8 Movie Moms & The Real-Life Mom Traits They Possess

by Mandi Harrison


"I'm not like a regular mom, I'm a cool mom." - Amy Poehler (Mean Girls)


Happy Mother's Day to all the cool moms out there! In honor of the day, here are 8 movie moms that give it all for their kids, no matter what.  



Aurora Greenway 

Terms of Endearment  

 Shirley MacLaine won her Oscar for her performance of Aurora, a woman who has spent her life in a codependent relationship with her daughter after her husband passed away.  When her daughter marries and moves away, Aurora learns to loosen her grip on control, even having an unlikely romance.  Aurora must take control when her daughter is diagnosed with cancer, having to remain strong in order to care for her grandchildren.  

   Being a mom, you feel like you have to keep it together even if you are terrified, but both women show that it's okay to be scared; you just have to be there.



Bryn MacGuff


Bryn MacGuff is stepmom to Juno, a smart-ass teenager who just told her dad and Bryn that she is pregnant and she is going to give the baby up for adoption.  Bryn always treats Juno like her own, never yelling at her, but is completely honest about how Juno will be forever changed.  She takes her to appointments, defends her from judgmental people and holds her hand through the delivery.  

Allison Janney just nails the way you can love someone even though they frustrate and exhaust you.  Bryn shows that a huge part of motherly love is just being there- just showing up no matter what.  


Dorothea Fields

20th Century Women

20th Century Women is the movie that will stay with you long after it has finished. Simply put, it's beautiful, and a huge part of that is Annette Bening.  Dorothea is a single mother in the late 70's to a teenage boy.  She feels that she isn't connecting with him and she enlists the help from his best friend and people renting rooms from her to help raise him.  They become a make-shift family, each learning from each other.  

Mothers want their children to experience life; to learn and have the opportunities that they never did.  Dorothea encourages her child to take risks and to learn other view points so he can develop his own.  



Rosemary Penderghast


Easy A

The family relationship in Easy A is something that is rarely shown- a teenager that actually enjoys being with their family.  Olive's parents are fun, wise and treat her with respect.  They listen and offer solutions, never demands, and in turn, Olive wants to include them in her life.  When she is going through something that she isn't ready to share with them, her parents, especially her mom Rosemary,  allow her space, but let her know that they are there if ever she needs them.  

When Olive finally needs advice, Rosemary doesn't pry or judge, just shares her own experiences and offers advice. Patricia Clarkson has the perfect combination of love, concern and understanding in each scene.  Olive is able to figure her way out of a difficult situation because she has confidence that she has people that have her back.  



Frannie Lancaster

The Fault In Our Stars

Hazel and Gus are the Tumblr generation's Jack and Rose or Romeo and Juliet. Basically anything tragic Leonardo DiCaprio was in.  And they are totes adorbs, but for me, they story was between Hazel and her parents, especially her mom.  Knowing your child is sick and probably going to die and there is nothing you can do has got to be the worst feeling in the world.  On one hand, you want to protect them and on the other, you want them to experience as much as they can. Frannie allows Hazel the freedom to have these experiences, even though it is costing her precious time with her daughter.  Her daughter's happiness is the only thing that she can give to her, and Laura Dern's anguish and joy over being able to provide that to Hazel, no matter what, is heartbreaking. 



Leigh Anne Touhy

The Blind Side

Leigh Ann Touhy is proof that blood alone does NOT make you a mother.  She wanted to give a cold, quiet mannered teen with no place to go a place to stay.  She grew to love him and protect him as if she had given birth to him.  Her persistence and love took him from sleeping at a laundromat to the NFL.  Sandra Bullock won an Oscar for this force of nature performance, having the perfect mix of fire and ice needed for a mom that would do anything for her children's well-being. Moms are capable of loving more than they ever thought was possible. 



Jackie & Isabel


The conflict between the two women in Stepmom has nothing to do with a man- it's because of the children that they both love.  Both Jackie (mom) and Isabel (stepmom) are right and wrong in their own ways- they each do what they think is best.  Jackie thinks she knows best because she is their mother and feels she is being replaced.  Isabel thinks she knows what the kids like better since she is younger and feels like she is not taken seriously.  Jackie has to start relying on Isabel when she becomes ill and the two women realize the kids have room for both of them and the kids will be better off because of it.  Susan Sarandon and Julia Roberts play well off each other, and even better with each other.  Life will often put you in situations that weren't what you were planning for, but moms will always put their children's best interests first. 


Here's to all the moms- whether by blood, marriage, choice or chance- your love and guidance is what gets us through.  We love you!


"You know every story, every wound, every memory.  Their whole life's happiness is wrapped up in  you." - Julia Roberts (Stepmom)

Filmmaker Friday: 6 Wes Anderson Movies That Will Brighten Your Day

by Mandi Harrison

There's a lot of filmmakers that we look to for inspiration: Nora Ephron, Woody Allen, Steven Spielberg, David O. Russell, just to name a few.  We just saw a new movie by one of our favorites, Wes Anderson.  Wes Anderson's stories are simple at their core, but the way he uses colors, music, wardrobe and the set design add layers to the story.  I am in awe watching his movies and always need to watch a few times to take everything in.

In honor of Isle of Dogs and Wes's birthday this week, I thought I would share my favorites and what I've learned that we can use in our movies.  



The Royal Tenenbaums was love at first viewing.  It's dark, smart, and completely unlike anything that I had seen before.  I learned that you should strive to stand out, that your differences are what give you your voice.  This was my first glimpse of how Wes uses every little detail; whether its for the story or subtext, nothing is wasted.  The wardrobe, the music and the locations all tell the story just as much as the characters.  



Fantastic Mr. Fox takes the classic Roald Dahl children's book and brings it to life as the perfect crime caper in stop-animation format.  It's perfect for families; in fact every swear word is just the word "cussin'" It showed me that you can make a movie for a wider audience and not have to sacrifice your personal style.  



The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is definitely a slow starter, but by the end, I was in love.  It has heart, humor and a great soundtrack, plus Jeff Goldblum and Cate Blanchett, two of God's greatest creations.  It's the story about an adventurer who is trying to avenge his best friend's death by a mysterious sea creature and no one believed his quest had purpose.  The dialogue in this movie is more chatty than a normal Wes Anderson feature; this screenplay was cowritten with Noah Baumbach, another favorite.  



I mean, any movie that gives the world THIS creature is just wonderful.  



Moonrise Kingdom is about star-crossed misfits, Sam and Suzy, whose love the world just doesn't understand.  Full of world-weary characters, this is a lovely love story in more ways than one.  The children are wise beyond their years and the adults, even though they have been through rough things, they still are hopeful that they will be happy in the end.  Everything on screen is a puzzle piece and you might not know what the piece is used for at that moment, it eventually becomes evident.  



The Grand Budapest Hotel has to be seen.  His use of colors alone is just gorgeous; each scene could hang in the Louvre.  It's about how a simple bellhop came to the be the owner of a prestigious hotel and spa.  The tale is heartwarming and gripping, and in true- Anderson style, the attention to detail is just indescribable and all the characters have their moment to shine.  



And now the latest, Isle of Dogs.  Of course you can never go wrong with puppers, but this movie made me tear up a few times. In the near future, dogs have been outcast from society and 5 abandoned dogs go out of their way to help a young boy find his own dog that was taken from him.  It's about having someone to belong to and helping others, even when you've been hurt before.  Wes uses stop-motion animation again, however there are so many little details in this movie, it is closer to The Grand Budapest Hotel than Fantastic Mr. Fox. 

If you haven't seen any of these movies, I highly recommend watching. They are entertaining and beautiful and make you remember why you love movies.  At least they do for me!  

3 Things I Learned From Watching 22 Movies In 11 Days

by Mandi Harrison

The 2018 Phoenix Film Festival has come to an end and it's taken me a few days (okay, more than a few) to recover.  Chris and I went to the festival last year, but probably saw half the amount of movies.  This year we decided to get the festival passes, which allowed us to see any movie we wanted and we took advantage of it, catching movies anytime we had a minute.  Finally tally: 22 films in 11 days.

*Full Disclosure: 2 of the movies were blocks of short films and there were 5 shorts in each block. And 2 other movies weren't festival movies, just ones we wanted to see anyway.  

Seeing 22ish movies in a little over a week will teach you a few things, like how it can be exhausting just sitting watching movies and that there IS a limit for how much popcorn you can eat.  Here are some other things I took away from this experience.  



1. You have nothing without story


"But don't all movies have a story?" No.  Some movies are just a concept that never developed into a story.  Some movies are just series of moments the filmmakers thought were great and pieced together to make a "story".  And more often than not, the story starts off great, but slowly loses its momentum and doesn't have a satisfying conclusion.  

A good story needs a beginning, a middle and an end.  The beginning needs to grab your attention right away and show the character's wants and beliefs, the middle needs to challenge those beliefs and the end needs to answer the question: did the character get what they wanted?  Sounds super simple, but there are so movies that miss the mark.  

We saw a lot of movies that had potential, but weren't fully fleshed out. They would've benefited greatly from writing a few more drafts of the script or editing the movie differently.  I've learned that no matter how anxious I am to start filming, it's worth the time spent making sure the story works.  

Having a good story, something that engages, can forgive a multitude of sins, including the overall quality of the film, which leads to my next lesson learned.




2. Spring for sound equipment


When I'm invested in a movie, I can excuse a lot.  But if the story is lacking, I start picking it apart.  The editing, the way it was filmed, and most of all the sound.  Having quality sound can take you from amateur hour to professional. I'm not talking sound effects- it's about using a boom mike and filtering out the outside noises during the editing.  And then adding in effects if needed. Everything I've read and seen has showed me that a good chunk of our budget will be going towards sound and it will be money well spent.  

Geek out moment:  One of the non-festival movies we saw was A Quiet Place.  I LOVED this movie.  The use of sound was incredible.  I had chills walking out of the theater.  



3. Know your audience


Not every movie is suited for every person, so not knowing who your core audience is can really set you back, with time and money.  There were several movies that we saw that were trying to cater to too many audiences, or worse yet, were self-indilgent, just made for the filmmakers.  Asking yourself who this movie is for and being extremely specific with your answers will help you.  It will save you time and make your story gel better.  Marketing towards your core audience will make sure that the right people will see your movie and in turn will recommend your movie.  If the movie is done well, a buzz will begin and everyone will want to see what the fuss is about.  


If you ever get the chance to go to a film festival, I highly recommend it.  The people-watching opportunities are fantastic, there are some really great movies, plus you will be supporting your local film community, which helps local filmmakers. (*cough* like us* cough*) Sorry, had a tickle in my throat. Anyway, I'm really happy that we were able to go and see so many movies this year. We learned a LOT and had fun along the way.  

7 Films That Creatively Make The Most of Their Limitations

by Mandi Harrison

New filmmakers can face a multitude of limitations, most stemming from money, locations and time.  What you do with those limitations determines what type of filmmaker you are.  It will help you as a storyteller to keep your story tight. It can help you as a director and a producer to work creatively to make your movie, building your skill along the way.  Established filmmakers will place limitations on themselves, to constantly challenge themselves.  Learning how to work with your limitations can help you stay under budget, ahead of schedule and have a movie that keeps the audience engaged.  Here are seven movies that use limitations to their benefit, four of them by first time directors.  



by Duncan Jones

The story of a man trying to finish his solitary three year mission on the moon so he can get home to his wife and child.  The stark location and lack of characters shows the character's isolation and desire to get home to the ones he loves.  

Budget: $5 million




by Alfonso Cuarón

A grieving mother has isolated herself in her work after the death of her child.  Forced into actual isolation after an accident, her survival instincts kick in as she fights for a way to get back to Earth. Another alone in space story-  simple concept, incredible execution.  

Budget: $130 million


El Mariachi

by Robert Rodriguez

A legend amongst indie filmmakers, Robert Rodriguez just wanted to make movies.  He took a tale of mistaken identity and his $7,000 budget (most of which was raised by doing drug trials) and made a movie that he hoped he would be able to sell to Mexican television stations. Columbia Pictures bought the film and El Marachi is in the Guinness World Records for earning the highest box office numbers from the smallest budget. Robert used what he had and worked creatively and still works the same way.  

Budget: $7,000


Rear Window

by Alfred Hitchcock

A man in a wheelchair, unable to leave his house, spies on his neighbors and is convinced he has witnessed a murder. Considered to be one of the greatest movies ever made, Hitchcock's classic proves that you don't have to leave the room to obtain thrills.  In fact, many movies since then have stolen this very troupe- lock your subject(s) in a small space and throw in a menacing force and voila- you have a thriller.  

Budget: $1 million (roughly $9 million today)


The Shallows

by Jaume Collet-Serra

A pretty girl, the ocean, and a shark. for the majority of the movie.  Seems like the ending would be a given. This is no ordinary survival story though; this enthralls you and puts you in that water. The starkness and beauty of the ocean sets the tone, pulling you into the movie. 

Budget: $17 million


The Blair Witch Project


by Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sánchez 

It's hard to remember a time when "found footage" movies weren't in the mainstream.  But these filmmakers took their low budget and made it work for them, creating a movie genre along the way.  The way the film was filmed and edited added to the movie and earned a place in pop culture history.  

Intial budget: $35,000

Reservoir Dogs

by Quentin Tarantino

Quentin's feature length debut is , well to paraphrase Mr. Orange, super cool, like a f**king Beretta. But it ended that way because of choices  made due to his budget limitations.  His initial budget was $30,000, but when actor Harvey Keitel signed on, he was able to find funding to bring the budget to a million.  And every dollar was used with purpose.  The heist that took place in the middle of the movie was never filmed due to finances and Quentin decided that the action before and after it occurred WAS the story.  Using your budget to write the story can be risky, but the pay off can be huge.  

Budget: $1.2 million

5 Secrets From Former First Time Filmmakers on Finding Funds

by Mandi Harrison


There are multiple ways of financing a movie, but not every method is one size fits all.  


Chris and I are still deciding what is going to work best for us.  In our research, we came across some first movies by now established filmmakers and how they found financing.  Here are some of what we've learned from their experiences that can be used during this process.






directed by Kevin Smith


Kevin Smith is in the history books of indie filmmaking for how he got his first feature made.    The budget for the film was $27,575 which Kevin got by selling his comic book collection, credit cards and insurance money from storm damage to his car he shared with his friend.  Most of the budget went for film stock and developing.

 Kevin worked all day at the convenience store where the story was located and filmed all night when the store was closed.  During filming, he only slept an hour a day and often drifted off while filming.  He gave everything he had to the making of Clerks, but it paid off: the movie was purchased by Miramax and earned $3 million dollars on 50 screens.  It has a HUGE cult following and Kevin Smith is an indie god.  

 You have to put your all into your film. If you're not willing, who else will? 





The Brothers McMullen

directed by Edward Burns


Edward Burns, or Eddie as we like to call him, is another indie filmmaker that is used as a IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU tale.   Ed seems like he had a lot of luck, but he was incredibly smart and works hard, using every tool that he had.

 The initial budget for Brothers McMullen was $28,000, most of which was pulled together by Ed and his family.  The majority of the budget went to film stock and developing.  He filmed at his home, he put up ads for free actors, just providing lunch.  He worked at Entertainment Tonight as a camera man and used their equipment at night to edit the film.  He snuck a copy of the film to Robert Redford while he was filming an interview with him for ET.  Robert Redford personally invited him to Sundance to premiere (which is unheard of).  

The movie was well received and was the first film to be purchased by Fox Searchlight.  Another $200,000 was used to fine-tune the movie and for the rights to "I Will Remember You" by Sarah Mclachlan to play during the credits. ( Remember, this was the 90's, so it was peak- Mclachlin time)  The movie made $10 million and set off a season of critically acclaimed Indies.  

Use everything you have available to you. People you know, your family, your house, make it work for you. 

Side note: Ed wrote a book about his filmmaking career called Independent Ed: What I Learned From My Career of Big Dreams, Little Movies and the Twelve Best Days of My Life.  I learned so much about the smart way of making movies from him; it's super fascinating! 






Fruitvale Station

directed by Ryan Coogler

Ryan Coogler was in college when Oscar Grant was killed.  He knew that he had to tell this story.  He worked with the family of Oscar Grant to write the script.  A production company ran by Forest Whitaker was looking for new filmmakers to mentor, and Ryan was one of those chosen and they helped develop Fruitvale Station.  He also worked with the Sundance Screenwriters Lab and utilized the tools offered to him there.  The budget was less than $1 million, raised through investors.  When some of the funding fell through, Octavia Spencer, who played Grant's mother, used her connections to raise what was needed.  

The finished film was involved in a bidding war at Sundance and The Weinstein Company purchased it for $2 million.  The filmed ended up earning over $16 million and critical acclaim.  Ryan would go on to direct Black Panther, one of the most successful movies in Marvel history, both financially and critically.

Be passionate and explore all avenues to get your project made.  Use the people around you- they are willing to help!  





Mississippi Masala

directed by Mira Nair

Mira Nair moved to America from India when she was 19 to attend Harvard and became interested in acting.  She started making documentaries about Indian traditional culture, winning many awards.  When she moved to features, she didn't stray from uncomfortable subjects of race and class.  

Mississippi Masala is about an interracial romance between a black man and an Indian woman.  Original funding fell through after an actor backed out of production and Mira and her team had to start looking again. Mira has said that potential investors told her that it would be easier to finance a film with white actors.  That wasn't the story that she wanted to tell, so she stood her ground and eventually found the investors she needed when Denzel Washington came on board.

The movie budget was over $6 million and made just over $7 million, so it wasn't a financial success, but Mira made a name for herself. She made such movies as Monsoon Wedding, earning a Golden Lion award from the Venice Film Festival, the first woman to do so.

 Know your audience and look for money based off of that audience.  Investors are not one-project-fits-all.  Look for money in unlikely places.  







Being John Malkovich

directed by Spike Jonze



That this movie was made at all is a true testament to persistence.  The writer, Charlie Kaufman, had previously written for sitcoms that never made it past their first season.  The director, Spike Jonze, was known for creating a skate boarding magazine and filming music videos.

After Charlie wrote the script, he took it from producer to producer, studio to studio, only to be rejected time after time.  He sent the script to Francis Ford Coppola, with the hopes that he would produce.  Francis gave it to his then son-in-law, Spike and he wanted to direct.  

Getting funding was the next hurdle.  The story was deemed just too weird and was passed on several times.  Even John Malkovich wanted nothing to do with it.  Eventually, they were able to convince John, and others to invest and the movie was made.  The budget was $8 million and it made $22 million, earning critical acclaim and 3 Oscar nominations.  Now Spike and Charlie are considered amongst the most creative forces in the movie industry

 It's going to take time. Be persistent and don't give up.  All it takes is one yes. 


Dov Simens from 2 Day Film School says " You can't make your third movie without making your second. And you can't make your second without making your first."  Getting the money for your first feature can be a challenge.  Be passionate about your project, get others excited to see it and to help you, be creative with your story and most of all, be persistent.


The Incredibly Fascinating Way Movies Make Money

by Mandi Harrison

I really started noticing how show biz worked when I was in high school.  I waited each Sunday night to see the box office reports on the 10 pm news.  My mind was blown when I discovered Entertainment Weekly. It was like this magazine was written for me.  It was the perfect combination of nerdy and in the know.  I immediately got a subscription.  My little heart thought it knew everything.  Granted, it was misinformed on a lot of things, but I had discovered a new love: numbers.  


Cut to 4 years ago when I was reading anything I could get my hands on regard the film industry. My heart skipped a beat when I got to the numbers part; THIS was my language.  I showed Chris and he got just as excited as I did.  Now with every movie that comes out, we play a little game I like call "Do it- do the math!"  and we see where everything goes.  

Recently, Black Panther was released and there were headlines like:

"$200 million opening weekend!" 

"Number one for 5 weeks straight!"

"$1 Billion made worldwide!"

I know you are thinking that this movie made a ton of money.  Well, yes and no.  There are some little secrets as to how money is made and spent.  It actually can take years if at all for a movie to remake the money they have spent.  Here is a easy guide to how the money is made!   

So the first thing we are going to look at is...


  • The amounts that are listed on the news and IMDb and Wikipedia are the GROSS returns; that means all the money made before anything is taken out- like your paycheck.  
  • The number that actually counts, again like your paycheck, is the NET returns.  That is the amount after all payments are taken out.  

Our next thing to look at is:


What Theatres Roughly Taken Out From Opening Weekend to Week 6

Chart shows the amount taken out by theatres. Numbers vary from studio to studio and then again from successful ones (Black Panther) to bombs (Valerian) on how much is taken out by the theatre.

This is the money that the movie theater keeps. The movie studio is paying the theater to play the movie.  The fee is set up on a sliding scale, meaning the longer the movie plays there, the more money the theater gets to keep.  Generally speaking, the starting amount starts at 40% to the gross going to the theater for the first 2 weeks, and then it goes up from there.  

Another thing to consider is that when the studio is trying make back its money.

The foreign box office numbers don't count right away! 

We'll get into that in a bit, so they are just looking at the domestic numbers, which the United States and Canada.  

Let's play "Do it- do the math!" with a movie and I'll show you how everything is done.  I'm going to take a movie that is out of the theaters and we can break that down.  Let's do..

Beauty and the Beast 

It was produced (paid for) and distributed (put in theaters for viewing) by Buena Vista AKA Disney

  • Estimated budget of $160 million
  • Worldwide (Foreign) box office gross was $1.26 billion
  • Domestic (US/Canada) gross of $504 million


$160 million budget against a $504 million domestic box office

Box Office Gross by Major Territory

It seems it made money.  But here are a few factors.....

A way for studios to attach big name actors is to give them a percentage of the profits.  There are two types of back end deal:

  • The net deal (which is difficult because as you can see, the "profit" is dwindling slowly.) 
  • The gross deal means the money is taking off the top sum, before anything is taken out.  This is the ideal back end deal.

Let's just assume that the main actors got paid off the gross.  Let's say 8% of the gross. That money is still going to come from the Studio's portion of the money.

Where Does the Money Go?!

We have our box office receipts and back end deals taken out.  Now with the $262,080,000 left, what do we do with the money?  Well, we need to pay our bills.  

  • First off is repaying what was spent on distribution and production.  Because this was a Disney film, it was done through by the same studio.  We are going to subtract that $160 million budget.  
  • Then we have marketing and advertising costs.  This is where it can get tricky.  For a big studio picture like this or something that is a contender for award season, the marketing costs can be over double the production budget.  Do you remember all the ads for Beauty and the Beast?  They were everywhere.  Studios usually don't release their marketing expenses, but I would be willing to bet money that Disney spent at least $200 million on advertising. Maybe even $300 million, but let's stick with $200 million to be safe.   
  • After production and marketing costs, there are other fees such as giving bonuses and making copies for each screen that will be showing the movie.  That's another $65 million. 

So, you're probably thinking, there's no money.  We are actually in debt. A LOT. Yes, but... now we can look at that foreign box office money.  

Each country is considered a separate territory, so there will be distribution deals for each one. The distribution and theater fees are little higher overseas, but once those fees and the back end deals are taken care of, everything goes back to recovering costs.  We've already recovered the production fees so that's a huge chunk taken out.  

Another way to make back money and attempt a profit is called ancillary rights.  

  1. DVD
  2. Blu Ray
  3. Video on Demand
  4. RedBox
  5. And of course the merchandise.  

Being that it is a Disney movie, there is merchandise as far as the eye can see.  

Everything that is a licensed Disney-Beauty and the Beast product helps make the profit.    

It seems like a lot of work and a little misleading at first.  Why say it made X amount of money when it really made Y amount?  Technically, it did make X amount.  It's a way to sell more tickets.  It's the peer pressure factor-you want to see what people are talking about. The studios and theaters work together to get the seats filled.  

The more seats are filled, the more successful the movie will be and that will lead to similar movies being made.

Once the movie has gone to streaming or DVD/Blu Ray, then the studio can work to recoup their investment.  Another question might be, why not just skip the theater all together?  Distribution at a theater helps to create an experience that people want to recreate at their own home. It's also easier to make money off of something that already has a fan base. Think of theatrical distribution as marketing for ancillary and merchandise as advertising and PR do for the film's theatrical release. 

To simply put it, run the final box office of any of your favorite films from sites like wikipedia.org or boxofficemojo.com -- pull both total domestic and budget and DO THE MATH.

Here's how Chris simply does it (because math isn't his strong suit):









Now this isn't 100% accurate but at least you know if a movie was profitable or not.

So that is how it works for a major studio produced and distributed movie.  There are a few more steps and a lot less money for movies that are independently produced.  Just something for you to think about as the summer blockbuster season grows closer!

Read the First Page of "OZZY," a Short Screenplay

By Chris Hoshnic

A few weeks ago, a small screenplay I wrote made the finalist list for Short Screenplays at the Phoenix Film Festival. Ever since then, I've just been carrying this strong sense of being better than everyone else-no, I'm kidding. It's not really like that at all... Or sort of. Kind of. A lot.


 I wanted to take the time to show people the first page of my little story about my little, fat dog, Ozzy. Incredible ass/ridiculously handsome. 

I don't want to keep blabbering about myself or my dog so go ahead and read the first page ABOUT my dog and myself below. Enjoy, but don't tell me how bad it is because I probably already said it to myself a few times revising it. But definitely tell me how bad I'm doing! 

OZZY - A short screenplay 

A disobedient dachshund attempts to train himself for his new owner when a dog-shaped gift is placed under the Christmas tree.


The 10 Most Essential Roles On A Film Crew

by Mandi Harrison

I enjoy watching the credits roll at the end of a movie. I know that the dozens and sometimes hundreds of cast and crew roles listed each contributed something to that finished movie.  

After making the decision to make movies, I researched all the different crew members needed on set to make a movie.  I was surprised to realize that we were already doing what most of the positions needed while working at the photography studio, and that I knew someone that could fill each of those roles. 

Here is a list of the crew members* that are most needed during filming.  This is based off of making a small to no budget independent movie; no blockbuster special effects here!  

* I'm not posting the writer (which is the most important role- story is everything) because filming has now started; the script is done (hopefully). And the actors aren't included because we are just looking at the crew members.


1.  The Producer

The producer gets $h*t done.  They can help develop story, find financing, and sign off on all major decisions. In a BIG HOLLYWOOD STUDIO™ production, the producer gets all the little ducks in a row and heads off for other projects, just checking in from time to time for the Powers That Be, aka The Money. Producers find great material and/or talent to tell a story he or she believes in. 

Being a producer is great for someone who is organized and great at budgeting and dealing with people.  Because you have to deal with ALL the people and ALL the money (or lack thereof).  You have to remember all the details and look at the bigger picture.  

2. The Director

The Director is basically the same on all budget sizes.  They are the one whose vision is being created.  Even if they didn't write the material, its still their interpretation of this vision.  A great director is someone who knows how to clearly communicate and knows how to work with people. From shot lists to scene breakdowns, set decorating to which use of lens, great directors see everything through and through; down to the packaging and rendering of a film, what colors an actor looks great in and how the camera dances within a scene. There's a lot of leadership, creativity and self-awareness in this role. 

3. The Assistant Director (or AD) 

The AD runs the set; they set up the scene breakdowns, help with budgeting (more on that later), keeping everyone on set where they need to be, making sure safety is ensured and that all documents are signed.  This person is super-organized and detail oriented and has excellent time-management.  

4. Director of Photography (or DP)

More commonly known as cinematographer.  The DP works closely with the Director to bring the story to life visually.  On bigger productions, there might be a separate camera operator. Sometimes on a small budget, the director will have to operate the camera.  Even though having a DP is a luxury, it's one that should be taken.  Having someone to focus on that one aspect will lead to a better finished product.

5. Line Producer

 On a movie's budget, the producer, writer, director and actors' fees are all called above the line.  Those are considered the essentials.  The rest of the crew and all other fees are called below the line; they are considered replaceable.  The line producer helps ensure that the budget is being met and helps with the hiring of key crew members.  They also set a daily budget and works with the AD to ensure it is met.  If you are great with numbers and puzzles, this is the role for you! 

6. Production Designer

Works with the director to set the visual tone for the movie.  Everything needs to work for the story.  They work with color and texture to set the tone for the movie.  They pay attention to detail and are super creative. On larger sets, production designers are actually the managers of art directors and other art departments. 

7. Script Supervisor

The script supervisor is the quality control of the set.  They document what has been filmed and what was added or cut from the script.  They make sure there is continuity, meaning that each take is set up the same way and that if a character is wearing a particular outfit in a scene, they need to be wearing it in any scene that takes place the same day.  Attention to detail and patience are key for this role. 

8. Grip/Gaffer

These are two roles that are different but are often lumped together.  The grip handles all equipment- the set-up and transport.  The gaffer handles everything electrical.  Attention to detail and safety are big factors.  

9. Production Assistant (or PA) 

The PA handles anything that needs to be do on set.  That could be running errands for the director to helping the set designer to chasing down the actors.  This really gives you a little taste of everything on set, so it's great for students and people just wanting experience.

10. The Editor

Even though most editing won't be done until after the filming is complete, having someone to start going through footage and logging the best footage will help the process.  Having someone who understands great storytelling and has an eye for detail can make an okay story great.  


There are so many more roles that put a movie together: sound, costume designer, hair and makeup, etc.  Whether there is $20 or $20 million dollars involved, there are still the same amount of pieces to put into the puzzle.  The budget just helps you figure out how many players you can hire.

 In independent filmmaking, multitasking and organization are pivotal. It's just like running a business.  Knowing how to do all the roles will help you when you can hire people to fill those positions, so you know you've hired the best.  

7 Novels You Should Be Reading

by Mandi Harrison


 I recently went on a reading spree, and read every book I could get my hands on.  Fiction, Non Fiction, whatever.  The majority of my reads, however, were from my favorite genre, YA, and I found some new faves.  


 YA, or Young Adult, novels may sound childish, but I've found that this genre's authors are unafraid to discuss subjects that a lot of people want to skate around or just flat out ignore.  Things like race, violence, bullying, standing up for your beliefs and sexuality.  Discovering who you are as a person in this world and what you believe in makes for fascinating storytelling.  The coming of age genre is my favorite in books and movies, especially the stories that tear your heart out and keep it long after it's over.  




I discovered an author during my reading marathon that did just that.  His name is Adam Silvera.  He has three books out now, with his fourth releasing in October.   I couldn't read anything for a week after finishing his first book, More Happy Than Not.  I became a fan after his second novel, History Is All You Left Me.  His third, They Both Die At The End is one of my all time favorite books now and has made Adam one of my favorite authors.  


Adam's writing has a definite voice.  He is kind of nerdy, which of course I love, and there is a slight sci-fi element to the books, which you don't really notice other than it sets up the (slightly) alternate universe New York City.  His protagonists are going through the defining moments in their life, big moments, but they already know who they are at their core.  



They Both Die At The End wrecked me. I cried for thirty minutes after finishing it. One of those really cathartic cries.  The theme of the story is there can't be life without death and love without loss.  In this story's reality, you receive a phone call on the day you are going to die so you can prepare.  The two leads, Mateo and Rufus, do not know each other and each have received that call.  They meet on a website that connects people who have received THE CALL and decide to stick together so that neither will be alone when it happens.  Mateo and Rufus help each other make peace with their pasts and deal with their impending fate, growing closer as the day comes closer to the end.

 I know it sounds unbearably tragic, and you're thinking WHY WOULD I WANT TO PUT MYSELF THROUGH THAT?   It is tragic, but it is also hopeful and hilarious.  It makes you think and appreciate the moments you do have.   

This book, and More Happy Than Not really remind me of one of my favorite movies, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind written by Charlie Kaufman.  They use a slightly sci-fi notion but at its core, it's a story of love and loss and they all are so beautifully told.  There is a fine line between heart-warming and heart-breaking and Adam, like Charlie, knows how to walk it.  He is so visual in his writing; it's almost like watching a movie.  It's now a goal of mine to work with him in adapting one of his novels into a screenplay.

Books by Adam Silvera 

* More Happy Than Not

* History Is All You Left Me 

* They Both Die At The End

Other suggestions: 



Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Currently in theaters as Love, Simon.  It's the story of Simon Spier, a normal teenage boy who has a secret- he's gay.  He must come to terms with revealing his secret after someone discovers the truth and threatens to expose him.  

  Watch the movie.   Read the book.   The movie is like John Hughes.  And the book is very biting angst and introduced me to Elliot Smith.  I love them both equally and differently. 




Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

Willowdean, the plus-sized daughter of a former beauty queen, joins her small town's pageant as a form of protest and she inspires others that aren't the typical definition of beauty queen to join. It is full of Dolly Parton references and drag queens- what more could you want?  

The movie adaptation is coming out later this year, with  Danielle McDonald (Patti Cake$) as Willowdean and Jennifer Aniston as her mom.  




The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Starr Carter witnesses the police shooting of her unarmed friend, and must decide whether to do the easy thing or the right thing.  It's funny and full of warmth, but it's very true to life and heartbreaking.  It's very thought-provoking.  I really recommend reading this book, especially before the movie comes out.  




Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Chris read Celeste's first novel, Everything I Never Told You and told me I had to read it.  It just kept me on the edge of my seat- so much family drama and mystery.  I immediately got her next novel, Little Fires Everywhere and I couldn't put it down.  It's the story of two families and how they become intertwined and how all their secrets come out.  Reese Witherspoon recently announced that she and Kerry Washington are developing a limited series based on it and I can not wait.  It's so intriguing.  

I really hope you pick at least one of these books to try; they all kept me glued to the page.  I recently picked up Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed; it's about a Muslim teen dealing with racism, her family's expectations and discovering her identity and I can't wait to read it.  What have you been reading lately? 




13 Cinematography Techniques Every Freelance Photographer Should Study

By Chris Hoshnic

Photography is a like a sport and I just f%#@ing hate it. I absolutely hate taking photos. I hate the how long it takes to load a camera and format it and wait for the sensor to self-clean and clean the lens and check the battery and white balance and take test shots wevmnairognmaodsknl I HATE ITTTTTT.

But it also helps to think of it like it's an art too. So I went ahead and put together some films, my other mistress-hobby and compared the two. Check out how film and well, film are the same. 


1. La Dolce Vita

Cinematography by Otello Martelli

A week in the life of a paparazzo journalist living in Rome, La Dolce Vita uses depth, geometry and composition, demonstrating the use of "visual direction" by placing objects and/or people at the forefront to create interest.

La Dolce Vita
Starring Anita Ekberg, Anouk Aimée, Magali Noël, Marcello Mastroianni, Yvonne Furneaux


2. The 400 Blows

Cinematography by Henri Decae

Where story meets cinematography - the start of the French New Wave, Francois Truffaut (the director) used hand-held cameras and harsh edits. Useful in film camera shooting and polaroids.

The 400 Blows (The Criterion Collection)
Starring Jean-Pierre Léaud, Claire Maurier, Patrick Auffay, Albert Remy, Jeanne Moreau


3. Yesterday Girl

Cinematography by Edgar Reitz

The first film of the New German Cinema - the true beginnings of independent financing/filmmaking, this is less about the art and more about what you can achieve on such a small budget.

Yesterday Girl
Starring Gunther Mack, Alexandra Kluge, Eva Maria Meineke


4. Citizen Kane

Cinematography by Gregg Toland

The reinvention of the Director, Citizen Kane gave directors and cinematographers a voice in visual storytelling; something photographers can learn from if they get lost in all the creative conflicts with clientele.

Citizen Kane
Starring Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Dorothy Comingore, Agnes Moorehead, Ruth Warrick


5. The Young Girls of Rochefort

Cinematography by Ghislain Cloquet

LA LA LAND-inspired, shot in what is now considered "classic cinescope" AKA wide lens, photographers can learn more about production value with Jacques Demy films.

The Essential Jacques Demy (Blu-ray + DVD)
Starring Catherine Deneuve, Anouk Aimee, Jeanne Moreau


6. Cries & Whispers

Cinematography by Sven Nykrist

Igmar Berman inspired many other iconic filmmakers, Spielberg, Allen, Scorsese, Coppola, etc. Cries and Whispers uses lighting to its advantage, a technique photographers NEED to know and understand.

Cries & Whispers (The Criterion Collection)
Starring Harriet Andersson, Liv Ullmann, Kari Sylwan, Ingrid Thulin, Anders Ek

7. Amelie

Cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel

Eclectic, fun, bold and ambitious; The style most NEW photographers and filmmakers will adopt until they find their niche, but that doesn't mean the camera work in Amelie should be ignored - more like techniques you can adopt and then own.

Amelie (English Subtitled)
Starring Audrey Tautou, Matthieu Kassovitz, Rufus

el gran hotel Budapest cinemelodic viaje.jpg

8. The Grand Budapest Hotel

Cinematography by Robert Yeoman

Wes Anderson in one word is COMPOSITION. Told in mostly 4:3 aspect ratio, which is essentially like a film being told on a Mamiya.

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Starring Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Adrian Brody

9. The Revenant

Cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki

Completely shot in Masters (Wide shots) and lens possibly all under 24MM, The Revenant uses natural lighting all the way through. Something photographers "claim" to be masters at. Watch this film with a "Natural Light" photographer and test them.

The Revenant
Starring Leonardo Dicaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter


10. Ida

Cinematography by Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski

Old wine, new bottle. A film that looks like it was made in 1970 is actually a 2016 film. 

Ida (English Subtitled)
Starring Agata Trzebuchowska, Agata Kulesza, Dawid Ogrodnik, Jerzy Trela, Adam Szyszkowski


11. Beach Rats

Cinematography by Helene Louvart

On a small unknown budget, Beach Rats was filmed in New York with a 16mm about a teen's sexuality. Photographers can take its non-digital concept and know that film is still the best form of visual storytelling.

Beach Rats
Starring Harris Dickinson, Madeline Weinstein, Kate Hodge


12. Call Me By Your Name

Cinematography by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom

Completely shot on ONE lens, the 24mm and during the most cloudy and stormy summer of Crema, Call Me By Your Name can teach photographers that maybe natural lighting isn't all its cut out to be. Talent is turning dreary summer storms into a sunny, 1980's romance. 

Call Me By Your Name
Starring Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg

13. The Wrestler

Cinematography by Maryse Alberti

My only argument here is that The Wrestler's cinematographer was a woman. A woman shooting a sports film and the results are crazy good. Don't let a man tell you you can't do anything a man can do. 

The Wrestler
Starring Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, Mark Margolis, Todd Barry

Break A Leg! Play Reviews From a Wannabe Theatre Buff

by Mandi Harrison


"Theatre is life. Cinema is art. Television is furniture." Anonymous  


One of the things I most want to do in life is go to New York and watch a play... scratch that.  Watch ALL the plays.

 It's so mesmerizing watching someone have the courage to go on stage and perform their heart out.  You can feel the electricity of the energy that is on and off that stage.  

A few weeks ago, Chris and I attended two performances at local theatre companies.  It was nice broadening our horizons.  It had been awhile since I had watched a play in person, and I instantly got that rush again.  I want to go to more shows! 



The first play we saw was a musical called Lend Me A Tenor by Ken Ludwig, put on by the Almost Famous Theatre Company.  It was about a man trying to woo a girl and win over her father by helping him deliver a temperamental Italian opera singer to a special performance at the Cleveland Opera.  In musicals, tragedy=comedy.  And oh is there ever tragedy.  Broken hearts, mistaken identities, cover ups. It was so fast-paced; the action never stopped and the performers never fell behind. It was so enjoyable.  Musicals are my favorite because there is so much more that goes into them, but if it's done right, it looks effortless.  


Our second show that week was a play called Outside Mullinger by the Arizona Theatre Company at the Herberger Theatre.  It was written by John Patrick Shanley, who wrote Moonstruck, and that was a big reason we wanted it see it.  It's about a man and a woman in their late 30's who grew up as neighbors in Ireland.  They've secretly loved each other all their lives but are only now starting to act on it as their parents are growing older and ill.  It's dialogue driven, but it never lags.  There is lot of heart and wit and Irish humor throughout.  


Plays, movies and photography have a lot of common.  They each are an art form that anyone can do, but you have to really study and practice in order to master them.  

Because I enjoy a good graph, I created a Venn diagram to show what else they have in common: 


If you notice, the main thing that connects them all is Story.  It sounds so simple: who, what, where, when, why and how; and yet it can be so incredibly challenging.  Story is what keeps people engaged.  If the audience or viewer doesn't feel anything in that moment, they will move on and forget about what they just saw.  

Story in photography keeps the viewer looking; it tells who the subject is or what they are going through. 

Story in a movie keeps the viewer guessing- what happens next?  It makes them reflect and put pieces together.

Story in a play makes the viewer feel as if they are IN that moment, not just observing. 

In movies and photography, the story is visual.  You have to show it, not say it.  

In plays and photography, you have to tell the story within the confines of a small area. You want to relay as much information in that box.  

In plays and movies, every element of the production is used to tell the story.  The lighting, the costumes, the set; everything needs to reflect the story that is being told.  Every person in the cast and crew is an integral part of how the story plays out.  

 Photography and movies give you the luxury of second chances; if something doesn't work you can try it again.  Plays are live- the performance and production is what you put out there, which is a terrifying notion.  But maybe plays are the one that have the advantage; you can focus more on being in the moment, conveying the story right then that you don't have to focus on being perfect or missing out on something.  

"All the world is a stage." -Shakespeare

9 Movies Every Bride & Groom Should Watch Before Their Wedding Day

by Mandi Harrison 


1. Four Weddings and a Funeral 


directed by Mike Newell

You've found The One!  Congratulations!  Life is never going to be the same!  Before all the wedding planning begins, snuggle up and watch what is considered to be one of the greatest romantic comedies ever.

 Four Weddings and A Funeral is the story of two strangers, a British bachelor and an American who fall in love as they continue to meet at mutual friends' weddings.  Unrequited love, heartbreak and missed opportunities go perfectly with a cup of tea.  Remember how you fell in love as you watch this love story unfold.  


2. Father of The Bride

directed by Charles Shyer

Now it's time to tell your parents!    A great way to break the news or to break any tension, would be to watch Father of The Bride.  There is a version from the 1950's with Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor, but in our humble opinion, you can't beat Steve Martin and Diane Keaton. (And Martin Short) 

A loving father struggles to let his daughter go after learning she is getting married.  He grows more distressed with each new wedding plan until he finally realizes that the only way his daughter will be truly happy is to be with the one she loves.  All your family really wants is to see you happy!



3. Pride & Prejudice

directed by Joe Wright

Now that the family has been told, wedding plans begin and you start to realize how many people have opinions about your life.  At least you don't have it as bad as Elizabeth Bennet in Pride & Prejudice.  Her mother's sole mission in life is to marry off each of her five daughters to respectable (rich) men.  She might have been concerned about her children's future, but she made their present very miserable indeed.  They all end up happy in their own way, no thanks to their mother's meddling.  You have to be the one to decide what you want in life.



4. My Big Fat Greek Wedding

directed by Joel Zwick

There's a saying: you're not just marrying the person, you're marrying the family.  My Big Fat Greek Wedding is a perfect example of that.  There are new traditions to observe, history to learn and family to embrace.  

Toula falls in love with Ian, the man of her dreams- the only problem is, he's not Greek. Tensions can run high- but at the end of the day, everyone just wants Toula and Ian to be happy.  Both of their families come together to support them. 





5. The Wedding Banquet 

directed by Ang Lee

Wedding plans can very easily get out of hand, especially when you are wanting to make sure everyone is happy.  The Wedding Banquet is a great example of this.   

The Wedding Banquet is considered a classic in the independent film community because it was one of Ang Lee's first movies, offers much diversity and was the most profitable movie of 1993.  The story is about a gay Taiwanese man and a Chinese woman who needs a green card agree to marry so she can stay in the country and he can appease his aging traditional parents.  Between the parents and the boyfriend and the "bride" and "groom", misunderstandings take place and feelings get hurt.  Being honest with what you want and not rushing to judgment can save a lot of heartbreak in the end.  



6. The Hangover

directed by Todd Phillips


6.5. Bridesmaid

directed by Paul Feig

A major part of your wedding plans involves your girls and guys.  They've always been there for you- of course you want them to be a part of your big day!  These movies really celebrate friendship and show that you can still be close, even though the relationship is evolving.  

The Hangover is the tale of 3 completely different guys who want to celebrate their pal's upcoming wedding with a weekend in Vegas and end up losing him.  By retracing their steps from a drunken adventure, they find their pal and realize that he doesn't have to be the glue that holds the group together. 

Bridesmaids is also about making unlikely friends, while trying to preserve a friendship.  Rivals for the bride's attention learn to work together to make her day as special as it can be.  

Let your people know how much they mean to you!  But maybe stay away from Vegas and sketchy looking meat.  



7. The Philadelphia Story 


directed by George Cukor

In the days and hours leading up to the wedding, it always seems that everything is falling apart.  There's problems with the location, the flowers you have to have are suddenly out of season and some family member is having a crisis.  Breathe.  Everything will work out.  Watch A Philadelphia Story and realize it can get worse.  

Katharine Hepburn is a socialite marrying a man with "new money".  Her ex-husband (Cary Grant) and a newspaper reporter hoping to uncover scandal (James Stewart) only complicate matters.   Everything that can go wrong, does go wrong.  But Our dear Ms. Katharine realizes, as you will, it doesn't matter what happens just long as you end up with the one you love.



8. The Godfather

directed by Francis Ford Coppola

Your big day is finally here!  Your wedding is an event to remember- just like the Corleone Wedding.  (less tragic, I hope) .  Make your vows and gather for the picture that will hang on your wall for the rest of your life.  There is so much happening on your wedding day; pictures are the best way for you to remember all that went on.

The Corleones may have been conducting business during the wedding, but on your day, you are the family's business.


9. The Princess Bride

directed by Rob Reiner

And they lived happily ever after.  

The words from a fairy tale have been etched in our brains since childhood.  The Princess Bride shows that fairy tales can come in all different forms.  Sometimes the prince isn't so charming. Sometimes the pirate is the hero.  

Princess Buttercup's true love Wesley is believed dead and she is kidnapped and soon she will forced to marry the mean-hearted Prince Humperdinck.  A pirate, a friendly giant and a Spaniard on a mission of revenge come to rescue her.  There's a chase, and a fight, and a sword fight, and the pirate saves the princess.  Princess Buttercup got the happy ending that she wanted.  Now it's up to you to make your happily ever after!


Why You Should Love The Academy Awards!

By Chris Hoshnic

Almost hitting a hundred years, we still got a long way to go to honor campaigns-er, ehm, I mean art. 

Here's a little information on tonight's festivities.

The Oscars were created by studio heads back in the early 1900's to commemorate film. Little do people know, it was created at a time when films weren't doing very well. The first few years were just little articles in newspapers and then on radios and eventually televised. Over the years, the Oscars became more prestigious and eventually, when the 90's came around, Award Season became a bloodshed-political campaign season. Starting with The Weinstein Company and other producers, many actors, directors, writers, and more were forced to wine and dine their way to a statuette. 

You thought they did this by choice, huh? These people don't eat, sleep or socialize. Imagine being thrown around at your wedding or Bar Mitzvah, forced to socialize and interact with people by your mother, maid of honor/best man and wedding planner in six different directions because they want you to not look ungrateful. Now imagine that, times five for three months.


Kathryn Bigelow

First woman to win Best Achievement in Directing for The Hurt Locker in 2009, Kathryn told the story of a Sergeant and his Bomb-disposal unit. A powerful war drama told in fast cuts, great sound design and a tight knitted story about values. 

The Academy Awards is looked at as fake and overly wasteful. Well, undoubtedly, it's still a form of revenue. Independent production companies/distributors shell out millions of dollars OUTSIDE of the film's marketing and production budget to win, even be nominated for the films they are representing. All for the sake of credibility. Remember that word.
Production companies like Weinstein (RIP), A24, Fox Searchlight and Focus Features spend possibly three times a film's budget.

Here's an example.

If I were to say, make a film, I would direct and write it, the budget being, let's say, $1 Million under Focus Features. Is the budget really $1 million? Let's saying my film was actually made for $300,000 and we just write on paper that it was made for "under a million." That's how they get us. 
From there, we make it, sometimes, actors and crew are attached in hopes that it will create Oscar buzz. We make the film, premiere at, let's say within the major trifecta of Venice, Toronto and Telluride Film Festivals where most best picture winners usually premiere. We make $1 million opening weekend, ending it in a $15 million run in December.


Hattie McDaniel

First African-American to ever win the Academey Award for Gone With the Wind. With a tragic and untold story, McDaniel made history and her winning still stands as an event that still resonates today. Pick up "Backwards and In Heels" by Alicia Malone to learn more about some of the most inspiring, untold stories of Hollywood's backbone-I mean, women. 

Sounds like we made our budget, right? WRONG. Our marketing budget might have been another $30 million, depending on the caliber of the project. Then we get nominated for say, two acting categories, writing and picture. That's four nominations.

Now we get sent out by Focus Features come January to shake a lot of hands, pretend we like people, meet award season voters and win them over. We do this for three months, hitting what I like to call the three phases of award season: CRITICAL, INDUSTRY and GENERAL AUDIENCES.

Swoon the critics (Critics Choice, Golden Globes, etc), shake some hands (SAG, DGA, WGA, Academy Awards, BAFTA, etc) and charm the audiences (AFTER the Oscar nominations release). 


Rita Moreno

First Hispanic to win the Academy Award for West Side Story. The only Hispanic to have an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony).

Upon Oscar night, we sit in the Dolby Theatre, awaiting for the announcement, which at this point, the distributor (Focus Features) will know what awards will be taken home. While all that is happening, Focus has spent another $30-$100 million on our campaign alone. Say, an actor wins an award from our film. Now, Focus has credibility and that box-office flop from last summer was forgiven, people will want to work with us, the cast and crew and it gives our producers their production company, a chance to expand into distribution and do what Focus Features did for us


Mahershala Ali

The first Muslim, believe it or not, won an Oscar just last year for Moonlight. 

Now you're thinking, where'd all the money go? The campaign money is not considered a "loss" because it wasn't a part of the film's marketing/production budget to begin with. The money we made back in December? That's a loss, but hey, doesn't that statuette look great on the toilet at home?


Merle Oberons

The first Asian to ONLY ever be nominated (never won!) OUTSIDE the directing and technical categories. 

So you probably think that it's glamorous and fun, but in reality, it's just one giant presidential campaign. You wear the minks and silks as advertisement, you go to the parties for five minutes at a time essentially kissing babies and you give these speeches at events to create yours and your cast and crew's "we are just so grateful to be here" persona. 

Now, I find this all fascinating and incredibly genius. You may think differently but every industry has an Oscar season. Even that little medical billing job you go to everyday. It's all in the game of life.

So the question is, should we LOVE the Academy Awards? Tell us in the comments!

13 Bittersweet Movies Every Senior Should Watch Before Graduation

By Mandi Harrison

It's your senior year!

Congratulations- you made it!  It's a year full of first experiences and  lots of "this is the last time we are going to..."  Between senior pictures and prom and getting your yearbook signed and college acceptance letters and asking your mom who Great-Aunt Mildred is and why do you need to send her an announcement, you will need some time to relax.  

These movies are perfect for reflecting on what's in the past and lessons to use with what lies ahead.



1. Lady Bird

Directed by Greta Gerwig

  Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson spends her senior year trying everything she can to make herself look good on paper for East Coast liberal arts colleges.  She wants out of Sacramento and wants her mother to like her.  This movie is the one most accurate portrayals of trying to create your own identity and friendship and family dynamics.  We could watch this movie every day.  

  There are so many things to get out of this movie.  Try new things.  Work towards your goals.  Be there for the people who have your back.  Hug your mom.


2. The Graduate

Directed by Mike Nichols

  "One word- Plastics."  The Graduate is considered one of the greatest movies ever made.  The character of Benjamin Braddock has just graduated college and has no plan of what to do next.  Everyone advises him on what his next step should be and he ends up more confused than ever before.  

  You too will be receiving LOTS of advice from well-meaning people.  They just want to spread their wisdom, not remembering that part of succeeding is learning from your mistakes.  You don't have to have everything figured out right away.  


3. The Kings of Summer

Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts

There is not seeing eye to eye and then there is the tumultuous relationship between Joe and his dad in this little jewel.  When his father gives him the old "As long as you're living under my roof" speech, Joe and two friends decide to make their own rules and build a house in the middle of the woods.  They are self sufficient and able to provide for themselves. They only come into problems when a girl comes between two of the boys. 

  Learn how to do laundry.  Learn how to grocery shop.  Learn how to make something other than Ramen.  You will thank yourself in the long run!


4. Mustang

Directed by Deniz Game Erguven

  A heart-breaking story of five Turkish sisters growing up in circumstances out of their control.  They held onto their dreams of freedom, even though history and their family were deeming it impossible.  

  Never give up: having hope can get you through anything.   


5. Dope

Directed by Rick Famuyiwa

  A wanna be Harvard applicant from the rundown side of L.A. gets mixed up with drug dealers while trying to impress a girl.  He ends up running drugs for the supplier while going to college alumni interviews.  He is able to get out of the situation by keeping his cool and thinking the problem through.  

  Sometimes you are going to find yourself in some awkward situations.  Don't panic, keep your cool and you can get through it. 


6. The Diary of a Teenage Girl

Directed by Marielle Heller

  A teenage girl is discovering her sexuality and who she is as a woman.  She makes some questionable choices along the way, but in the end, discovers that she doesn't have to define herself by those choices.  

  There's gonna be moments in your life that you regret.  You have the choice to wallow in that regret or you can learn from them and move the f**k on.  


7. Y Tu Mama También

Directed by Alfonso Cuaron 

 A story of friendship, discovering your sexuality and misunderstanding.  

  One of life's hardest lessons is that best friends forever doesn't always last forever.  Whether it's through a falling out or just naturally drifting apart, you still feel like you've lost a part of you.  Allow yourself to grieve and eventually you will be able to remember them fondly.  


8. The Way Way Back

Directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash

  A shy boy makes an unlikely friend, gaining a summer job and a community that loves him. This gives him the confidence to stand up to his mother's deceitful boyfriend.  

  Don't ever let anyone devalue your worth.  Surround yourself with people that will boost your confidence so you can do what you need to do.   



9. Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Directed by John Hughes

"Life moves pretty fast.  If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it" - Ferris Bueller

  John Hughes is the master of 80's classics, but in my opinion, Ferris Bueller's Day Off is the best.  At first glance, it's just a fun way to have a senior ditch day, but at it's heart, it's three friends dealing with the anxiety of not know what comes next.  Ferris's answer is to just stop and enjoy the moment.  And when in doubt, join a parade.  

  Don't be afraid to take a mental health day.  Having a day to just do whatever you want (or do nothing) will leave you refreshed and focused to accomplish your goals.  


10. Submarine

Directed by Richard Ayoade

  An misfit boy becomes involved with his crush, eventually cooling things with her once he realizes  her life has too many personal complications.  At the same time, he's realizing his parents' marriage is having issues. He attempts to solve his parents problem while pining over his lost love.

  Empathy is a powerful emotion.  Everyone is going through something and sometimes just being there and saying "I'm here for you" can make all the difference to that person.

11. 10 Things I Hate About You

Directed by Gil Junger

  This is a modern classic, based off an old schooled classic, Shakespeare's The Taming of The Shrew.  Two sisters, one trying to break out of her overprotective father's hold and the other wanting to come out of her sister's shadow.   

  You alone decide who you are.  You don't have to define yourself by rumors and other's opinions of you.    

12. Adventureland

Directed by Greg Mottola

  James is a recent college grad, with a European trip and grad school in New York in his sight.  After his summer plans fell through, he got a job at the last place he could've imagined.  He made new friends, fell in love and had experiences that he never would've had before of his life had stayed on course.  At the end of summer,  he had his heart broken and his roommate backed out of their living arrangements for grad school, he readjusted and made new plans.   

  Life will never go to plan.  Don't let setbacks ruin your day; not all surprises are bad.  


13. A Room with a View

Directed by James Ivory

  The biting dialogue and situations in this period piece are so timely, that could've taken place  today.  Lucy is traveling through Italy with her reluctant guardian, and must chose between a proper suitor who bores her and what her heart desires, a man who doesn't have proper social skills.  She discovers that the people with the "proper" upbringing often have the worst manners and that she wanted someone who challenged her to be a better person.  

  There might come a point where you have to choose between doing what your parents think you should do or what you think society wants you to do and what you want deep down inside.  You are the one that is going to have to live with your decisions.  Definitely listen to all sides so you can be sure that you are making the right choice for you.  

My Photography Role Model- Natalie Montez Miller

  I have worked with and studied some incredibly talented photographers, but there is one who just is the bee's knees.  Her name is Natalie Montez Miller.  Natty is the kind of photographer other photographers dream of being.  Whenever her name is mentioned, the next words out of anyone's mouth is "UGHH... she is amazing!"  


 Natty's three little munchkins

Natty's three little munchkins


  I knew of Natty's awesomeness even before I met her.  I knew several people that raved about her.  When I found out I was going to be working with her, I was a little intimidated, but she was so bubbly and welcoming that my fears subsided.  She worked part time at the studio, coaching volleyball and doing her own photography as well.  She grew so busy she just worked one day a week, which we called Natty Day.  She finally was able to leave and take care of her own clientele.   


I worked a lot with Natty and was able to develop my own skill through watching her in action.  Here's a few things that I observed:  


1. She is worth the hype.  

  Natty was the first person to show me that anyone's photos could look like the cover of Vanity Fair if you aren't afraid of trying new things.  Her use of angles, shapes and depth of field added so much dimension that her pictures looked 3-D.  And all of this was on film, so she couldn't see the finished product until it was developed.  She had to trust her instincts.  


I learned how to tell a story with a look.  The emotion and personality she was able to capture in her photos brought people to tears.  She also showed me the power of knowing when to use black and white; that it's not just an effect or a filter, but a tool to enhance the emotion. .  


  Even outside of the studio, I have learned from her.  She uses the scenery as a tool to enhance the photo, not as the focal point.  She uses color to add texture, so again her pictures have that out-of-a-magazine look. 



 I was able to develop my own skill by observing Natty and practicing what I saw.  Natty's style is very clean, which is something that I have adopted.  She has challenged me to try new things and find my own style, making each picture worthy of hanging on the wall.  


2.  She is gorgeous...

Not really much I can learn about that; it's just a fact.  Natty really could be a model, but her passion lies on the other side of the camera.  She makes everyone she photographs feel like they are supermodels.  

 I mean, really :) 

I mean, really :) 


3. ...but she's even more beautiful on the inside.


Natty is one of the most kind-hearted people I have ever met.  She just makes everyone feel so warm and loved.  The first time I watched Bridesmaids, I thought of Natty when I heard this line: 

"You're more beautiful than Cinderella and you smell like pine needles and your face is like sunshine!" 

EVERYONE loves Natty.  After the phrase "She is so amazing!", you are most likely to hear "I love her!"  If I ever met a person that didn't like her, I would know that person is not to be trusted.  


People will schedule months in advance for Natty to take their pictures, and it's not just because they know their pictures will turn out amazing.  It's because she takes the time to get to know them so she can look for those moments that they didn't know they wanted captured.  That is he main thing that I have tried to emulate in my own photography.  She is so patient and thoughtful and you can't help but smile when you look at her.  Natty's family, including her husband and her five kids, are her everything and you can sense that love in every picture she takes.  

  In December of last year, her son Dylan was involved in a terrible accident that left him in a coma and his family not knowing the extent of his injuries.  In a testament of how much Natty and her family have touched people's lives, their immediate community rushed to surround them with support and Dylan's story made the news and was shared through social media all over the world.  

  Through the grace of God, he has improved miraculously and is home, just two months later, walking around and being loved on by his parents and siblings.  Natty remained so strong and grateful for every little step that Dylan took towards recovery.  The grace that she showed throughout this period just makes me admire her more.  

 Big Brother & Little Brother

Big Brother & Little Brother

  I owe a lot of who I am as a photographer to Natty.  Her passion for photography has inspired me and challenged me to try new things.  There are still traces of Natty's influence in my work.  Every photographer I have trained has benefited from Natty, without having ever met her and without her even knowing the influence she has had.  Check out more of her work!  


Thank You

Meet Ozzy.

 He also answers to Bubs, Baby, Handsome, and Mr. Handsomes (when he's feeling formal).

He also answers to Bubs, Baby, Handsome, and Mr. Handsomes (when he's feeling formal).


Ozzy is a protector of the house and requires belly rubs as payment for passing through.  He believes that he goes days without food and is constantly on the prowl for sustenance.  He enjoys relaxing to his favorite song, Rosanna by Toto. 




Ozzy is our little silver lining, coming to us at a time when our skies were filled with clouds.  I have never seen a dog with more personality.

Everyone falls in love with him moments after meeting him.  He is extremely smart and knows how to maneuver the system for love and food.  



This week, we received some amazing news: OZZY, a short screenplay, was selected as a finalist in the Phoenix Film Festival's Short Screenplay Search!  To have OZZY be recognized by the PFF is so exciting!


 Not gonna lie- may have squealed a little upon reading this!

Not gonna lie- may have squealed a little upon reading this!



The Phoenix Film Festival is made for film lovers.  It's been named one of the 25 Coolest Film Festivals by MovieMaker Magazine.  We've attended in the past, and it is one of the most organized festivals we have been to.

The fact that they offer a screenplay competition just proves their love and support of filmmakers.  It really is an honor to have that show of support.  


"You have to do everything you can, you have to work your hardest,  and if you do, you have your shot at a silver lining." - Pat Solitano (Silver Linings Playbook) 


So we'd like to take this time to tell all of you,

Thank you for the incredible and the upmost undeserving support. There are schmucks out there who need this nice crowd of finery and we are crazy, unabashedly thankful that THAT schmuck out there didn't get you suckers. You're stuck with us - HAHAHAHAHA!

Especially you, Mr. Ozzy. -Ahem-

A Swift Look at 7 Ways to Finance a Film Without Completely Selling Your Soul


"It's like Hal says, it's not the money, it's the money." -Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)


  When Chris and I decided that we were going to make movies together, we knew that it was going to be a challenge, but we were both up for it.  We've spent the better part of four years researching, trying to absorb as much information as possible.  

 Just some light reading. 

Just some light reading. 

We've studied story principles, structure, film techniques, business, marketing, color use, psychology, WHATEVER we could get our hands on.  We've read biographies and how-to books galore.  YouTube videos and blogs are a part of our daily routine. We've watched more movies than we could name.  We've attended workshops and panels and now we are at the point of JUST DO IT ALREADY!

So we are.  Our screenplay for Sydney, Arizona is becoming an actuality, not just an idea.  As we are moving right along, we want to keep you updated and share some of the information we've learned so you can help track our progress. We are super excited by all this and we want to share it with you.

So while Chris is writing away and I'm , our next step is to acquire financing to help with production costs.  In other words: 

SHOW ME THE MONEY!!!  -Cuba Gooding, Jr  (Jerry Maguire)


 In order to find funding, we needed to set a budget.  We've studied films with all sorts of budgets, learning from their successes and mistakes, how they made it work for them.  There are so many things to account for when planning the budget.  There are: 

* Pre-Production costs like auditions and copyrights and printing scripts.

* Production costs such as paying the cast and crew, equipment, and insurance 

* Post-Production costs including editing, color grading, and festival application fees.

Not to mention coffee.  Can not forget the coffee.   

When we were researching financing, we found some really interesting options.  Here's a brief look at what we learned: 

1. Grants

Looking for movie funding is just like applying for financial aid for school, except instead of a degree with our names on it, there's a film with our names in the credits.  Like looking for school aid, it requires a lot of patience and research to see what we are eligible for.  Art grants are incredibly niche, but there are several resources out there.


2. Investors 

Film Investors like to have a little more say than just an regular donor. An investor's main goal is to make a profit, so usually their money will come out of any money brought in first, and that's not even including a back end deal (a percentage of any profit).  That's not a bad thing- the point of any business investment is to make a profit, and this is definitely a business.  We want to look into investors for additional funding after production is done, to help with post production and festival submissions.


3. Lottery Ticket

You never know....


4. Loans

Again, it's like applying for school aid or buying a house.  As Chris says, he's rather be in debt for a movie that he's proud of than a piece of paper that shows he's a good boy.  I completely agree.  


5. Credit Cards

Not necessarily our favorite option, but it's a time-honored tradition for indie filmmakers.  



6. Working Hard For the Money

Working and saving.  That's where the photography comes in.  So every time you have a session with us or get a friend to try us out, you are helping fund a film.   


7. Crowd-funding

  Many filmmakers have been successful , because donors can give what they want.  There's usually a little incentive for the donors as well.  Friends, family, and even complete strangers have the opportunity to help support filmmakers from all over the world.    

 Saving our pennies! 

Saving our pennies! 


So for the next few weeks, our focus, I mean MY focus will be on finding the right methods for us. (Chris is helping, but he is a busy little writer bee)  If you know of any other outlets to look into, let us know!  We greatly appreciate any support we receive, whether it's connecting us with people you think might be able to help us, sharing our posts to other people, recommending us for sessions.  If you know of any other outlets to look into, let us know!  

What Everybody Ought To Know About Our Business Name- C&M Imagine

  C&M Imagine started with a very DUH! moment for us three years ago.  Chris and I had known each other for over three years at that point, and we enjoyed working together.  Whenever we were scheduled together, we would work efficiently to get our tasks done so we could share a Coke and a cookie and discuss the important things in life, like movies and the meaning of Taylor Swift lyrics.  

 Behind the scenes of our reenactment of Jurassic Park.  

Behind the scenes of our reenactment of Jurassic Park.  


  We soon became a dream team.  We've learned how to end on the same page, even if we don't see eye to eye.  We've been through a lot together, and we've had each other's backs through it all.  Chris and I each have a desire to make movies and came to the conclusion that we should make them together.  Chris is such a freaking talented writer and my research and organizational skills are above par; plus we can get sh*t done together.  It just made sense to team up.  

 First order of business in NYC- COFFEE!!!

First order of business in NYC- COFFEE!!!


  Just a few days later, we were discussing money and a light bulb appeared over our heads: 

Why didn't we just do our own photography?

It's something that we are both good at and it would be a great way for us to raise money for projects. We wanted to do this right, so we researched what we would need to do and buy, and we were well on our way.  


  Our first thought when picking a name was C&M Photography, for Chris and Mandi obviously.  After a few weeks, the official name came to us: C&M IMAGINE.  Like Image.  It had a nice ring to it and looked good on paper.  It also reminded us that if we can imagine it, we can make it happen.  

 So posh.

So posh.


  Starting a business takes a lot of patience and determination.  Everything we learned from working at the studio and through this process will only help us out down the line.  I couldn't imagine doing this without Chris.  Not that we each couldn't have done this on our own.  But C&M together gets more accomplished than just C or M alone.  We do everything the way we've always done it, splitting the work.  It has been a lot of hard work and some days have been downright frustrating.  But as our dear Ms. Swift once wrote "I've had the time of my life, fighting dragons with you."  We have laughed our way through it all, sometimes because that's all we can do.   

 The Paramount Theater at The Austin Film Festival

The Paramount Theater at The Austin Film Festival


  It hasn't been all work and no play; we've gotten to travel, to festivals and concerts and have watched and studied more movies than I can count.  We've had adventuress like getting stranded in New Jersey and watching La La Land in actual La La Land.  Nora Ephron has taught us that everything is copy, meaning use everything in your story.  The good, the bad and the weird all just helps us bring to life everything that we have imagined.   

 The Griffith Observatory, one of the locations in our beloved La La Land.

The Griffith Observatory, one of the locations in our beloved La La Land.

19 Ridiculously Influential Filmmakers We Aspire to Become

Here are some of the people that are inspiring us at the moment.  Some we have admired for years and others are newly discovered, but each one has given us something to strive for.


1. Nora Ephron 

Nora is just pure brilliance.  Her writing is filled with heart and wit and practicality, and it all adds up to magic.  She is often imitated, but rarely duplicated.  Nora has shown us that every detail matters in a movie.  Every character needs to have a moment, no matter how small the role.  Her reason was so every person in her movies could say "I played so-and-so" and the response would be "Oh I remember you!"  Nora noticed every little detail and made everyone feel special, and that's why her movies (and she herself) are so endearing.  


Side note: There is a fascinating book about how Nora saved romantic comedies that I highly recommend.  It's called I'll Have What She's Having by Erin Carlson.  She was just a spectacular person and it made me cry at the end.  No lie, Chris and I ask ourselves "What would Nora do?" at least 3 times a week. She was one of a kind. -m 



2. Woody Allen

*this is based off of work- we're not getting into anything else.

Woody's method of writing is extremely unique.  He jots down ideas on napkins and scraps of paper and then creates outlines off of those notes.  We learned that his method for writing Annie Hall was to walk around New York talking out the story points with his cowriter and then going home to write alone.  We laughed because that's how Chris writes, except we walk around Target and TJ Maxx. 

Most of Woody's movies are female-centric and full of extremely complex characters.  When he writes, he isn't concerned about the details, just the characters and where the action is going, but once he starts production, he has every detail planned out.  His dialogue is some of the sharpest and wittiest out there.   

What we have learned from him is to take everything as a step. Character first, story next, and then the production.  And to not be afraid to have a deeply flawed character.  Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine is extremely flawed, and in our humble opinion, is one of the best characters ever written and performed.  




3. Greta Gerwig

Greta has gone from being someone we enjoyed in movies to being our main boo.  She writes coming of age movies with female leads that would normally only be made for a man, something like The Graduate.  They aren't just about being a women; it's about finding who you are and where you fit in.  Her characters are complicated and empathetic. Greta knows who she is and her vice is clear and present in her screenplays. That is something we truly admire.  

This past year, Greta made her directorial debut with Lady Bird and was the 5th woman EVER to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director.  Lady Bird is one of the 2 best movies of 2017 for us.  It's about a teenage girl trying to get to where she feels she belongs in the world. It's beautiful and ridiculous and heartfelt.  This is going to be a classic. 

Movies to Watch: Lady Bird; Francis Ha; Mistress America



4. Noah Baumbach

Noah is Greta's main squeeze and frequent collaborator.  We have really gotten into him this past year.  His writing is full of conflict and family dynamics and characters that are so dysfunctional, you just can't take your eyes off of them.  

Movie to Watch: The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (One of our faves from last year- it's on Netflix)



5. Judd Apatow

Judd is a man of many talents, he writes, he directs and he produces.  We've learned so much from him with that alone.  The main reason we look up to him though is that he recognizes talent and natures it. That is really big deal in a town where the first instinct is to promote yourself.  

He (and his partners) created a show called Freaks & Geeks about 18 years ago.  It was a brilliant but quiet little show that didn't even last a season, but through it, Judd discovered some incredibly talented people in the industry today: Seth Rogan, James Franco, and Jason Segel.  Judd has continued to mentor and work with them and others he's discovered over the years including Jonah Hill, Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer, and Emma Stone.  We aspire to be a part of a supportive environment like Judd. 




6. Christine Vachon

When we were researching independent producers, the name Christine Vachon kept popping up.  We read articles and a book and discovered she is a badass.  She IS independent producing.  Christine takes projects that would never see the light of day otherwise, and finds a way to make them a reality.  It's not about money or awards or power for her (although she is one of the most respected people in the industry); it's just about making art and speaking to people that don't often get heard.  Christine has shown us so much about getting a project started. 



7. Wes Anderson

Watching a Wes Anderson movie is an experience.  You have to watch it two or three times, because there are so many little details that make the story.  He is a very visual story-teller.  Each scene in one of his his movies could be a photograph, and you can tell what the story is from that photo.  That is something that speaks to us.  His stories are very simple, often family related and the visuals add layers to the emotional pull.  

Movies to Watch: The Royal Tenenbaums; The Grand Budapest Hotel; Moonrise Kingdom




8. Ted Hope

Ted is another champion of independent film.  He has worked on films of every budget level and his goal is the same on each: it's all about the story.  Ted's commitment to getting the job done is what inspires us.  He will do whatever it takes- whether he's holding the boom mike or trying to woo investors for financing.  He doesn't throw his position around- he is a true team player. 



9. Reese Witherspoon 

We all love Reese Witherspoon- she invented the Bend & Snap after all.  But with all the talk of a lack of quality roles for women- especially women over 40, Reese decided to take action.  She was tired of being offered the role of wife or girlfriend, so she started a production company.  She produced movies like Gone Girl and Wild, and with Nicole Kidman, developed and starred in the limited series,  Big Little Lies.  Featuring a strong female cast, it has won numerous awards.  Reese saw an opportunity and went for it.  That just makes us love her more.  




10. David O. Russell

David's movies are some of our favorites.  He understands and writes family dynamics so beautifully; he's what we aspire to be.  He gets that life is messy and beautiful and it's evident in his writing and directing.  He often works with another of our faves, Jennifer Lawrence, creating some exceptional characters together.  He often texted Jennifer late at night with ideas, which is how we operate, because we're night owls. His movies have so much emotion, but at the end you are filled with hope.  

Movies to Watch: Silver Linings Playbook; American Hustle; The Fighter




11. Jordan Peele

Jordan is a new inspiration.  He wrote and directed Get Out, one of the most critically acclaimed and successful movies of last year.  Jordan had such passion and conviction in his story that that even a major movie studio accommodated his distribution requests, something that is unheard of, especially with a first time director.  The payout was huge for everyone.  Jordan inspires us to fight we believe in.  




12. Kathleen Kennedy

Kathleen has been an inspiration for several years.  She is proof that hard work pays off.  She started as an assistant to a friend of Steven Spielberg and after being poached to be his assistant,  worked her way through producing and now she is the head of LucasFilms, having been hand-picked by George Lucas to replace him.  Kathy is one of the hardest-working, and respected people in the industry.  She has the second highest domestic box office receipts, just behind her former boss, Steven.  

Kathy's purpose is to serve the story and she is willing to make tough decisions in order to do this.  Women sometimes feel the need to make everyone like them so they can be taken seriously, but Kathy knows that someone has to get the hard stuff done so she might as well do it.  She is a true leader.  




13. Tina Fey

Tina Fey is bossy... and proud of it.  She got her big break on Saturday Night Live, becoming the first female head writer.  She went on to create 30 Rock, winning critical acclaim and numerous awards.  But the main reason we love her is she wrote one of the greatest (cult) movies ever- Mean Girls.  It is biting and brilliant and totally quotable.  She makes being smart and nerdy look cool as hell. And she runs a tight ship. 




14. Sean Baker

Sean Baker has taught us that you are only as limited as you allowing yourself to be.  His movie Tangerine was made for less than $100,000 and shot on iPhones.  It's a raw, beautiful look at a side of Los Angeles that people just want to look past.  His latest movie, The Florida Project, has a slightly larger budget, but the emotion is still there.  It's the heartbreaking and heartwarming story about a young girl and her emotionally immature mother who are just a step up from being on the streets.  His movies stick with you for a long time after they end.  Sean has shown us to look past budget and work with the heart of the story in the forefront.




15. Patty Jenkins

Patty Jenkins is a badass.  She came from an indie background and went on to direct one of the most critically and financially successful movies of 2017, which happened to be about a female supervisor.  Simply put, Wonder Woman was AMAZING.  Patty was able to put together a movie that was both entertaining to watch and emotionally charged.  She accomplished this while dealing with doubters and snarky fanboys.  Women are very rarely given the opportunity to direct projects of this magnitudes.  Patty more than showed that women can be successful with big budget movies.  




16. Luca Guadagnino 

Luca's movies have a very charmed European lifestyle feel to them, but have an emotional pull to them.  Call Me By Your Name is one of those movies we just can't get over. Just even thinking about it makes me want it watch it again.  The performances, the cinematography, the music; everything works together.  




17. Charlie Kaufman

Charlie Kaufman's scripts have such unusual premises to them, but at their heart, it's just about wanting to be loved and understood.

Movies to Watch: The Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind; Adaption; Being John Malkovich




18. Alicia Malone

Alicia Malone is someone who just genuinely loves movies and has figured out a way to make a living talking about them.  She reviews movies for various outlets and has podcasts and speaks on panels at festivals.  Recently, she has made it her goal to get more women involved in all aspects of film.  She has written a book about the history of women filmmakers.  She is one of many that are working to change the statistics of the number of women who are succeeding in the entertainment industry.  

Book to Read: Backwards & In Heels: The Past, Present And Future of Women Working In Film by Alicia Malone



19. Ryan Murphy

Ryan Murphy is a class favorite.  He has a true love of pop culture, which we enjoy, and he isn't afraid of taking risks and pushing buttons.  He has numerous projects, each completely different, yet his voice is clear throughout each.  Ryan works with an extremely diverse group of people, making it a point to hire female directors and crew.  He believes that as a white man, he has the opportunity and responsibility to open doors for others.  

Things to Watch:  Feud: Betty & Joan; Scream Queens (first season); American Crime Story: OJ Simpson; American Horror Story



There are many more people whose work inspires us, not just in the entertainment industry. These are just who we are currently studying to help us work towards our goals.  Who is inspiring you lately? Let us know!

9 Eye-Catching Techniques To Make Your Photography Pop

When I first started in photography, I had no clue what I was doing.  I was thrown to the wolves until some kind souls took me under their wings, if you'll allow me to mix metaphors.  It took me a good year and a half before I felt completely comfortable with the camera.  Once I was comfortable, I was ready to try new things to take my newfound skill to the next level.  Here are 9 techniques that helped me: 

1.  Looking For a New Angle

  In the beginning, I posed everyone straight towards the camera.  It's a natural tendency; people want to face the camera.  The problem with that is pictures look flat- two dimensional and your subjects appear wider.  Placing your subject at a 45° angle adds shape and dimension and is flattering to your subject.  When you are photographing multiple people, angling their bodies will allow you to get them closer together so framing them is much easier.  There are some instances where posing straight towards the camera works, but I have found that angles take you from passport to a portrait.  


2. Eye to Eye

  This is a big one.  After you pose your subject at a 45° angle,  make sure their face is pointed at the camera.  The camera lens will open on whatever is closest to it, so if something is facing it more dominantly, that object will be out of proportion. You don't want their cheek to look huge compared to the rest of their face.   I always tell people to turn their nose towards where my finger is; otherwise they will jerk their head to the complete opposite direction.  

  The next step is to make sure that you are positioned at their eye level.  That means move your body!  To me, this step alone tells me if you are a photographer or just someone who just points and shoots.  Getting at the correct eye level allows the camera to fully capture their face.  If you are up too high, their forehead is the focal point. If you are down too low, it's their chin.  You should be able to draw a(n imaginary) line from ear to ear through their eyes, like they are wearing glasses.  


3. Find Your Center

  Axis sounds like a scary word, but it just refers to where you are positioned when photographing. You want to be parallel to your subject, so you can see all of them in the camera.  If you are having issues with getting your whole image in the frame, I can almost guarantee that you are off center to your subject. That or how you hold you camera (more on that later).  


4. You Light Up My World Like Nobody Else

  I talk about lighting a lot, but it's important.   I'm still working to master it.  Chris is amazing at it. I have a few tricks up my sleeve, some I've learned from him, that are different from regular lighting.  This is something I like to call The Glow: 

  Best at sunset, pose your subject so their back is to the sun, slightly to the side of the sunset.  You will be standing parallel to them, facing the sun.  This is best with an interactive pose, so have them do their thing.  This is an instance where you will have to adjust your camera settings, but the overall look is amazing.  


  Another tip for lighting is to use a reflector.  Sometimes you will need just a little extra light on your subject's face.  I've used a shiny silver cookie sheet or a piece of cardboard wrapped in aluminum foil.  Have someone hold it (so you can't see it in the picture) or else position it so you can see light reflecting in their face.  Having proper lighting helps enhance your subject, making a more flattering picture.  

5. Freeze Frame

 Every photographer has their own way they treat their camera and their own style of shooting; it's like a painter and their brush. You just have to practice until it feels comfortable in your hands.  I could fill a blog with the horror stories that Chris and I have witnessed over the years of people trying to get their feel of the camera.  You're going to be an awkward duckling until you grow into a skilled photographer.

  There IS something that will help you with framing your picture and capturing perspective with your portraits:  holding your camera so the lens is laying flat.  It means that you will have to move your body to get the cropping that you want.  You will have to consciously make sure it is flat, as your hand has a tendency to angle the lens after awhile because it gets heavy.  Holding it flat will help you not (accidentally) cut something out of the image.  


6. The Shape of You

  This technique takes our first step and throws some spice on it.  Our eyes are automatically drawn to things that have shape.  Angles should make shapes. Shape adds dimension and makes things interesting to look at.  There are three basic shape used in photography: the triangle, the diamond and the step-stairs.  Look at pictures around your house- look for shapes.  Start by positioning your subject's heads so your eyes can see a shape.  If you have a single subject, pose their body to make a one.  

 Do you see the triangles here? 

Do you see the triangles here? 

7.  Breathing Room

  When I started photography, I was taught that everything needs to be perfectly centered.  As I developed my skill, I found that my performed form of cropping is using the rule of thirds.   I will center my portraits from pose to pose, or at least give the illusion that it's centered, but what I'm drawn to is rule of thirds.  

  The rule of thirds is posing your subject, and in your camera, split your viewfinder into thirds.  Frame your subject so they are purposefully filling two-thirds of the frame, with the final third having negative space.  The negative space gives your eyes breathing room, so they can naturally find the subject.   A common occurrence is just to frame off center and say that it's rule of thirds, when really it's just badly cropped.  The most common thing is to have the subject in one-third of the frame with two-thirds filled with negative space.  This style is great for close ups or for event pictures, like graduation or maternity. 


8. I'm ready for my close up, Mr. DeVille

  This is another one of my favorites.  The extreme close up picks one feature, usually the eyes and showcases that feature, causing the viewer's eyes to naturally go there first.  Frame your subject, using the proper perspective, and make sure your desired focal point IS the focal point.  That means you'll probably have to crop the top of their head out.  Two things to watch out for: 1. Make sure you don't chop the chin off. And 2.  Don't crop too much of the head- going too far into the forehead looks odd.  I usually go slightly below their hairline, so it's not to distracting.

  Extreme close-ups and rule of third's definitely need practice, but once you master it, your photography will start to look like it's from a magazine article.   


8.  Let's Get Candid

  Candid is one of those double edged swords.  It's often requested, but rarely enjoyed, because you can't force candid.  I am not a great candid photographer, but I am great at looking for and capturing moments.  There is a difference.  The reason people don't like the candids that they requested is just that: you can't make someone be candid- it just looks fake.  The pictures that they saw were from someone else's story and it didn't fit in with their own story.  Every person and family has their own dynamic and as you build your skill, you will be able to use their dynamics to create their own moments.  


I hope these will help you develop your skills.  Some of them are more creative choices, so take them with a grain of salt.  It's just how I do it, but try it out and try other techniques.  Find your own style! -m