more than before. Gloria Borders: Well, I agree with actually philosophically with what everyone is saying.

Just do it. Madelyn Hammond: But is there a class, a school, a college? Gloria Borders: Well, there is, there is. But actually I will go back to when I was at DreamWorks Animation. At one point I was very much involved in the college outreach program, which I had never done before. And it was fascinating, because you would think that-- where am I going to get really great animators? Where am I going to get really wonderful effects artists for the next Shrek? And we were going to computer science programs into schools that you would never think.

First of all, there was no animation program at any of these colleges and we were just finding incredible students, men and women that were, just they were the computer science background. Whatever was going on in the left brain, the right brain, they were also painting at night or they were taking photographs. So I think the bottom line is-- By the way, you can do any of this online. You can take courses online.

You can post what you are doing on YouTube. It's exactly what Lesley is saying. There is a lot of ways to start building a reel, but and also yes, go make coffee, go be an apprentice. Madelyn Hammond: Be great at it. Gloria Borders: Just get in there, because once you're in there and once you start as a PA, you quickly rise. You're a coordinator and then all of a sudden you're helping out and lighting or whatever it is. You actually rise pretty quickly if you show that degree of initiative and that you want to be there.

It's pretty remarkable how fast you can go if you really stick with it. Madelyn Hammond: Darla, last one for you. In animation, it seems like it's such a close-knit group and it's the same old-- The pros, not old, but the same pros that go from film to film and there is not that many of them. So, if someone that wants to get into animation, are there more opportunities today then ever, and is it like Gloria said, just get out there, do it, post your stuff and you will get a shot? Darla K Anderson: Every single thing that everybody said, I have said to many people. Because if you show up, however you get your foot in the door.

And I can speak to myself. I did a lot of things for nothing. Once I decided I wanted this profession, I just showed up and it is pretty surprising once you get traction. People get sick, people get a cold, something happens, and you get your opportunity if you have that degree of enthusiasm and show-up-ed-ness. Which is not quite the same thing as "shown." It's just another word that I have made up today. Lesley Chilcoot: I love it. Madelyn Hammond: Talk about our education system.

Darla K Anderson: But I do... I think that there are so many opportunities today. The sector of all that blows my mind and I don't know even that much about it is the whole video game industry. It has exploded and the level of artistry in that industry is mind-blowing. And that it seems like there are so many jobs. But one thing for me when I am hiring somebody, pursuant to everything everybody said here, if you aren't in this day and age just doing it in some way, because people will say "I want to direct, I want to produce." I think there are no excuses for not having tried to do something.

It doesn't have to be great. For me, I am very impressed by those who try. Even if I don't love the aesthetic, even if I don't love the finished product, the fact that any particular individual has begun a small project of their own and completed it, it puts them in high esteem in my view. Madelyn Hammond: Gloria, want to add something? Gloria Borders: Yeah. You are actually reminding me when I was in college, I was desperately trying to figure out in San Francisco how to get a job, because I wasn't in LA and someone asked me to help out on a documentary on how to give yourself a cervical exam.

(Laughter) And it was like, yeah, you know what? I'm in there! Let's go. And well, what was fascinating as that it led to the making of Raiders of the Lost Ark. (Laughter) Which got me to Lucas films. So you know what, you never know what's going to happen. And that's why-- And the kids that I went to school were like, "What, you're going to work for free on that?" And I was like, yeah! It's like movement begets movement and you just keep moving, is really the point of the story.

It's like keep moving, keep trying, make whatever movie it is. You're going to get it to Darla. She's going to see it, it's going to work out, and you just don't give up. Madelyn Hammond: I don't know. You just changed the way I am going to look at this whole... I'm going to go to the doctor and I want to be like, "Have any institutional videos I might check out?" Anspiring filmmakers. Gloria Borders: You know, it was the 70s. Madelyn Hammond: That was great. So, speaking of that first job, okay, so we know yours.

Okay, so forget that. Your first, first job. So you are a teenager, what's your first icky job? Did you work at McDonald's? Darla K Anderson: Uh no, I worked at Tiffany's Bakery in the Glendale Galleria. Madelyn Hammond: Nice. On the sales side or were you making the popovers? Darla K Anderson: Both. Madelyn Hammond: Both? Darla K Anderson: Yeah, I loved it. Madelyn Hammond: Okay. Colleen, first icky job? Colleen Atwood: My first icky job was hoeing weeds for my father who was farmer, for a milkshake. Madelyn Hammond: Did he pay you? Colleen Atwood: No, I got a shake.

Madelyn Hammond: You got a shake. Okay. Lesley? Lesley Chilcott: Paper route. Madelyn Hammond: Paper route? Lesley Chilcott: Yeah. Lesley Chilcott: It wasn't icky except for the fact that you had to do it at 4:30 in the morning. Madelyn Hammond: Four in the morning! Alix? Alix Madigan: I was a veterinarian's assistant, which when I was 13, which was a little icky with cleaning up the cages, but I actually really loved the job. Madelyn Hammond: Then Gloria? Gloria Borders: Oh, boy! I was a nurse's aid at a nursing home. Madelyn Hammond: Oh, oh! That could be good. Gloria Borders: I loved it. Madelyn Hammond: Did you? Gloria Borders: Yeah. It was weird, I know. Madelyn Hammond: And I was the salad girl at the Sizzler, very proud of it.

This was the old days. I used to give everybody extra dressing, because I liked it so I thought everybody wanted it. To this day though, I can't be around Thousand Island dressing. It makes me gag. Anyway. So guys, we could go on, except we have to be-- Especially, we have to congratulate, because Lesley is going to the DGA so she has to hop in her car and get on her outfit. So we are going to wrap it up. But also thanks to everybody. Thanks Alix, and Lesley, and Gloria, Colleen, and Darla.

And thanks you guys for coming and I appreciate it.

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