Anna moved to LA 20 years ago, and worked her way up the ladder, from internships with Mark Canton and George Clooney to working with McG, Jerry Bruckheimer and JJ Abrams.
She’s worked extensively in TV and was involved with Shameless, The Bold Type, UnREAL, Jane the Virgin and Gossip Girl; and as a director in her debut feature Walter with Milo Ventimiglia, Neve Campbell and William H. Macy.
But even with years of experience, she battled to get work, because “it wasn’t mainstream to be a female director. People weren’t handing out opportunities like now. Making that jump at that time was extremely scary. And when I did it, I’ve never hustled or struggled more in my life. It was just really hard to get jobs.”
“I went through a CVS diversity program for television after I made my first movie, even I couldn’t get jobs. It was a real process. And I did Gossip Girl. And I did this like teeny tiny movie with this incredible cast. And I struggled to get more TV shows or more work. And then I sort of discovered this digital platform. I started shooting stuff for AwesomenessTV and then started to get back into episodic TV and was really just looking for the right next movie to make.”
Working with Disney
Working with a powerhouse like Disney would be intimidating for some, but Anna found the experience “Cool. It was definitely my first studio thing, but the cool part about it is that it was for Disney+, which is a brand new platform.”
“I love new platforms. I’ve always done that my whole career. I was the first one to do something for Verizon Go90. I’m definitely interested in these newer platforms when they first get going, and to be one of the first six or seven movies for them was very cool.”
The best part about coming into a newer platform and not an older established system is that they’re still “ figuring out who they are. And I think they’re a little more open to continuing this brand that is part of their title, but also figuring out who their audience is going to be through new IP. So strange, cool. There’s a little bit of freedom in it actually.”
The thing with streaming films is that it “didn’t cost anything to them. I mean, there’s no it lives or dies on this huge box office success. It’s like if it didn’t cost them much then there’s really no financial failure.”
Secret Society of Second-Born Royals
“It was like this very cool coming of age story wrapped up in a princess movie.”
“When I went in to pitch on it, I showed clips of Gladiator and Snatch. It kind of looked like how we would make Illyria because I had never gotten to build a world before, and they were down with all of it. Like they were really excited about it.”
She wanted it to be different: “a little more sophisticated and really kind of serving up an action movie for a younger audience, instead of it being a traditional kids movie.”
It was a very different experience for her, coming from independent films and TV with smaller budgets to pitching to various execs at Disney and getting larger budgets approved.
“I’ve had these incredible experiences where I’ve had no money and have to deliver something.”
“We have a lot of visual effects. We have minors who work short hours, jumping off props, and they all have powers. And trying to find a way to do it for a budget. And I knew we couldn’t build a lot of sets. So I was like, we’ve got to go to Toronto. We got to go to a place where there are a lot of interior existing spaces that feel big.”
Anna also discussed preparing for shooting, her experience of working in TV, finding an agent and working with the right team. All vitally important in making film and TV.
You can catch what she had to say on her podcast, below: