Actress, producer, writer, director and editor. There is not much that Faleena doesn’t do. Talking to Giles Alderson and Robbie McKane on whether she had planned to become a director, she said that hadn’t considered it until she had the ‘script right. It came out of necessity’.
So how did she go from writing a novel to writing, directing and editing a feature film?
New York Women in Film and Television announced a screenplay contest. With her experience as an actress and author, Faleena decided to enter the contest.
She didn’t win. But ‘I loved the script so much. I decided to make it’ into a feature film.
What drove her is the belief to ‘make your own stuff, write your own stuff because if you do, you own it and you can have control over it’.
Fortuitously, she met Joe Barbagallo through a neighbour and their visions aligned. Joe was very moved by the script and was happy for Faleena to take the reins on the casting and planning of the film. Together they started the process of finding a ‘bare bones’ crew.
‘I had read Ed Burns’ Independent Ed and we passed it around to the crew… we were just getting our ideas.’
After watching a Q&A with David O. Russell she liked the idea of lighting ‘the room so that there isn’t a bunch of lighting equipment. There’s just the existing lighting and him and the camera guy. And they are working with the actors and they’re doing the whole scene all the way through. So that the actors get a chance to really live in the character’. Collin Brazie, the DoP, was also on board with the idea of pulling the cinematography ‘back to film school’ basics. This approach helped them to save time and money.
On hiring crew
Faleena found it really important to have interviews to get to know them and how they would deal with certain situations. This helped her to find out who they really were and whether they were all on the same wavelength.
They found that planning using a blackboard was helpful, and put details of every scene on post-it notes to work out when cast and crew were needed and what was being shot when and where.
They ‘staged it and did a couple of rehearsals’ like a play. Having ‘the right actors in the role, it was easy to film them.’
Faleena’s talents didn’t stop there. The original editor didn’t work out, so Faleena ended up learning how to edit the entire feature using YouTube videos.
The finished product was something made with blood, sweat, tears (and a broken foot) but came from a desire to make a great Indie film.
They applied to 25 festivals. ’You’ve got to follow your instincts because we got into only two festivals and the first one we were told not to do.’ The film was discovered and picked up for distribution at the Real Film Festival – the one that they were advised not to attend.
Faleena’s last bit of advice: ‘Just do it! Follow your instinct. Don’t stop yourself. Go and make the creative thing.’ And follow our Podcast.
Click below to hear the full podcast with Faleena Hopkins: